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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Sally Sanderson's sermon


3rd April 2005

Sally Sanderson

1st Sunday after Easter John 20. 19-29

At risk of confusing the Christian calendar, I want to take you back to Palm Sunday. Or rather Palm Sunday at Bedmond, this year - because the donkey was late! Let me explain we walk in procession with a donkey from Bedmond, down the hill, over the motorway, to the main village Abbots Langley, through to a green where we have an ecumenical service, blessing of palms, sing a couple of hymns and process back through the village peeling off to which ever church we worship. But this year the donkey was late!

He is a wonderful donkey, born and bred in Bedmond, and in truly Trinitarian fashion, he has three names. Known by some as William, heard by others to be called Wilfred, his owner called him the more endearing name of Blossom. I say his owner; because just as confusing is the fact that he has three owners. Fred who brought him up on his smallholding is now too frail to look after himself let alone his livestock, so there is a lady, a is sort of manager, who sees that his animals are taken good care of and another lady, who had taken Blossom -alias Wilfred or William to live with her animals in Bricket Wood.

But as I say the donkey was late! For some time now, motorbike riders have brought their scramble bikes in trailers to have races roaring up and down in a field adjacent to the lanes behind Bedmond. Suddenly the owner of the field had had enough and called in the police to stop them. They were stopping everyone suspicious, especially those with trailers and the lady, together with her husband and her son bringing Blossom -alias Wilfred or William were stopped and asked a few questions.

So Blossom call him what you will was late. Bless his cotton socks he knew he was late and he almost cantered down the hill with me holding on as if my life depended on it.

I know, and because I have told you the history of Blossom, you know that everything that that lady was telling the police was absolutely true. The problem was that the more the police didn't believe her, the more ludicrous her story seemed to become, and therefore the more they questioned her. How do you convince someone that you are telling the truth, however extraordinary that it may seem at the time? And this goes true even if it is something that they would really like to hear?

Let us imagine the scene that I read earlier when some of the disciples had seen Jesus.

Another occasion when the truth seemed stranger than fiction. Why did Thomas want to put his finger in those marks of Jesus' hands? Well why did Jesus want to show them in the first place? After all, they had worked side by side with Jesus for about three years. You get to know someone in that time, wouldn't they have recognised him anyway?

Thomas was trying to come to terms with Jesus' death, as were all the disciples. Maybe just at this moment in time, whilst deep mourning for his Lord, it was impossible for him to accept that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and probably would have thought he was dreaming if someone suggested it. Out of any of the disciples, Thomas should have been one of those who would have believed in the resurrection.

If we look at John's gospel chapter eleven, when Jesus had been called to his friends house where Lazarus has died, we read 'Thomas who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."' So we have proof that Thomas witnessed, first hand, the raising of Lazarus. He knew that Jesus was able to raise people from the dead, because he saw it with his own eyes. I suspect that if he had not followed Jesus, to Mary and Martha's house that day, he might not have believed that Lazarus, who was dead, was now living. Some people are born with a suspicious nature, others like the police acquire it with training.

Now all the disciples would have recognised Jesus if he had come to visit them, he didn't have to prove who he was. They knew the sound of his voice, his gestures his mannerisms; so why this big deal with the marks of the nails and the scar in is side when he met them in that locked room? I believe that he had to remind them. To remind them of what he had had to bear before he was laid in the tomb. You see we are now this side of Easter, we have thrown aside that cloak of pain and sadness that was Holy Week. It is very easy for us to do that, to forget the pain. Jesus is saying to his disciples "Here feel what it means to stand up for your faith, put your hand here where it hurts."

Thomas said on the way to Lazarus' house, "Let us go that we may die with Him." So at the time he was a man full of passion for following Christ and had the intention of dying for his faith, and it is believed that Thomas suffered a martyr's death, possibly in India where he is said to have proclaimed the gospel of Christ. But Christ has to remind him, and not only him, but also all the disciples, that following the Christian faith will have its hardships; and that they need to hold closely to the passion of Christ throughout their ministries, which had their beginning in that locked room, by the receiving of the power of the Holy Spirit.

All the great saints in history have held closely to the passion of Christ and to his suffering. We are now rejoicing in the glorious resurrection of our Lord, and it is right that we should move on from the darkness of the days before Easter Day. But as the disciples were asked by Jesus to come into contact with his wounds, we must be ever mindful of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on that cross. It is by our own contact with Jesus Christ that we will believe. We will believe that ludicrous but glorious true story that Jesus Christ not only sacrificed himself for us, but that he rose from the dead and lead us into eternal life.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Amen

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