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'Faith Is A Jewel'

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'Faith Is A Jewel'

Read : St John 20: 19-31; Acts 4: 32-35; 1 John 1:1 - 2:2 (NIV) 

Jesus said to Thomas, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.' (St John 20: 29) 

'Loud and clear the bells are ringing,
from the steeple old and grey,
in the church the people singing,
'Christ the Lord is risen today.'

'Love's redeeming work is finished,
fought the fight, the victory won;
honour, glory undiminished
to the Father, Spirit, Son.'

adapted from the hymn 'Soft and sweet the bells are ringing' by Eliza M Sherman

And there you have it - the ringing of bells, at Easter. And what conjunction could be more appropriate on this our Belfry Sunday, which is also the Second Sunday of Easter when we are still basking in the radiance of the resurrection? This is also the Sunday when we see Jesus looking down the centuries at you and me, and saying, 'What lucky people you are!' For that is what the word 'Blessed' in our text means. It is the word you would use to compliment someone who had inherited a large legacy or who had been singled out for some honour. We are lucky people: luckier, it would seem, than Thomas. 

Can that really be true? On the face of it, it seems that, compared with the first disciples, we are the losers. To see our Lord in the flesh, to hear the loveliness of his voice, to feel the touch of his hands, to be moved by the wonderful power of his personality - would that not have made it easier for them to believe in him than it is for us? All we have to go on is the cold print of the Bible and the often confusing history of the Church. 

'Dim tracts of time divide
those golden days from me.
Thy voice comes strange o'er years of change,
how can we follow thee?
Comes faint and far thy voice
from vales of Galilee;
thy vision fades in ancient shades:
how should we follow thee?'

from "Thou say'st, 'Take up thy cross' " by Francis Palgrave

Well, we follow him by finding faith, says Jesus, and he claims we are lucky, 'blessed', when we do. For Jesus, faith is plainly a very precious thing, perhaps the thing he prizes above all, the thing he wishes us all to share.  

Faith, of course, is not the same as credulity, that amazing facility that some people have of believing anything. 'Now,' said the Queen to Alice in Lewis Carroll's story, 'I'll give you something to believe. I'm just one hundred and one, five months, and a day.' 'I can't believe that!' said Alice. 'Can't you?' the Queen said, in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.' (from 'Through The Looking Glass') 

But faith isn't like that. Faith is a sort of sixth sense which enables us to focus and see the invisible, to tune in and hear the music of eternity. Faith doesn't obliterate the other senses or make them redundant. We need to use them to reason and argue as rigorously as we are able; but all the argument in the world (no matter how logically rational), and all the evidence in the world (no matter how seemingly compelling), don't necessarily persuade or convince. 

The arguments and the evidence didn't persuade or convince Thomas. He was faced by the testimony of people he knew and trusted and confronted by the powerful evidence of an open tomb and an empty grave, but he still wasn't impressed. He found faith only when he had a direct encounter with the risen Christ. And that's how we find it too. 

And how we need to find that faith! We have all known times when we have felt the smothering spirit of the perplexities of the world, to the extent of being engulfed by it. We find ourselves wishing, 'If only God would do something obvious, if only he would intervene in some conspicuous way, if only he would give us a decisive and palpable answer to our prayer, if only, for example, he would do something to stop the agony of the Middle East and bring peace to the whole world, if only we could see him at work, if only we could see!' 

But Jesus said to Thomas, and today says to us, 'Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have come to believe.' That is how it has always been with Christian people. Do you remember how St Peter puts it? 'You have not seen Jesus, yet you love him; and trusting him without seeing him, you are filled with a glorious joy too great for words.' (1 Peter 1: 8) This is the true Christian experience: it was for St Thomas; it was for St Peter; and it is for all those who today would follow Christ.  

In common parlance, it may be all right to say, 'Seeing is believing.' But for Christian people, it is not seeing but faith which is the pearl of great price. We should wear our faith like a jewel till it lights up our world and brings a sparkle to all our living. 

Faith in a God we cannot prove; faith in a risen Saviour we cannot see; faith in a love we cannot measure - these are the things we should glory in, for these are the very things that will make a sad world sane. 

Rev Charles Robertson, April 2018


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