For those who were either in church or who engaged with church through our digital services last week, today may be giving you a sense of déjà vu – surely we are hearing the same gospel again.
For those who cannot be sure what I am talking about, last week’s gospel reading focused on the account of Thomas’ meeting with Jesus after the resurrection – we heard of ‘Doubting’ Thomas.
But … last week’s reading was John’s account of this moment, and this week we get Luke’s perspective.
Of course, there are similarities:
- Jesus appears to his disciples and says: Peace be with you.
- Jesus shows his disciples his wounds.
- John told us that the disciples ‘rejoiced’, in Luke we heard ‘in their joy’.
- In John’s account Jesus said: Receive the Holy Spirit, in Luke he opened their minds to understand the scriptures … in other words, and in both accounts, Jesus empowered his disciples to be his ambassadors in the world.
- In both accounts Jesus speaks of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
So, with so much in common, why do we have to hear it all again?
There is, of course, one significant difference: this week there is no mention of Doubting Thomas. Last week the role of the doubting, sceptical one was laid solely on the shoulders of Thomas – not this week!
This week – whilst in ‘joy’ at seeing Jesus – all of the disciples are still disbelieving, still wondering. Jesus has to prove the physicality of his resurrection by eating a piece of broiled fish. The doubt of Thomas that we considered last week is still there, but now it is in all of them … as it is in all of us!
Since the moment of our creation in the image and likeness of God himself, humanity has been called by God to be his viceroy … his stand-in … his ambassador.
We are called, as humanity has always been called, to love and serve and bear responsibility as God would.
We are called to care for and to deal with others, in a Christ-like way.
We are called to bring about the flourishing of God’s creation – all of it – as God wishes.
It is a sociological and scientific fact that, without the example and nurture of other human beings, we would not be able to carry out even the most basic of everyday functions … we learn from and we imitate others.
To put it another way … we are ‘nurtured’ by our encounters with other human beings.
Africans have a word for this ‘nurture’ – Ubuntu.
- Ubuntu means ‘the essence of being human’ …
- It is a highly sought-after attribute …
- A person with ubuntu is generous, magnanimous, hospitable, welcoming and affirming of others.
- A person with ubuntu is God’s viceroy … God’s stand-in … God’s ambassador.
- A person with ubuntu demonstrates that the human part of God’s creation is, as we read in Genesis, very good.
Of course, such generosity is not without inconvenience or cost, but look … Jesus is showing us his hands, his feet, his side … that is the cost he was prepared to pay for us … having been created in the image of God we are called to pay no less!
We don’t like committing ourselves to inconvenience and cost, though, do we?
- We know that we are too small and insignificant for that divine call to be our responsibility …
- We know (or rather we convince ourselves) that someone better suited will do it instead!
Sadly, this is even more human self-deception!
Each of us is utterly unique … each of us is called to be God’s ambassador, God’s nurturer of others in our own way.
And that is why … yet again … Jesus is holding out his hands to show us his wounds … the wounds inflicted by the very worst aspects of our human nature … those aspects of our human nature that stand in the way of our being the disciples God calls us, and Jesus commissions us, to be.
At the end of last week’s gospel, as at the end of this week’s gospel, Jesus speaks of repentance and forgiveness. There is great hope in those two words!
To repent is to turn around, to change … to find new resolve to set aside all that is selfish and not God-centred in our lives.
And the promise of God’s forgiveness means that it is never too late to take that path of repentance. Amen.