Jesus started his church with a bunch of men and women that we know about from the Gospels. For the most part they’ve had a pretty bad press, and mostly they seem to have deserved it. They don’t seem to have understood any of his points very well and if they did then they don’t seem to have lived by them particularly well.
Which, frankly, makes them a bit like you and me. That’s to say, they were human. Jesus made his church out of humans with all the same mixture of qualities and weaknesses, of generosity and selfishness, intelligence and misunderstanding that he would find with any of us here today.
The reason he made his church out of humans was, well, that was all that he had to work with – and that’s all he has to work with now, too.
And even though he made them into church, they carried on being human. They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, witnessed his miracles – and took part in a few of those miracles too – for the best part of three years. But they carried on being human with most of the same strengths and most of the same weaknesses.
Kingdom of God
And it wasn’t their idea to become church. It was Jesus’. It wasn’t like a Bowling club, or a Knit-and-Natter group where like-minded people with a common interest come together. They came together because Jesus called them together. They were called out from whatever they happened to be doing at the time.
They laid down their fishing nets and their tax collecting forms and whatever else it was that they did and followed the voice that called them. Ordinary people, human beings like you and me, suddenly called to see that the life that they led was extraordinary. He called them to see that no matter how monotonous life seemed, the Kingdom of God was as close as some lost coin that we’d been looking for or some treasure buried in a field.
And we see the Kingdom of God at those moments when we are better than we are and wiser than we know. Those moments when we find a strength greater than our own strength. And I think we find it in moments of honesty, like we have with Thomas in our Gospel today. Thomas the Twin. Perhaps Thomas our Twin, who somehow thinks and says the things that we would like to think and say, but aren’t brave enough.
As we think about Thomas, whose feast we celebrate today, I want us to treat the rest of the sermon as an extended prayer or reflection. I’ll read it through slowly, with pauses to think about the words. So, make yourselves comfortable and close your eyes if you wish.
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. That’s you and me. We are blessed.
And blessed are those who doubt, who search and find you before them, who can say: “My Lord and my God”.
Blessed are those who don’t think they know it all, but who do know their need for God and trust in God’s Son to save them.
Blessed are those who ask the question that no-one else dares to, whose search for truth leads them to the compassion of your woundedness and the power of your resurrection hope.
Blessed are those who are honest in their scepticism, who don’t believe blindly, but build their house of faith on the rock of your reality.
Blessed are those who need to touch – and be touched.
Blessed are those who struggle, who wrestle in their search to discover their call and to hear your Word whispered to them.
Blessed are those who wonder, who search for meaning and purpose in the mystery & awe of your presence.
Blessed are those who remember, who know the miraculous to be signs which confirm you as Lord, but who know your call to discipleship and all of what that means.
Blessed are those who can sit with ambiguity and complexity, who are always open to learning and whose faith widens their world.
Blessed are the brave and courageous, who like Thomas are willing to follow you into unknown lands and unknown places.
Blessed are those who keep our faith real, who demand that we live our believing into a faith that works towards justice and peace, and makes sure that the hungry are nourished and loved.
Blessed are those who ask what’s going on, who stand up for mercy and grace and compassion for those who can’t do it for themselves.
Blessed are those like Mary Magdalene who want to grab hold and not let go, but are sent by you with messages to deliver, which aren’t always believed.
Blessed are those whose old certainties are gradually going, but who are waiting on you to do something new.
Blessed are those in the Spirit, who open themselves to the inspiration and leading of your Counsellor.
Blessed are those who raise money and awareness for cancer charities, whilst suffering and dying themselves.
Blessed are all those being ordained this weekend, with all their doubts and fears, with all their excitement and certainty of calling.
Blessed are we who follow you, when we allow you to break into our world, enter the locked rooms of our fear and shake up our existence as the Word of God.
Be a blessing
Blessed are we who bear the name of Christ. who become a blessing when we go out in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Blessed are we who seek to be and to make disciples, who have experienced your gospel, who embrace your grace and love, not only for ourselves, but for others. Who help all to discover the challenge of your way which leads to essential life.
Blessed are we who come to the Lord’s Table today to share bread and wine. Jesus Christ is here for us in the power of the Holy Spirit, to meet us and to bless us. Rising and Risen Lord, may we be blessed and be a blessing.
May this ever be so. Amen.
“His church – human and blessed” was delivered by Ian Banks at St John with St Mark’s on 3rd July 2022. It was based on John 20: 24-29.
- Buechner, F. (2007). Secrets in the Dark. Harper One.
- Jon Humphries, https://pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au/?p=2062
- Gay, D. (2018). God be in my mouth. Saint Andrew Press.