What Part Will You Play?
What Part Will You Play?
Our passage from John’s gospel this week is well known. It features the disciples in the upper room and focuses on the declaration of Thomas after he sees the wounds on Jesus’ body. It is also where we get the catch phrase doubting Thomas.
The passage focuses on faith and belief, but embedded within that is the recognition that each of us will play a part, they question is which part will you play?
Special thanks to our vocalists Brian MacInnes, Rob Lenters, Janet Leadbeater and Diana Carr.
Scripture: John 20: 19-31
Rev. Ellis will be on vacation from April 12-18.
This week for Children’s Time we have a dowloadable resource made available from Illustrated Ministry. The document features prayers, sheets to fill in with some room for creativity. You can download the document here:
What Part Will You Play?
Commentator Scott Hoezee shares a story from his childhood about believing, he writes, “When I was a kid, my father read the end of John 20 at the dinner table one night for our family devotions. After he read the part about Jesus’ telling Thomas that there would be lots of people who would not see him but who would still believe in him anyway, my mother commented, “Jesus means us. He’s talking about us. We’ve never seen him the way the disciples did, but he is our Savior and we believe in him. Jesus is talking about us.”
“All these years later, I can still remember marveling a bit over a thought that tantalized my young heart: I am in the Bible!
“A few years later when I ran across that same passage in high school, I realized that my mom might have been guilty of a little rhetorical excess. No, I am not in the Bible. Not specifically, not personally, not really. That’s the kind of thing a naïve kid thinks. And when I was a child, I thought like a child and reasoned like a child but now . . .
“Then a few more years passed. I entered Seminary and began to understand a few things about the divine inspiration of Scripture, about how the Word of God is alive, living, vibrant, sharper than a two-edged sword and cutting clean to the bone of those who read that Word. I began to understand that the living God really can and does encounter his people through his Word and that he’d been doing just that to countless millions of people across the millennia. And so when the evangelist John turns to the reader to say, “These are written that you may believe,” by the Holy Spirit, that is a direct and living address to me as the reader. Maybe all of us are, maybe each of us is, really in the Bible after all. I am in the Bible. This is my story.” (Scott Hoezee)
Allow that to settle on you for a moment, you are in this story. However, this isn’t a story about you, only a story that you are a part of. The story is about God’s wide and generous love for creation and you are included in that. As he writes his gospel John knows that there will be some who doubt, who chose not to believe. The story of Thomas and his demand for proof helps to address that.
Still, doubt lingers, uncertainty remains. It takes seeing the trauma of Jesus’ wounds for Thomas’ eyes to open to the truth and move him to confess ‘My Lord and my God!’ We do not get to see the wounds, yet trauma lingers. Jesus came to correct the path that the people were on, to correct assumptions about the law and to reveal that the heart of God was about love, redemption and grace.
We know that many of the systems of oppression that existed while Jesus walked the earth are still with us today. Jesus stood with the poor and marginalized and still does. The church is called to do the same and historically has stood with the poor and marginalized. For the past four months we at St. Andrew’s have worked in partnership with Greenwood Coalition to run a temporary Warming Room over the winter months.
While that project is now winding down the conditions that led to its creation still exist. Systems of care for homeless and vulnerable individuals are insufficient to properly care for their needs. The Warming Room created a temporary reprieve, but in a few short weeks a dozen individuals will struggle to find shelter and a roof over their heads. All this while in the midst of a pandemic where the critical advice is for people to stay home. All of this while housing prices continue to soar, making homeownership and dream and affording rent a difficult reality.
I have always been aware that we have a housing and homelessness crisis within our community. I know that regrettably the structures we have in place, while good, are not sufficient to handle the scope of the problem. However, I had not known fully about the depth of the problem and I had not met the individuals affected by this problem. Those things are no longer true.
Like Thomas who wanted to see the wounds on Jesus’ body before he would believe, I have now seen the wounds present within the homelessness system and they all of names and they all have stories. Thomas doubted and we all doubt that it is really that bad. However, just one individual who is unsheltered for the night is bad. We can find a way to do better.
Like Thomas we doubt, because we can’t see. However, in a few short weeks our community may again see and know that homelessness is an issue that requires a solution.
It is interesting to note that the events in our passage this morning occur over a one week time period. One week after seeing the risen Christ in the upper room, the disciples are still in the upper room. The narrative gives the impression that they have not left, they are not living in the spirit of what we would call Easter. They are not celebrating Easter or sharing the good news. One week later, the disciple who doubted the resurrection is met by the risen Christ and declares ‘My Lord and my God!’ The impression that is left, is that only then are the disciples moved enough to continue the work that they started with Jesus.
We are a week from the events of Easter, we are living in the time of resurrection. A time of new life and opportunity. What will it take to move us? How will the good news of Christ’s resurrection cause us to seek new opportunities for life within our community?
John finishes his gospel with a message that Jesus did many other signs which he did not record. But that the account we have is provided that you might believe. You are a part of this story. You are invited in to the upper room through the testimony of this gospel and to believe and trust in the message we receive from God through Jesus Christ.
The question that lingers, is if you are a part of this story what part is it you want to play? Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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