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Pilgrim Church - Rev. John Odams Opens our Eyes to a Different Thomas

Series: On the Spiritual Side

Sunday, April 9, 2013, the first Sunday after Easter, was 'Doubting Thomas Sunday,' a day that traditionally raises questions of faith and belief.

At Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church in Dorchester, Rev. John Odams took the story of Thomas 'demanding proof'' to another level. Citing several stories from the Bible, he said that Thomas the Twin's words have been misinterpreted. Acts is one of several Biblical lessons that are focused on our relationship with God. The important lesson in Acts is that Jesus is giving Thomas permission to ask for help during a time of anxiety following the crucifixion. Jesus provides the vehicle for the relationship by making himself known to Thomas.
Blessed are Those

The Sunday after Easter at Pilgrim Church

 The Sunday after Easter is often referred to as Doubting Thomas Sunday. It's a "low Sunday" as many people don't bother coming back after Easter which brings out the crowds whilte low Sundays bring out the faithful. Besides, the story of Thomas the Twin is well known and never seems to stray from its depiction of Thomas as a symbol of "spiritual failure." Give the guy a break!

"Sad, isn't it," that one of Jesus' own disciples could not believe without proof. Thomas the Twin, the story states, was unable to believe, was unable to trust what the other disciples were telling him. For him, faith was not enough.

How pleasant to hear a completely different sermon, one that surprised and comforted this listener.


Thomas has been Given a Bad Rap

Being unable to believe based on faith - that is the usual story that has given Thomas a bad rap. So says Rev. John Odams of Pilgrim Church. But, it turns out, the story is incorrect and has been for centuries. The message in the story of Thomas is actually quite profound and stands well beyond its applicability to the Christian faith. The lessons for Sunday were
  • Acts 5:27-32 (obeying God, not man),
  • Revelation 1:4-8 (I am the Alpha and the Omega) and
  • John 20:19-31 (Thomas, the disbeliever).
''What," he asked in preparing for his sermon, "was the commonality of these lessons on which could be built a message, delivered as a sermon to a church on a "low" Sunday? That we must obey God is one message. Jesus, Rev. John stated, sets an example of perfect obedience, perfect faith and humility.

The story about Thomas is this: He needed to put his finger into the bloody wounds of Christ to believe that Jesus was resurrected. But, said Rev. John, "the Book of John in which this story is contained did not say that any such act of proof ever took place." And the reason is because it did not have to. Going back to the original Greek, what is important in the Gospel of John is the sequence of events. Jesus recognized Thomas and addressed him as such before Thomas had a chance to recognize Jesus.

Continuing on with his sermon, Rev. John turned to a story at the tomb of Jesus. Mary Magdalene was in the presence of Jesus but could not make the connection, could not understand what she was experiencing. In her confusion, she saw the man standing with her not as Jesus but rather the caretaker, the gardener. In other words, through our own eyes we see unclearly and with confusion.


Who Sees Whom First?

The story of Doubting Thomas raises the question: Can we ever recognize God or see Jesus before Jesus sees us? The answer suggested in the story of Thomas is no. God creates the possibility for understanding. Jesus reaching out to us is what opens our eyes to the truth.

Rev. John continued: Jesus comes first. God knows us, sees us, forgives us before we are able to reciprocate in a relationship. In the words of Erasmus, "Biden or not biden, God is always with us." In Martin Luther's words, "It wasn't up to Thomas to be able to believe. It was up to the Grace of Jesus."

Continuing: "Jesus invited Thomas the Twin to recognize the risen Christ just as Jesus reached out to Mary Magdalene to experience the risen Lord and just as He does the same with us. He asks us to obey him, to forgive others and to forgive ourselves." The lesson of the sermon is this: "Listen for God. Listen for our risen Savior calling us to serve him in all we do."


Hymn: Open our Eyes, Lord by Robert Cull

Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him.
Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen,
Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.



Profound Insight into Existence

What characterizes much of Western thought, philosophy and the dynamics of relationships is the need to control and the resulting manifestations that are tantamount to playing God. We are taught to envision the world we want to create. The Law of Attraction will cause the Universe to align with us and our wishes will come true. At some level, this approach to living is valid, effective and reinforcing. Our energies in harmony with the Universe generate a journey of seeming fulfillment.

"Calling the shots" ceases to feed our spirits, however, the closer we get to wanting and needing the ultimate meaningful relationship on which our lives are built - a relationship with our Maker. "Hey, you, out there. I'm looking for you and I'm comin' to find you." That we think we can look down that long, winding road, or toward the back of the dark alley where feignt light quickly ebbs into total darkness and yet find meaning? Time after time we are in search of the illusive "somewhere" - ultimately on a long journey to "nowhere."

The lesson of Doubting Thomas Sunday lies in an opposite approach. It is God that sees us first and invites us into a relationship of total acceptance. Any other approach is Me playing God. And the minute I play God, s/he no longer exists beyond my physical being. Extending this lesson well into the minutiae of our daily lives, we find ourselves perpetually defining the world on our own terms. We have no interest in listening to a different voice calling unto us, one that beckons be quiet the bravado of our inner ego.

Not once a day do we find the bull charging through life's delicate china closet, but minute by minute as we make our way through life. It need not be this way but stopping is difficult. Letting go and letting God (into our lives) . . . Opening the door . . . Recognizing the presence of the divine. . . Welcoming: "Come in."

Oh, that we might become the servants of our calling, quiet enough to hear even the faintest whispers of wisdom and peace. Step aside, the sermon said. Step into the quiet long enough to hear the voice of God.

Great sermon, Rev. John!!


Posted: April 16, 2013 Nancy J Conrad


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