“Thomas’ Trial” John 20:19-31

By Rev. Richard Bennett

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Despite the stunning gift of The Eclipse & UConn’s victory, and despite the promise of Springtime and Easter’s shining SONLIGHT, I have to confess that I’ve found myself ‘out of sorts’ more often this year.  It’s that “The Way Life is Supposed to Be”…  ISN’T!!!    And!   It’s not just me who has been ‘out of sorts!’

     With the help of some prayerful friends it’s finally come to me how we’ve been flounced/jounced for a too-long-little-while with hard times in deep & disturbing social & cultural ways. In Mark 13 we find Jesus saying to the disciples, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name and say, “I am he! And they will lead many astray.  When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.  For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will earthquakes and famines … This is but the beginning …” 

  It’s been hard to wrap my heart and mind around all that’s happening in our lives and in the life of world.  Fires, storms, nature seemingly out of control, wars and rumors of wars in both the world and here at home, deaths of important people in my life!  Civility and order teetering about in scary ways.  It’s no wonder that many of us are not feeling so good.  What’s going on? How are we facing up to it? I do know this … I’m in need of Peace in very deep and primary ways Suddenly, and with power, I’ve realized that I’ve been grieving!  

   I still don’t have a comfortable feeling about how the disciples … after Jesus’ being so violently taken from them … suddenly experienced Jesus before them saying “Peace be with you.” Golly!  Suddenly, it came to me that Thomas and I/WE all become ‘Persons in GRIEF” often in surprising ways. You might say that THOMAS, himself, as have many of us felt buried alive by complex circumstances well beyond any control or understanding.

    It’s hard to navigate feelings of grief … for grief has its own paces and spaces, nuances, and confusions!  We’ve all been in grief and it might be good for us if we could imagine how we might/could companion Thomas as a grief-filled persons in our own right.  

    Working, or even ‘resting,’ thru grief is tough. It can’t be hurried. Perhaps we can find some room to ‘make’ friends with the idea that Thomas may be in Grief.

  Share GRIEF POEM HERE “A Celt’s Winter Lament:

To be followed with Questions ….                                                                           A Celt’s Winter Lament

Grieving has its own color,
Most certainly dark around the edges,
Light speckled, limpid, not a sparkle,
Feeling as distant as tears in an angel’s eye.

Grieving has its own sound,
Most certainly mournful around the edges,
Color not even a consideration,
Endless echoes of monks at om, linger.

Grieving has its own taste,
Most certainly not sweet around the edges,
Tarting the tongue into a grimace,
Licking the weight of a silent wail.

Grieving has its own energy,
Most certainly a most uncertain speed,
Halting well beyond a mere hitch in the stride,
Anxious eyes flicker and dart from a hollow place.

Grieving has its own unhurried pace,
Most certainly not to be advanced at whim,
Staggering and starting and stopping in untimely gait,
Learning that sometimes,
There’s just no bottom to the bottom.

written March 15, 2000
“Beware the Ides of March….”What can we imagine about the circumstances of Jesus coming before the disciples saying Peace Be With You?  … and 3 TIMES YET!!

  1. A. “Peace Be With You” which could be translated as   “Be Whole!”
  1. How could Jesus be saying this?
  2. How might the disciples be hearing this?      (What meaning?)
  3. How could Thomas hear this only one week after the disciples first heard Jesus’ greeting? Surely, its more than a ritual greeting as it often is today.
  4. What kinds of meanings, understandings, healing were needed?
  5. I’m believing that Thomas wasn’t the only one in serious grief and confusion after the betrayal, the bogus trial, the violence’s, the cries of the crowd, and the stringing up of Jesus.
  6. As I close my eyes to picture myself in the middle of this crew & situation, I’m brought to a shudder!  I believe I’d be standing right beside Thomas wishing, hoping, praying for Understanding and Illumination.
  1. Read the Scripture …

As I share today’s scripture, each time you hear Jesus saying :

PEACE BE WITH YOU,” please respond in unison …. Peace be with you! 

  1. Now the following Section on Peace

   How do we define peace?  In our English … peace can mean a sense of

 Serenity, relaxation, freedom from worry and stress. And it’s helpful to know that ‘Peace be with you’ originally came from the Aramaic (the language of Jesus) which is related to the Hebrew ‘Shalom Aleichem.”

    # It would be helpful for us to know that the word for peace as used in scripture comes from the Greek ‘eiréné’  (I’reen’nay’) which means one,

Peace, rest, or quietness.  It can also mean wholeness or ‘peace of mind.’ 

(I’m believing that Jesus saying ‘Peace be with you’ was more than a ritual greeting or platitude. It may have helped to settle and calm all the wild emotions that were raging inside of them, that Jesus had to speak Peace to ‘rest to their souls and to lend peace of mind to their hearts.’ And it needed to be shared more than just once! Jesus had to repeat his en-couraging ‘Peace be with You’ more than once … especially so for Thomas who as not present with the disciples when they first heard Jesus’ call to peace.

The reason ‘Peace Be With You’ is much more than a platitude in this scripture is because it helped to transcend the amazing circumstances in hopefully settling down those grief-filled confusing emotions raging within them all.

