Tag Archives: Risen Christ

‘Dostoevski and Thomas’ (2 Easter B )

John 20:19- 29 (NRSV)

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”

 

doubting_thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1602 –  Caravaggio
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”

 

On cold December morning in Russia in 1849, 20 political prisoners were lined up to be shot by a firing squad.

However, just before the order was given, a message was delivered from Czar Nicholas I cancelling the executions.

Instead, the men were to serve ten years of hard labour in Siberia.

One of the prisoners was Feodor Dostoevski, a young man whose mother had died when he was only 16 and whose father had been murdered a few years later.

When Dostoevski got to Siberia, he found a copy of the New Testament and began to read it.  By the time he had finished, he was a firm believer.

Describing his impression of Christ, he wrote to a friend:

“No one is more beautiful… and more perfect than Christ…If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside of the truth…I would prefer to remain outside with Christ than inside with the truth.”

After his release from prison, Dostoevski turned to writing novels.  In quick succession, he wrote such classics as ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’

 

fyodor-dostoevsky_eK44Z

 

But success went to his head, and he began to drink and gamble heavily.  More than that, he set aside his faith.

Shortly before he died, however, Dostoevski returned to the faith.  This irritated his atheistic friends who ridiculed him.  They said that this was just the sick act of a sick man.

Commenting on their mockery, Dostoevski wrote in his diary:

“These fools could not even conceive so strong a denial of God as the one to which I gave expression….It is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess him.  My hosanna has come forth from the crucible of doubt.”

 

–oo00oo–

Dostoevski’s story is not unlike the story of Thomas in today’s Gospel.

Like Thomas, he had once placed all his faith in Jesus.

Like Thomas, he abandoned his faith in Jesus.

And like Thomas, he returned to his faith in Jesus.

Many of us can perhaps relate to the stories of Thomas and Dostoevski.

After placing all our faith in Christ, we too so often have gone on to abandon him, as they did.

Or, if we didn’t abandon him, we did not follow him as closely as we should have.

Anyone who has travelled the road of faith, knows that it’s not a wide paved highway; rather it’s a narrow dirt track.

Jesus himself said of the road of faith: ‘How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.’

So often that road involves struggle and times of darkness.

 

There are times when we find it hard to believe and we are sore tested by God.  When these times of darkness come, we might recall the words of a fugitive from the Nazis who wrote on the wall of a basement in which he was hiding:

‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. 

I believe in love even when I do not feel it.

I believe in God even when he is silent.’

 

Travelling that road of faith involved loving trust in God even in the darkest of times.

Remember these words which Jesus addressed to Thomas:

‘Do you believe because you see me?  How happy are those who believe without seeing me!’

 

hendrick-ter-brugghen-doubtingthomas

Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (or Terbrugghen) (1588 – 1 November 1629)

 

Collect

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,

now and for ever.

 

 

 

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Thomas

Caravaggio(b. 1571; d. 1610)   The Incredulity of Saint Thomas ( c. 1601–1602)

 

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas-Caravaggio_(1601-2)

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”

It’s commonly held that Thomas didn’t accept the Risen Christ’s offer, that his empirical world-view was superseded by FAITH; and so, because of faith, he believed.

This wonderful painting by Caravaggio would suggest otherwise and that Thomas did, in fact, take up Christ’s invitation.

Is Christ almost FORCING Thomas to carry out his  earlier declaration, “unless I… place my hand into his side, I will never believe”?

Look at the furrowed brow on Thomas’ forehead; Christ’s strong grip of his wrist- is there hesitation here?  Does Christ have to force a hesitant Thomas when the latter is actually with him.?  Is this Thomas effectively being told to “put up or shut up?”, given his earlier bravado?

Perhaps Caravaggio caught something of what the author of the Fourth Gospel really meant to convey, but what others over the centuries have misinterpreted.

Thomas is, after all, the Patron Saint of blind people!

 

 

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April 27, 2014 · 08:53

When the cheering stopped …… a thought for Palm/Passion Sunday

Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was “When The Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. 

When Jesus came to Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, the crowds went wild.  Cheering “Hosanna!”, they greeted their “King and Saviour”

And then the acclamation turned to condemnation and cries for his blood.  “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

And he was broken on the Cross.

Just another false Messiah.  Just another phoney prophet.  What a let down.  What frustration.  What hopes, dashed at Calvary. Defeated, dead then buried and forgotten……..

And then… and then…. the cry:

HE IS RISEN!  And with joy, our response:  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

 

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Hands

A little boy, growing up in a village where his father was the local minister was outside playing. He was doing all of the things that a little boy does. He was climbing trees. He was swinging on the swing set and jumping out. He was rolling and playing with his dog. His mother called him for dinner and all of the family gathered at the table. His mother looked at him and said, “Young man, let me see your hands.”

There was some rubbing of his hands on his blue jeans before he held his hands up. His mother looked at them and asked, “How many times do I have to tell you that you must wash your hands before you eat? When your hands are dirty, they have germs all over them and you could get sick. After we say grace, I want you to march back to the bathroom and wash your hands.”

Everyone at the table bowed their heads and the father said grace. Then, the little boy got up and headed out of the kitchen. He stopped, then turned and looked at his mother and said, “Jesus and germs! Jesus and germs! That’s all I ever hear around here and I haven’t seen a one of them.”

Our hands can be an identifying characteristic. As you know, every one of us has a different set of fingerprints. (and that’s true apparently even of identical twins)  We are all different, yet we can be identified by our hands.  And the same was true for Jesus. On that first Easter, Peter and John gathered with the other disciples in that upper room to talk about the empty tomb and the possibility of the resurrection.

As they were talking, Jesus came and stood among them. They were frightened, but Jesus reassured them by showing them his hands and feet. How often had the disciples seen those hands of Jesus touch blind eyes so they could see?

How often had they seen his hands bless little children? How often had they seen him reach out hands and lift the cripple up and say, “Walk.”? They saw the hands of Jesus and they knew that he was resurrected from the dead.

The hands of Jesus remind us of his suffering – and they remind us of his love.

In the 1930s, there was particular a man who was an engineer.

He had built up a good business in London, but his main interest was lay preaching.

One day, in the course of his ‘day job’ he had to visit the railway works at Swindon where the great locomotives were built.

A young manager showed him round and after a tour of inspection, the two men walked to the gate of the factory.  There they stood for a few minutes chatting, and then the visiting engineer thanked the young manager for showing him around.

Then he stretched out his hand to say goodbye.  The young man also stretched out his hand.

Almost immediately the engineer dropped it – the younger man’s hand was such a cold, fishy sort of hand.

Quickly he realised his mistake for the other man looked embarrassed.

The young manager then explained that when he had become an apprentice he had met with an accident.  A nail was driven through my hand, he said, and I’ve never been able to close it since then’

The engineer gently laid his hand on the young manager’s shoulder and said:

Nineteen hundred year ago there was a young carpenter in Nazareth.  They drove a nail         through his hand, and he too has never been able to close it since!

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