Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caravaggio: Doubting Thomas

Thomas labelled

Questioning Thomas?

It seems that many adults in the church have never had the benefit of an environment which encouraged searching faith. Some persons are forced out of the church during this state and, sadly, some never return; others remain in searching faith the rest of their lives. In any case, we must remember that persons with searching faith still need to have all the needs of experienced and dependent faith met, even though they may appear to have cast them aside. In spite of his questions, Thomas remained with the disciples. There he discovered the answers to his questions. 

Our congregations are filled with Thomases. Thomas’ faith reminds us that living in community in spite of our doubts is the only way we can find the truth that will sustain us. In such moments, we may lean on the faith of others, knowing that God’s love does not depend on our orthodoxy or certainty.

According to legend, “doubting Thomas” eventually traveled to India , sharing the good news in a very different religious environment. To this day, a group of Indian Christians refer to themselves as “Thomas Christians.” Truly, doubt gives birth to transformation and courage when we faithfully wait for the right moment, when God’s truth awakens us to a new vision of reality. Doubts will always remain and emerge from time to time, but we will know that doubt is itself a doorway to experiencing God’s presence in our life. Doubt may even be the space that makes room for resurrection faith.  In our faithful doubt, we will make room for the seekers in our community and the seeker in ourselves."

food for thought

Our society has become obsessed with food for our bodies. At the same time, we have become less interested in food for our souls and spirits. Many are morbidly obese from binging on materialism. Or have souls starving for the knowledge that they matter to a higher power. Their soul arteries clogged with the latest junk media.
One of the ideas of previous generations was that the sermon should provide spiritual food. People would say things like, “You have given us something to chew on,” or “I like enough in the sermon to keep me fed till next Sunday.”
The words of Scripture are food for thought, but may be prepared in different ways. What are we being fed and how is it being presented to us? Do we get to try all parts of the great smorgasbord or are we meat and three veg people; do we prefer what our mother church gave us to trying something new. Paul complained about those who still wanted to be fed milk when they should have matured to meat.
Most of us have heard the reading from John as a lesson not to have doubts. Is that the nourishment intended from this passage or is there more and different food here?
John said is that Jesus told Mary not to touch him as he had not yet ascended to the Father. In the evening he showed himself to the disciples and breathed on them and said “Received the Holy Spirit.” It probably was a momentous occasion for them. The issue of touching or not touching isn’t mentioned, but a week later, he had no problems in being touched.  Thomas was not there and not surprisingly, had trouble believing what the others told him. A week later, Jesus came to Thomas and offered his body to be touched as proof of who he was. So we know that by that day he had ascended to the Father and returned to earth whatever this means.

We don’t know whether this all literally happened as the writer of John said or as the writer of Luke/Acts said, with the day of Pentecost or in some other way. Which story feeds your soul and why? Is the idea of the humility of Christ with us, of God here present more to your taste, or do you prefer feasting Jesus seated at the right hand of God in heaven and why? Have you dared try the other, more basic, down to earth one?

Rev Julianne Parker 

Disciples of the outer-circle

Let me join you, Thomas,
out here in the outer-circle of disciples;
along with other questioners and doubters.
Here I shall make my home
among those for whom creedal recitations
and orthodox affirmations
seem increasingly less relevant.
(Discipleship, we all know, has only one test.)
Our wonderings will be loud,
and our speculations wild and free;
none shall be offended,
perhaps not even God.
In our outer-circle orbit, always at risk,
we will repeat the stories and tell new ones,
and do our best to love into reality
the kingdom of which the Master spoke.
Defying the sadness and the fear
we will announce in word and deed
the mysterious presence of He who died.
I like to think that we would do so
even if the tomb had not been emptied;
and, if, one day,
the Master’s earthly remains were to be found,
it would make no difference.

© Ken Rookes, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crucifixion: Marc Chagall

The Last Supper by Rainer Maria Rilke

On seeing Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper", Milan 1904.
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.