Words, words, words!
Eliza Doolittle and Doubting Thomas
Sermon for Easter 2 – Sunday 28 April 2019 – St Mary, Walton
Text: John 20v19-31
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars, burning above
If you’re in love, show me
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you’re on fire, show me
(Eliza Doolittle – My Fair Lady)
I have a sneaky suspicion that St Thomas is Eliza Doolittle’s Patron Saint!
Mind you I don’t blame her, or him, for that matter. Too many words had been spoken lately, too many rumours of raisings and resurrections. Well what do you expect if you will waste your time listen to the ramblings of grief stricken wailing women? There are very good reasons why they are not allowed to preach in the synagogues. Whatever next? Women priests?
Eliza and Thomas are fed up with being told things they want to feel things. Words are losing their power, they want proof, they need deeds. A hug, a kiss, a tender touch, a finger finding a nail-shaped hole, a hand slipped inside a Messiah’s side…
Oftentimes I sit and pray through this passage and ask, ‘Lord, did it hurt all over again when Thomas touched you? Did it bring back the pain of that horrible Friday noontime you had just suffered?’ And I think Jesus winces, but then smiles and says, ‘yes, a little, but it was worth it.’
Poor Thomas always gets a bad press. Forever doomed to be to doubting Thomas and never the author of the words ‘My Lord and my God!’ and so to become First Apostle as he proclaims the Divinity of Jesus. (It is conveniently forgotten that the other disciples didn’t believe until Jesus had shown them his wounds either – read verse 20)
What do we have to help us believe? Words, words, words or do we need wounds, wounds, wounds?
Our evangelist knows our dilemma but doesn’t seem to be able to help us. Compared to the other three, John’s gospel is light on deeds (only seven signs) and heavy, very heavy, on words. Wouldn’t the more multiple miracle working Jesus of Mark be easier to believe in than this ‘miserly’ Messiah of John?
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. (John 20v30)
Interesting. John knows there are more deeds, more signs, out there to write about, to encourage his readers but he deliberately leaves most of them out. Why!
Is he saying that the deeds Jesus performed are not important? No, otherwise he would not include any of them at all.
Is he saying that we should expect to live a faith where the miraculous is not to be expected? No, for in his gospel Jesus promises that, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we will work greater wonders than Him.
Is he saying, as Thomas story seems to tell, that ‘seeing is believing? No! Because his final words are for those, for you and for me, who are called to believe but yet have not seen.
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20v30)
The point of the story of Thomas is not to prove the resurrection by touching nail-scarred hands and spear-wounded side but to allow Jesus through John to speak to us
‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20v29)
Faith is not, and never has been a case of ‘Seeing is believing’ but rather one of ‘Believing without seeing.’ That may sound a little like insisting on putting our faith in a myth or a legend (or so the detractors of faith would taunt us) but simply because people can see things does not immediately mean they believe them.
Hundreds, thousands of people saw the signs that Jesus did and, seeing refused to believe, and even went on to cry crucify! You see ‘Seeing is believing’ is a fallacy. It has always been patently obvious that people will choose to not believe the proof of their own eyes and the witness of those around them but will only believe when their hearts have been touched and turned.
Moving away from the realm of faith this is painfully apparent in modern society where the Flat Earthers have been replaced by Climate Change Deniers and Snake Oil salesman have been run out of business by those who refuse to have their children vaccinated against Measles and Polio. No my friends, seeing has absolutely nothing to do with believing.
From where then does faith spring? If seeing is not believing, and if Jesus cannot reach out his wounds for us to touch today, are we not doomed to doubt? We turn back to the word…
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20v31)
John and the early Church knew that, even with the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit amongst us, we would still hunger for the touch of the Messiah to affirm our faith. So they wrote the story down, in fact they wrote it down four times, so that even though we may not ‘see to believe’ we would be able to ‘read to believe’ and through believing have life.
Faith however is more than a question of intellectual assent, though down the centuries famous Christians such as CS Lewis have reluctantly been driven to belief through reasoning. Faith is a journey. It is a weighing up of experience and word. It is a willingness to listen combined with a dis-ease with how things are in our lives. It is a decision to put our trust outside ourselves and to allow our lives to be touched by the witness of the Word in the lives of others. It is a meeting of the hunger within the emptiness of our hearts. It is not for nothing that the writer of the book Hebrews reminds us,
‘The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4v12)
But will we let it pierce us soul from spirit? Will we allow ourselves to be laid bare before the truth of the resurrection?
This is our Thomas moment. This is the moment when we decide if we believe. Believing is not about seeing things, in the end it is not even about reading of the things that Jesus said and did, it is about us, you and I, kneeling in front of the risen wounded Christ and being brave enough to know that the next words we will say, and the words by which we will lead our lives are these, and these alone.
‘My Lord and my God!’
This blog ‘Words, words, words!’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019