A Safe Space to Belong and Believe

Thomas had it all, but he did not believe in what he had!

He had the living God with him in the flesh who called and formed him for over 3 years. Thomas witnessed the healing power of Jesus. He had seen Jesus transform water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had seen thousands miraculous fed with just a few fishes and loaves of bread. He witnessed the specular resurrection of Lazarus raised from the dead. But he did not believe!

Jesus had already told the disciples, with Thomas present, about his betrayal and resurrection, but Thomas did not believe.

Mary Magdalene had already reported the good news to the disciples. “I have seen the Lord! He is risen! Still Thomas did not believe the witness of Mary.

Finally, Jesus had already appeared to the other disciples several times.
Jesus had broken down their doors of fear; showed them his scared body, breathe new life of forgiveness into them, but Thomas did not believe!

He did not believe the good news reported to him. With shocking and brazen, disbelieve, Thomas said: “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.”

Thomas wish was granted a week later. Jesus appeared to the disciples, again while they were still under lockdown in fear.

Thomas was present with his doubt, which he shared with his community.
Jesus singled him out and ministered to his doubt with love, patience and gentleness: “Do not doubt but believe.” This is a good reminder for us, the church, that God can handle our betrayal, denial and doubt.

We know how the story ended; Thomas confessed “My Lord and my God!” and claimed Jesus as his own after this very personal and intimate encounter.

We are now part of Thomas’s story, thanks be to God! Thomas and the other disciples who betrayed, denied, and abandoned Jesus on the cross; along with the women who stayed by the side of Jesus to the end transported the faith across generations and continents to enable us to receive it.

We are beneficiaries of the faith of these 1st generation of very flawed followers. We are part of the global Christian community, over 2B members who claim Jesus as their Lord and God. Thanks be to God for them! The Anglican section of the Christian community is estimated between 70-90 million, Nigeria has the largest population of Anglicans with 18million members.

A few observation that might be relevant to us, during our time.

Thomas clearly felt a sense of belonging to the community of disciples, because he was with them after the death of Jesus. He returned after Good Friday, which was, by all indication, a failure of the movement he signed up for.

Thomas felt safe to share his doubt with members of his community. He felt a sense of belonging, but he did not believe, until his personal encounter with Jesus.

We too are being invited to do likewise. To create safe spaces where others can be their authentic selves; to feel welcome and valued.

We are being invited to create safe spaces for differences to be celebrated, affirmed and our humanity strengthened in community because belonging is a pathway towards believing.

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we are in lockdown, and this will likely be our new normal for some time. The disciples in today’s gospel were in hiding due to fear of persecution. We too are in hiding from the coronavirus. From lockdown these 1st generation of disciples where renewed and transformed to share the good news of Jesus, and without the benefit of modern technology. We can do likewise!

There is work for us to do at St Margaret as we commit to serve, pray and grow to follow Jesus, to create safe spaces for all to feel a sense of belonging as a pathway to believing.

I invite you to join us in this endeavour. The good news is Jesus is with us, among us, offering us the same words of comfort and hope he offered them: “peace be with you’ and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Beloved people of God, May we accept the peace of the Risen Christ this Easter as we recommit together to create safe spaces for all to belong and to believe that Jesus Christ is Risen, alive and on the move in our midst. May we be armed with his peace and be assured his presence. May God the Father, son and Holy Spirit guide and direct your way.

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