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 Easter 2, yr A, 2023   Bible study has been reflecting on late on how many sections are unique to each gospel, and how we’ve assumed that our favorite stories about Jesus are to be found in each one of the gospels.  Often that is not so, case in point the first three gospels say absolutely nothing at all about the apostle Thomas. It’s only in John's Gospel that we find out about him, but even then there are only 155 words about him. So little, yet he has formed such a strong presence in our imaginations.  Unfortunately, I think most of us only remember the middle of our gospel reading today: But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’        Which is a shame because Thomas clearly has a lot of faith.  In fact, earlier on in John’s gospel when we are told that Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem and the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them; surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: “let us go to Jerusalem as well, so that we may die with him”.          It was Thomas who came forward with strong belief when others disciples were doubting and questioning….yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to remember that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. And it is interesting, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith.   A confession that is uttered nowhere else….”My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not simply Lord and Not even Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. Thomas states it like a fact,  2 + 2 = 4, the sun is in the sky and You are my Lord and my God!               Words of unequivocal faith. Yet that is not how we remember him …Thomas the doubter, history has remembered him for one scene, out of the whole play.   Even the other disciples were not as firm in their statements of faith as Thomas was, even though they were there at the first appearance of Christ when Thomas was not. The whole passage seems to hinge on the fact that Thomas was absent at a rather significant moment …he wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them for the first time…we don’t know where he was but he missed that first resurrection appearance.   Thomas doubted the resurrection and appearance of a man who was crucified days before, crucified! They saw him bleed, die, get buried behind an unmovable stone.  And we belittle Thomas for thinking that saying that the disciples testimony that Jesus was alive was little better than wishful thinking.  What would you believe? Besides, It isn’t like all the other disciples didn’t experience their doubts.  At the beginning of our gospel reading we find the disciples (all of them save Thomas) cowering behind locked doors.  When Jesus appeared, he had to greet them twice, show them the wounds in his hands and side before they rejoiced in Christ’s resurrection.  Only then did they received the Holy Spirit.    Thomas asked for nothing less than what the others had been given, no more proof than what had already been received in that community of disciples.  Yet, it is Thomas we single out, Thomas we focus on.  Perhaps it is because we related to Thomas, because we need there to be a Thomas.  We need a biblical example that it is okay to doubt, to have questions, to want proof.  After all, the continual invitation we receive in scripture is “come and see”.  That is just what Thomas is asking for, he wants to see…he wants to see Christ.  To see, touch, smell, hear Christ…to be sure.  Isn’t that something we want too?  To be sure, to be certain? Wouldn’t having proof make belief so much easier?  Perhaps, but that doesn’t seem to be how faith works. We, like Thomas, long for proof, but unlike Thomas don’t always receive it.  We most often see proof in retrospect, seeing God’s hand at work in life already lived.  We, see God at work in our lives, but also in the midst of community.  The blessing of being in a church community is being surrounded by those who have experienced the risen Christ and being able to support one another at all points in our faith journey. We read last week that Mary and Mary experienced the empty tomb and believed, running to tell their community the news.  We read the disciples saw Christ as a community and together experienced faith.  Each of us come to faith in our own ways and in community we get to share those experiences and stories. In Thomas’ case it is only when he is reunited with the disciples that he is able to experience the resurrected Christ, to receive the Holy Spirit and to make his confession. It is in community that the disciples are able to gain the strength and courage they need to overcome their fears, their insecurities and their doubts and become the foundational missionaries of the Christian faith.      This includes Thomas, who legend or more specifically Fox’s book of Martyrs, tells us ended up doing missionary work in India.  Thomas we are told, travelled over land and sea to covert the Jewish people who had been scattered abroad in the diaspora.  Thomas told Christ’s story to Kings and common people throughout India until he was Martyred. And this is the man that we have labeled as the doubter, the quintessential symbol of a lack of faith.  Perhaps we need to change our perspective on Thomas a bit, remembering him as a man who had his doubts and still proclaimed “my lord and my God! “‘And then went out to tell the world!  Christ said blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.   We are all familiar with the story of Thomas, at least the doubting bit…and usually it is in that context that we can relate to him, as we experience our own doubts.  In those times we remember Thomas and how sympathetically the Lord treated him.  But perhaps Thomas can inspire us in other directions as well.  Not just as a comfort in times of doubt, but as an encouragement for growth in community, for loyalty and fidelity and for strength in mission and evangelism. Thomas can teach us that in times of doubt or difficulty… it is in community, in the church, that we will find the strength that we need to do God’s work in the world.  Thomas can teach us that there is a time for being unsure, and a time to boldly proclaim who it is that you worship and why.  Thomas returned to his community and there received the faith he needed, the Spirit he needed, to go on and do great things. And now…it is our turn.  We have a great future ahead of us.  We may have doubts, and insecurities … but we have faith…and we have community.  The church is more than four walls with nice windows, the church is a family and the place where God invests his Spirit to do His work in the world.  As Thomas returned to the community of disciples, the first church, to receive his blessings so we will receive ours.  Our faith, our courage, our strength our share of the blessings of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the living Christ to help guide and direct us through the future. As we read of and hear of Thomas…let’s give the chap a break and remember him for more than just his doubts…because he was and still can be a great inspiration to the church…and that is each of us.