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Sermon for Easter 2 Thomas wasn’t there

April 19, 2014

Thomas 1Thomas was not with the rest when the Lord came.

In the name…………………

John Zito was stabbed to death at Finsbury Park tube station twenty years ago.

The attacker, Christopher Clunis, was a schizophrenic, who’d attacked before. He’d been released three weeks previously as part of the Government’s ‘Care in the Community’ scheme.

Care in the community. The community is an important idea to Christians. Jesus had gathered together a community. Twelve disciples. Thomas was an important member of that community.

He was doggedly loyal. But he didn’t always understand. He tended to take things literally. Perhaps he got upset when things didn’t work out the way he thought they should. When there weren’t instant results.

When Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem when Lazarus was ill. Thomas blurted out, ‘Let’s go with him’. He didn’t really know what he was saying. That he was going to the capital – yes. But that it meant going to die with Jesus?

When Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life Thomas asked how he could know the way. He seemed to want a map rather than a way of life.

At the Last Supper, when Jesus spoke of going to the Father, it was Thomas who kept interrupting: ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?’

Thomas the impulsive – where was he on Easter Sunday? Perhaps he’d decided the community wasn’t worth belonging to. They were a bunch of losers. Their Lord had been killed. The miracles were over. The great crowds no longer gathered to hear the word. The Jesus thing was a good idea. But it yielded no results.

Thomas wanted answers: The disciples were in deep mourning, full of questions, not answers. Thomas wanted to know the way. The disciples were lost. So Thomas went his own way. By so doing, he missed the most important spiritual experience of all time.

If he he’d stayed with the community he’d have found the way. Not the way he expected. Not the instant success story he wanted.

Instead, he ran away from the pain. But the pain doesn’t go away if you run away. It festers like an unhealed wound. Society ignores those who are out of sight because it can’t bear the pain. Yet the only way society can become a community is to face up to pain.

The schizophrenic attacker released into the community was, in reality, released into something that didn’t really exist. Care in the community meant sleeping on cold pavements. Community wasn’t there for Jayne, the victim’s wife. People crossed the street to avoid her. They didn’t know what to say.

She set up The Zito Trust. to create genuine community. It pushes for better resources, for better community care for people to offer real help to schizophrenics; to tend their wounds instead of looking the other way.

When wounds are exposed, then healing and new life, resurrection can take place. The church, as a community, must recognise the reality of pain, deprivation and oppression and reach out with passion and engagement. When we do so, we shall find a deeply wounded man in our midst. Jesus, bearing the wounds of his passion. Jesus, in the form of the wounded people of our community. We shall see that we too bear wounds. His tangible, human scars confront our wounds. His grace doesn’t undo our wounds. It remakes them. The very wounds he bore were for the healing of the nations. The wounds we bear will be the resource for understanding other people. For loving people better. For finding resurrection life.

Thomas did not believe the other disciples when they SAID they’d seen the Lord. People won’t believe us today because of what we SAY. They want proof. Thomas got the proof he wanted.

He saw the wounds. At the time of Jesus, the Greeks and Romans believed that if someone died a violent death their scars would be visible in their souls in the afterlife. When Thomas wanted proof of the risen Christ, he naturally wanted to see the wounds. When people want proof that Christ is with us, they should see, not easy answers, a simple way to spiritual success, but wounds. If only we’d let people see our wounds. If only we’d be vulnerable. Many are put off church because they think Christians are self- righteous. If only we were more ready to admit we are stumbling sinners instead of being smugly self-righteous.

Jesus attempted to create community. Thomas left the community to pursue his own way. It was not until he rejoined the community that he met the risen Christ. We are called to stay together and be a community. To see Christ’s wounds in others to recognise our own wounds, to bear each others’ wounds as a community. As we do so, so the risen Christ will be found among us.

Thomas was not with the rest when the Lord came. Where are we?

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