Tag Archives: Thomas

‘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.”

 

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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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Doubting Thomas

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July 25, 2014 · 11:08

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

Doubting Thomas

Why did Thomas need to see Jesus’ wounds in order to make this confession of Jesus as Lord?

For Thomas Jesus needed to do something new, something different. He needed to show his vulnerability. So Jesus appeared wounds and all and held his pierced hands out to Thomas who had doubted. It was in the wounds of Jesus that Thomas found comfort.

The wounds of Christ comfort us

I’m not sure that we ever see anything good in wounds. For the most part we try to hide our own wounds.

But what we forget is that these wounds are the force that binds creation together. Wounds are what prove and test our humanity. Through wounds the brokenness of Humanity was overcome. Though wounds the healing work of Christ commenced.

Through wounds the healing work of Christ continues. Humanity is famously good at acknowledging difference. But also famously good at understanding suffering at feeling the pain of other people’s wounds.

Wounds, while we hide them and deny them are true signs of our humanity. God’s power to overcome the wounds of Christ for our sake is a true sign of God’s gracious love for us

There’s a story told of an elderly man who lived in Mississippi – he was badly affected by Hurricane Katrina which also, of course, devastated Louisiana and New Orleans

His home was destroyed. He was not allowed back in because his health was poor. The frame of the house was really all that was salvageable. The cleaning crew cried as they tore down and threw out rotting pictures of his deceased wife and then even the very wall that held the pictures.

When the house was finally gutted they brought in a table and he was excited to provide dinner for them. The food was ordered in, because there was no kitchen to prepare it

And as they ate he told them stories of his home, now simply beams and foundation that had housed his  marriage, his children, their first dates, his wife as she had died, the life of an entire family all of which the crew had seen evidence of that they had to throw out.

He shed a few tears as he spoke because the wounds were still there. His healing wouldn’t be easy in this new place that used to be his home but because others understood what it was to be wounded and what it meant to live as servants of a wounded Christ his first memory in this new, old place was of Christian fellowship and powerful healing.

hendrick-ter-brugghen-doubtingthomas

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

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