The Second Sunday of Easter - Reflection

‘Then Jesus told [Thomas], ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’’ - John 20:29
Brothers and sisters, I’m going to start off this story with the disclaimer: Not all car-salespeople. Most are lovely people who want what’s best for you, I’m sure. But, most definitely, this car salesperson. Now, I’ve noticed you’ve got to be careful on this topic because, when you mention buying reliable cars, a lot of people develop a bit of a twitch in one eye as they think back to a traumatic experience in their past. Most of us have had at least one disaster scenario and mine was horrendous.  We had no money, I was training for priesthood and along came this perfect little car, not too pricey, a few miles on it but totally ready to go, reliable, family car. I’m not too picky with cars but this one seemed like everything we’d hope for, it’d get us from A to B, the test drive was lovely, everything looked great and it had come just at the right moment before we needed to go on a long drive. Paid for the car, pretty much all the money we had left at that time, got it home and the second I pulled into the drive, the dashboard warning lights lit up like new years eve. I had to google what some of the warning lights meant because I’d never seen them before. The engine refused to start, it was chugging like a train when it did, the battery died immediately. There was a minor feeling of ‘uhoh’.  So I rang the car dealer a little miffed, let’s say, and the guy who had been quite friendly when selling me the car answered with “what?” I explained the problem and he said “well, sounds like your problem because it was fine when we sold it to you.” The uhoh became a little bit louder in my head at that point. The guy tried every trick he could, he wouldn’t let us take the car back unless we paid to take it to a mechanic, then he said he’d give us half the money back but we’d have to pay for repairs, then we brought the car back and he tore up the contract and said he’s never sold us a car in the first place and we should take it up with our bank, at which point Mrs Bentliff got involved and the money came back pretty much straight away. 
We’ve all had those times where we’ve thought something looked perfect and we’ve been heartbroken to find out that it wasn’t. Whether that’s a car, a holiday, a relationship, we’ve all gone for something because we thought it looked good on the outside, only to find that beneath the bonnet things were falling apart a bit. Well we all think that we know what the perfect Christian looks like, don’t we? Think about what we’d think of as a fantastic Christian in this church. We think that the perfect Christian is strong of character, probably quite respectable and well off enough that they can give generously to church. The perfect Christian is capable enough to just go and get on with things; they’d look great and they’d never get too angry, would always stick to their commitments and would never ever doubt in themselves or in their faith. And maybe that’s the image we have  in our mind when try to evaluate how good we are as Christians, we look at the outside of others and we feel a bit like a car with smoke billowing out of our bonnet by comparison. Because we look at others and think oh aren’t they great and yet we’re not. But brothers and sisters we have two examples in our Gospel Reading of what a perfect Christian life should look like and it’s nothing like that. The things that might make someone look like the perfect Christian aren’t there at all, what we see is something different. Instead we find two things: we find that Christ’s perfected body is broken, and we find that Thomas’ life is remade through belief. 
So, first of all we think of the resurrection as being pristine by our standards. Like that perfect Christian with shiny teeth and a six pack that maybe we have in mind. We imagine that the resurrection would look a bit like that or like those moments in the films were you have this angelic, Hollywood, chiselled jaw Jesus appearing with a perfect head of hair and everything the total embodiment of what we would expect in a healthy human and yet, when we come to this passage, what do we see? I think there’s this myth that comes that we get given a whole new perfect body that looks totally different from our own at the resurrection, yet for Jesus here it’s the same body. There’s the scars in his hands and feet, the wound in his side. This isn’t some new model of body that’s been taken off the shelf, this is the old body brought back and made new. This is how God does new creation, he takes the old and makes it right, he doesn’t start over totally from scratch. When it comes to capital ‘R’, the ‘Resurrection’, this isn’t like Lazarus who went back to normal and who went on to live and die again for good, this resurrection is something totally out the other side of death which blows the mind to comprehend. And yet, there in his hands and feet are the holes of the nails. There in his side is the wound of the spear. We can probably assume as those wounds are there that his face and back would still bear the wounds of crown of thorns and the whip-marks of the Romans. The perfect body of God, stayed broken to our eyes. Perfect, yes, and broken, still. Not quite the image we have in mind of perfection, is it? Do we even want to Look like the resurrected Lord? Isn’t that a question. Yet, may we know that all our scars that we bear trying to live as Christians, imperfect as we are, will be made perfect in him. And then we have the incorrectly named ‘doubting Thomas.’ 
I love Thomas’ story because he’s so sure. You can imagine the conversation, can’t you? Him gathered around with a mug in one hand as all his mates are there and they’re there saying like “it was defintely Him! We saw him, he’s alive!” But Thomas saw the body and he knows crucifixion and he saw the spear wound in the side and he knows with certainty that Jesus is dead so he comes out with something which is the sort of thing I’d say to conspiracy theorists today “unless I put my fingers in the wounds of his hands and feet and in his sides then there’s no way I’ll believe, not me.” In other words there’s no way this guy is going to believe, he’s dug in on the other side, he knows it’s not real and he’s not budging. I know I can be a bit like that sometimes, I have to admit. Yet here we see that for Thomas it was okay to doubt, Jesus doesn’t punish him for it, Jesus doesn’t fob off he answers the question of his disciple. It was quite a reasonable doubt, after all, everyone knows that when someone dies they stay dead. That’s how it goes with people, but up until this point nobody had quite got it yet, nobody had realised in John’s gospel that Jesus was God himself. And so Thomas goes on to become even greater in belief than all of the others in some ways, he takes it further than everyone else so far and ties John’s Gospel together, he is the first to recognise Jesus as God. Doubting Thomas. How hard we are on ourselves for doubting. Doubting Thomas becomes believing Thomas as he says “my Lord and my God.” At the beginning of John we have the word who was God and who made the world with him and now we know, who was that, Thomas finally is the first to properly get it, Jesus is God. Of course, we believe and trust in God, but we don’t have to be perfect in that. When we doubt, we too can draw near to the broken body of Christ and be forgiven and healed. In Christ, there is grace. Do we want to look like the resurrected Lord? Answering the difficult questions, the dawn of daybreak after the dark of doubt. Then the Gospel finishes this part before the sort of epilogue by saying “and you too can have faith in all of this.” You too can poke and prod at the evidence and believe like Thomas did. You can share in the same, messy resurrection life. You can come and receive and share in the life of the resurrected Lord. The perfect Christian isn’t somebody who looks perfect, it isn’t the one who never doubts or who thinks they know the right answer, they’re the one who tries their best to believe, who bears their scars and lets God make them a new creation. 
Let me leave you with this thought today. Many years ago I remember there was a young man who came to our church and this young man had down’s syndrome. A lot of the people in that church thought they were very well-to-do, some quite posh people who thought they were really very good Christians and they always rolled their eyes at the young man as though he were a frustration. But after the Sunday morning Eucharist I would watch as all these fancy folk would congregate and say some quite nasty things about other churches or about the vicar or about the theological inaccuracies of the sermon, meanwhile, that young man would go every week to the front of church and kneel on the step of the sanctuary and whisper prayers to God. So my question is this, which one was a better Christian? Stop caring so much about how you look on the outside and instead spent some time this week, looking at how you can draw near to the broken body of Christ, and maybe you could think about how you may bear your scars for the Gospel and how you can encourage others who don’t think they’re good enough to be Christians. God loves you, draw near and receive his resurrected life today. Amen (from Fr Jordan).