Letter to parishioners, 2 July 2022

Read a letter to parishioners from Revd Stephen reflecting on the gospel readings for Sunday 3 July 2022

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday the Church provides us with two different causes for celebration. As well as being the third Sunday after Trinity it is also the day on which we are invited to remember the apostle Thomas, the one who is often remembered as Doubting Thomas.

In the Ordinary Time lectionary we hear of Jesus appointing and sending out seventy others in order that they might prepare the way for him. In that powerful reading, in which those whom he has selected are told: I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves, we are reminded that Jesus is also calling us to go out and prepare the way for his coming. Then, in our remembrance of St Thomas we hear not only of his hesitation in accepting the word of his fellow disciples concerning an earlier appearance of the risen Christ, but also his acclamation that the risen Christ is indeed: My Lord and my God.

Thomas has become known as the one who doubted, but we have to ask ourselves whether that is entirely fair. If we read the whole account of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance (John 20:19-29) we will notice that the other disciples needed a similar level of proof before they rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Thomas’ fellow disciples were just as sceptical and taken aback at first, that is until he showed them his hands and his side. The difference between the two moments of Jesus appearing after his crucifixion lies in Thomas’ unequivocal acclamation about the divinity and mastery of the Christ. After applying the principle of caution given by Jesus himself, as recorded in chapters 7 & 24 of Matthew’s gospel, Thomas is the one whose declaration of faith rings out down the ages.

Going back to the sending out of the seventy, Jesus offers the warning that not everyone will listen and some will go as far as rejecting the truth of all he offers to humanity. Jesus also says, in terms that do not always sit easily with our notions of mission and ministry, that we should walk away from such people and go to those who are ready to accept the peace that God offers through faith in Christ. Of course, this is not saying that we should create safe enclaves for ourselves, groups of like-minded people who represent no threat to the faith we choose to preach. On the contrary, we are called to take the message amongst the wolves as well as the sheep. It is only after we have tried, again and again, to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ that we should accept rejection and move on. This is a vital message for us to grasp if the Church we love is to flourish and grow.

We live in challenging times. Humanity has reached a place in its development where it feels it has a level of understanding that supersedes its need for God. This is, of course, nonsense! But, it is a reality the faithful have to confront on a daily basis. Let us pray that we might be strong enough in our faith that we might join Thomas in declaring the divinity and mastery of Jesus Christ as we journey with the seventy into the midst of wolves. Let us pray that our commitment to Christ, and our joy in that commitment, might lead others into the way of peace, light and love.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen