God of many blessings, come to us this day. Come and lead us into the light, for we seek the joy of Jesus’s resurrection for ourselves. Help us to believe what we have not seen and enable us to touch the glory of everlasting life through the power of your Son, Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Thomas is my favourite character in the New Testament. That statement may surprise some people, for Thomas has suffered a bad press through Christian history. He is known as the one disciple who refused to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. But simply to brand Thomas as an unbelieving doubter is to do him an injustice. It is said that in any group of people there is always one who is awkward. I feel sure that as Peter and the other disciples looked around the group of 12 they would roll their eyes knowingly at Thomas. If anyone was going to upset the party, it would be Thomas. He simply would not agree with the others or accept what they were telling him. Second hand faith was not good enough for Thomas, he had to work it out for himself.
In the end we all have to go through a similar process of wrestling with our faith. When we are children we simply believe what our parents tell us about God, but there comes a point where that faith of the Sunday School or nursery is tested. We are exposed to different experiences, influences and opinions and unless we grapple with faith ourselves and earth it in our experience of the modern world, it will never endure. We see Thomas doing that very thing in the Gospel story. In the end he wants no more than that which the others have already received. He wants to see Jesus for himself. He wants to catch faith first hand and not rely on the crumbs that his friends pass on to him. And when Christ did appear, Thomas calls him “my Lord and my God.” There is no greater statement of personal faith in any of the gospels, and it is found in the mouth of Thomas. There are a few brief moments, at the climax of John’s gospel, where Thomas’s faith is the brightest light in the New Testament. That is why he is my favourite character.
The gospels remain silent on the subject of Thomas from this point on. However, early church legend has it that Thomas travelled to India where he founded a church. Even today there is a branch of the Christian Church in South India which traces its ancestry all the way back to Thomas. Thomas may well have been slow to find faith, but in the end, it seems that he was prepared to live and die for what he believed. If this is doubt, then perhaps we should pray for God to give the church more doubters like Thomas.
Risen Christ, we thank you for changed lives and new hope at Easter. You came to Mary in the garden and transformed her grief into joy. You came to the disciples in the upper room, and later to Thomas, and turned their doubts into faith. You gave new purpose to the fishermen by the lakeside and new hope to the disciples on the Emmaus road. And you come to us, transforming our failures into triumphs. Lord Jesus come reveal to us your love, your mercy and your risen power; for the glory of your name. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you: behold your Lord, receive his peace, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We give thanks for the long life of Prince Philip, for all that he has contributed to our nation and beyond, and for his support of our Queen. We pray that he will be at rest trusting in the grace of God.
We remember before you Her Majesty the Queen and her family praying that they will know your comfort and strength in the days to come.
In Jesus' name,
The President and Vice-President of the Conference