3rd July 2022 – Thomas the Apostle

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22 07 03 Thomas the Apostle Eucharist

The Readings

Ephesians 2.19-end

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

John 20.24-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Revd Shan Rush from St Mark's Broomhill


Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas. As you probably know, Thomas is often referred to as Thomas the Doubter. It’s not an attribute I’d want to be remembered for in my obituary and yet poor Thomas has been labelled in this way for centuries. In some ways I feel an affinity with Thomas.
I have a very logical mind and often need to work out or have proof of things I encounter that I’ve not experienced for myself. I remember as a child being told not to touch the radiator because it was hot and then putting my hand onto it just to be certain that what I’d been told was true. I suspect that if I had been in Thomas’ shoes on the day of resurrection, I would also have had the title “the Doubter” after my name!

We all have a “Thomas” within us. At times, it is healthy to be sceptical, but alongside this, we also need to be open to what we may not understand. A balance of certainty and doubt is necessary in life which is why I don’t consider that doubt is always a bad thing. To me, doubt opens things up rather than shuts them down. I’ve noticed that when I recognise and acknowledge doubt is present, it means that there is a need for me to ask more questions, of myself and of the situation I find myself in. Doubt can be a protective feeling, helping me to reappraise what I’m doing, so I don’t take inappropriate risks. If I’m trying to cross a busy road where there is no pedestrian crossing, if I have a feeling of doubt that I can cross safely and reach the other side before the approaching car reaches me, I need to listen to that gut instinct. If I believe I can cross safely without listening to my doubts, there’s a risk I could be knocked down. However, If I take things to the other extreme, my sense of doubt could stop me from reaching my objective of crossing the road. So, if a I’ve been stood there a while with no opportunity to cross, I might start to run through some other alternatives in my mind, such as I’d there a pedestrian crossing, traffic lights or bridge further along the road I could use.
This is an everyday example but where does doubt fit in with being a Christian and the idea of having faith?
As a child, I attended a Sunday school. God and Jesus were figures I read about or knew through pictures and stories. There was little to link what I was being taught to my daily life and I certainly did not have a personal relationship with God. My Granny was a devout and faithful Christian.
She did not speak about her faith but there was something about her that meant I knew she experienced something that I didn’t. I desperately wanted to believe in God, but I needed to connect with a living God, one with whom I could have a meaningful encounter.
To me, finding out about a living God from others was insufficient. Like Thomas, it was not enough for me to hear the other disciples experiences. I had many questions and doubts. If there is a God, why would he allow suffering? If God really is alive today, why have I never experienced his presence? Does God really exist? What do people mean when they talk about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? How do the moral teachings of the Church, on matters like abortion, contraception, marriage or sexuality fit with what’s written in the Bible and my own understanding of life? At that time, my doubts meant I was not open to the things I did not understand and I drifted away from any connection with church. Looking back, I think isolation from other believers initially increased my doubts as I brooded on my questions and became preoccupied with “navel gazing” that acknowledged my negative feelings and left no room for positivity let alone hope.
Fortunately for me, this was not the end of the story. Jesus meets people where they’re at and he transforms them. Just as Thomas’s doubt was transformed into faith as he encountered the risen Christ, so my doubts were put into perspective as I encountered people of faith in my workplace, the Children’s Hospital, and I became more open to exploring the questions that were at the root of my questions. The seeds that had been sown earlier in my life were nurtured by others sharing their faith, and I began to vocalise these questions and explored rejoining a church community. Initially what I was seeking was certainty and I envied my Roman Catholic friends most of whom appeared to accept the teaching they received without question. My initial doubts arose from immaturity and a lack of understanding of faith. I expected God to make himself known to me without me participating. As I started to attend church regularly, the combination of tradition, scripture, reason and experience meant the faith that was already present within me was released and began to grow. With time, I had had my own experiences of the Living God. Sometimes these experiences are hard to put into words to share but they have often occurred at moments when I have been struggling with issues around suffering, bereavement or guilt to name but a few. Before I could find healing, I had to move away from navel gazing and learn to reach out and face the reality of others wounds. Touching another brings into reality a relationship, an association.  It’s given me sacred moments of connection with the wounded Christ and I’ve experienced acts of love and compassion and have led to profound experiences of forgiveness and grace. Thomas reminds us three things:
- that faith does not exclude doubt and questions, nor does it exclude moments when we wonder whether God is really present with us.
- that we receive faith in and through the community of family, friends and church.
• that faith is not simply an assent to doctrines and propositions of faith but a belief in God, revealed through Jesus, prompted by the stirrings of the Spirit.

Christ is always in our midst inviting us to touch him and have faith through word, sacrament and community not just once, but every time doubt threatens our sense of hope and belief. Having been called, we are sent out to enable others to encounter Jesus in a personal and intimate way that evokes trust rather than fear. Jesus did not push Thomas away for having doubts, he drew him closer by offering Thomas a different way to overcome his doubts.
Walkley festival is a perfect opportunity for Christians to reach out to the Community of Walkley and the well dressing is just one way that this congregation can make contact with others, using the beauty of creation to link those who have seen and believed with those who may be searching for something more tangible in their lives, something that takes them beyond the present personal and world crisis. May we who have heard the call to faith, reach out and be a blessing to others, witnesses of Gods living presence in the world today. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by David

Encouraged by our fellowship with all the saints,
let us make our prayers to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, your Son called men and women to leave the past behind
them and to follow him as his disciples in the way of the cross. Look
with mercy upon those whom he calls today, marks with the cross
and makes his disciples within the Church.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Your Son told his disciples not to be afraid and at Easter breathed on
them his gift of peace. Look with mercy upon the world into which
he sent them out, and give it that peace for which it longs.
We pray for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Your Son formed around him a company who were no longer
servants but friends, and he called all those who obeyed him his
brother and sister and mother. Look with mercy upon our families
and our friends and upon the communities in which we share.
We give thanks for our community of Walkley and for the many activities during the festival.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Your Son sent out disciples to preach and heal the sick. Look with
mercy on all those who yearn to hear the good news of salvation,
and renew among your people the gifts of healing.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Your Son promised to those who followed him that they would sit
on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel and would share the
banquet of the kingdom. According to your promise, look with
mercy on those who have walked with Christ in this life and now
have passed through death.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Almighty God,
Grant that your Church
may faithfully hold and make known
the faith that has come to us through the apostles,
that with them and all your saints
we may inherit the glories of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers,
for the sake of your son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.