Easter 2, Year C
April 11, 2010
Acts 5:12-16; John 20:19-31
I’ve been thinking about what I might say today – on behalf of little Noah Hamilton on the day of his baptism, and with reference to Thomas the twin, described variously as doubting or cynical Thomas, fearless Thomas (the one disciple not initially locked in a room for fear of the religious authorities), passionate and forthright Thomas, shattered and disillusioned Thomas, open and believing Thomas …
I could say something, I thought, about Noah or ourselves as twins of Thomas – those who share in some way the qualities of fierce independence and openness to faith …
At Thursday’s Bible study we read from a book by Rowan Williams who, in one particular passage, reinforces the need for theology to be done in the human community where “children are not hidden away”. I wanted to say something that might be heard in the context of our celebrating God’s welcome of a child – in the presence of children. I wanted to say something to address the child among us, the child in all of us.
And so I have done something child-like. I have brought along three colourful stones. I could pretend they’re river stones (in the waters of baptism) but they’re actually paper weights – paper weights with little animal figures on them. A zebra. A giraffe. An elephant. The stones are a gift for Noah whose namesake was an ark builder and a carer of animals. God knows the world needs such builders and carers.
And there are words on the stones that can help towards a homily on today’s Gospel.
[I may need three assistants …]
On the back of the zebra stone it says, “urgent!” The urgent word for us today has to do with commitment to peace and to each other in the name of Jesus. In the name of the Risen Christ who says, “Peace be with you”. Christ says this, three times, to those who betrayed and abandoned him – to those who found the social and political forces of intimidation too great to resist. There are no recriminations, no sighs of disappointment, no “I told you so”. Christ says this to them – “Peace be with you” – because only peace, only the peace of God, enables us to resist intimidation – to resist bullying and greed and vengeance and hatred. Jesus is not talking about the peace-and-quiet we seek in flight from each other and the world, but the peace that is centred in self-awareness and genuine regard for others. One commentator writes: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ frees us, to do more with our lives than protect them. We are free to offer them. We are called to love the world, to want clean air and water for everyone, to give ourselves to the service of peace instead of blindly following our leaders in senseless wars, to commit to the cause of justice, especially when our institutions and our country are guilty of injustice. This is a big order. But you are free to pursue it by the resurrection of Christ, who has put an end to the dominion of death. We are free for the battle because the victory is already won.”
On the back of the giraffe stone it says, “not urgent!” In the light of today’s Gospel, it is not urgent that we seek to eliminate doubts and questions. It is not urgent that we suppress the need to question, to ask questions. Although Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, he does not scold Thomas for having doubts, for asking questions, for stating his needs. Jesus meets Thomas where Thomas is – in the questions, in the act of doubting (or, we might say, in the act of testing the truth of what he believes). Without Thomas’ honest question we wouldn’t have the witness of his confession: “My Saviour and my God”. It’s not urgent that we purify faith of doubt – actually, faith, when it comes, comes as grace, as a gift.
And on the back of the elephant stone (if you know something about elephants and something about paper weights you can probably guess), it says, “don’t forget”. What should we not forget? What should we remember? We should remember that the Spirit Jesus breathes on the disciples, the Spirit Jesus gives to the Church, is a Holy Spirit of forgiveness. Are there any words in Scripture so awe-fully dignifying, so humanising as these?: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” As the body of Christ we are called to become as forgiving as Christ – to forgive, that is, to unbind, to set free. This doesn’t mean something passive, something pathetic. It’s not about denying realities that hurt us. It’s not about forgetting. We are called to forgive but not forget. By this mindful, responsible, forgiving Spirit the Church is commissioned for healing work in the world.
On behalf of Noah Hamilton, and with reference to Thomas the twin, the good news of Jesus Christ is reliable, is trustworthy, is written in stone, on stones. The urgent word for us today has to do with commitment to peace and to each other in the name of Jesus. It is not urgent that we suppress the need to question, to ask questions. We should not forget that the Spirit Jesus breathes on the disciples, the Spirit Jesus gives to the Church, is a Holy Spirit of forgiveness.…