Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thomas’ Plea for Inclusion (Easter 2 Year C)

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118: 14-29
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20: 19-31

Imagine the scene:

The disciples were locked together in a room. I imagine a variety of mixed emotions would be going through their heads as they ponder the events of that first Easter.

Fear . . . will the religious authorities think we have stolen the body?
Terror . . . will we be crucified too?
Excitement . . . Is it true what Mary told us? (Luke and Matt have more women)
Incredibility . . . . Mark tells us the disciples didn’t believe.
Hopelessness . . . only three years and it’s ended, it’s all over .
Confusion . . . What’s going to happen to us now?
Shock . . . think how traumatic the weekend has been
Guilt . . . didn’t we all scatter and deny Jesus
Regret . . . I wish I’d stayed at the cross

Suddenly Jesus appears and says “Peace be with you”

Wow, amazing, what an impact that must have had . . .
Jesus was once again amongst them.
Jesus understood their inner turmoil
Jesus understood their weaknesses but didn’t condemn
They may have abandoned Jesus but Jesus didn’t abandon them

Then Jesus breathed on them. The Holy Breathe was breathed on them and into them. And something happened. Suddenly they had direction and strength and purpose.
Jesus mission hadn’t died on the cross. They were going to carry it on.

I believe this is the Johannine account of pentecost. I think here is a perfect example of what James Dunn calls ‘Unity and Diversity’ in a book of the same title. This is John’s account of the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is not spectacular and noisy as in Acts but quiet and relational.

However, I really want to focus on Thomas. I want to rethink the image of Thomas. I want to shake off the doubting label that has been upon him for centuries
Not a doubting Thomas but a Thomas who is so desperate for inclusion, desperate to share the experience, desperate not to have missed out.

Can you relate?

Has anyone ever told you about a great spiritual experience they had and you wanted it for yourself? (Not in a selfish way)
Have you ever felt excluded on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, etc.?
Have you ever felt you missed out on something?

Maybe Thomas who represents all who have ever felt excluded.

I think we can learn from how Thomas behaved:

Thomas stuck around in spite of missing the initial experience.
Thomas didn’t need the same experience (he didn’t get to touch the wounds)
Thomas was included in his own way.
Thomas saw his own vision of the risen Jesus.

This way of viewing contains hope for all of us. Even though we might not get to see and experience Jesus in the same way as others we are still blessed.

Some questions to ponder:

Can we identify with Thomas? (Have we ever felt excluded, that we missed out?)
Can we be content to be included in our way rather than seeking another’s way?
Can we find our place amongst the Christian church?
Women, can we find our place without striving to be one of the men?

Two Final Comments on Thomas:

1. Thomas wrote a gospel. It is older than the gospels we have included in the Bible. Pheme Perkins, in Searching the Scriptures ed Elisabeth Fiorenza.

“ The sayings in the Gospel of Thomas presents a Jesus who reveals a hidden but timeless wisdom . . . Jesus is not an end-time judge who rescues believers from the wrath of God. Rather Jesus mediates the discovery of a wisdom that enables persons to recover the integrity of the human person as created by God”

A great resource for looking at the Gospel of Thomas, various translations and commentaries.

2. Thomas is supposed to have evangelized India

According to legendary tradition St. Thomas was invited by the King Gondophorus to India to build a palace for him. St. Thomas came and declared that he would build a heavenly palace instead and distributed the money among the poor. For this he was put into prison, but later pardoned. He evangelized the region of Malabar, then was martyred at Mylapore, near Madras. In 394 his remains were brought to Edessa. Another version that his remains are still in India at a place now called San Tome.