# adapted from: “3 Reasons ‘Peace Be With You’ Is Far More Than a Platitude” by Clarence L. Haynes Jr.

  1. JOHN Bennett section +++.   This was skipped for time saving … not used

I have to admit I got a bit Flummoxed this week.  Still am.   Part of my flummoxing was because I had yet another ‘sorta argument’ with my brother who lives in South Carolina.  We’ve been arguing/sorta arguing/disagreeing about things for over 70 years now and some days it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.  I’ve been so upset by these separations that I finally sat down, got out pencil and paper, did the ole Pro/Con/Line down the center-of-the-page trick, and tried to line-out where the basis of our divide might be.

What I finally began to understand more deeply is that we just plain think and experience life differently … my brother is most always first interested in the facts … or things he interprets as fact.  He’s a numbers person, … an extremely successful businessman who has worked all over the world.  He’s interested in production, products, linear order, directed thinking/chain of command. HMMM. It came to me that my dad was a number’s person and that’s probably why I regularly could become kinda easily out-of-sorts with him as well.

Making a paper diagram helped me to realize … the facts of our separations. I came to realize again that I’m much more a heart/feelings kind of person. I perceive reality more from a poetical point of view. Most often my primary concerns are not so much about production/facts/results, but in how people feel/behave/get along as they’re confronted with pressing ‘life events.’  I’m not usually primarily interested in ‘facts first’ as much as I wonder about spiritual and psychological nuances regarding how we respond to hard and challenging times.  

 POINT!  As I’ve struggled with this passage over the years … I’ve often been upset by ‘the fact’ that Thomas is so often known as ‘Doubting Thomas.”  NO! I’ve come to appreciate Thomas as ‘The Patron Saint of Those who Like/Need to ask Tough Questions”.   Thomas is one who apparently understands reality from what he can see/hear/know ‘firsthand.’  To know … to even begin to know … what’s happening upon these amazing changes of reality, Thomas needed his own first-hand experience. In what sure seems like MAGNIFIED GRIEF to me, Thomas couldn’t imagine/understand the ever-unfolding facts even with the disciples’ incredible rejoicing as they heard Jesus’ fresh voice saying: “Peace be with you.’  NO! This was not how life and death was supposed to be!  No doubt they all were experiencing tremendous grief, but you might say that Thomas needs to have a huge stone rolled away from his own broken heart so he might become one again with his companions. Thomas is still broken. He needs help healing! 

Could it be that Thomas’ doubt and confusion was/is a good thing?  Like many, I first accepted the cultural/spiritual programming that Thomas’ doubt made him ‘a less than worthy disciple.’                   (ASIDE: Thrown out of Confirmation class???)

I confess that over the years my view of Thomas, while oscillating some, has changed.  In our living as long as we have, we’ve been blessed to learn a few things about the complexities of grief. Yes, we’ve all come to know a good deal about life’s hard twists and turns as learned from our grief experiences.  And so, I’ve come to believe that ‘Thomas’ doubt’ IS a good thing!  For Thomas, doubt was necessary for his beginning to heal. It was a natural part of who he was.

I’m feeling that Thomas and the disciples had different ways’ of believing/ knowing/understanding.  Even in the amazements of their grief-filled time … facts got tossed about because of how they/were locked into previous understandings. 

Life is filled with tough tensions, hard chapters, moments when faith and belief are sorely tested. When confronted by these hard times, I just want it to be over!  I just want to ‘live happily ever after the way life is supposed to be.’  We’ve all hidden behind locked doors of one kind of another in need of healing. It’s hard for us to accept the idea that Grief can be a good thing.  And there’s a challenging process to be unfolded, in its own time, before we can make friends with hard experiences, tough facts, and confusing situations. Perhaps we do need extensive time to learn that just maybe grief is a good thing?  I’ve been sitting with Thomas for years now learning to appreciate him as a necessary and important companion helping me to work out the wages and stages of working to recover from life’s hard times while trying to accept and figure things out. 

But I do believe that faith, believing, patience, and openness, thru the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ are always present to help us in our healing … help us to become whole again. 

“Doubt is a Good Thing …”

Doubt is a good thing … Peace be with you.”  
It creates space … It lifts us into humility. 
… it lets us into the land of unknowing.
Doubt is a good thing …  Peace be with you.”  
it says that even though everything we see is what we see, 
it may not be all that is …. there may be more.
This was the doubt of Thomas. OH!
he’d heard the stories, he’d been in all the important places, 
he’d seen things all along the way.  And now at the end, 
now at the end, which was really his beginning,
he could not wrap his mind around the unknown
(the preposterous, the mysterious miraculousness of it all). 
He could not feel the substance of Love’s Presence, 
he could not stand and say, “Yes … Yes! … THIS IS!”
Doubt is a good thing … Peace be with you.”  
it helps us wrap our minds around what could be more  
than what/which we know, what we see, what we touch.  
Doubt is a good thing … Peace be with you.”  
it has feeling tones, eminences of ‘maybes’ & ‘probably nots.’
Doubt finds questions upon the page, jottings upon life’s folio,
puzzled looks upon the face … a quickening upon the heart.
And unto all ‘a knowing’ comes …
a moment beyond easy description in which  
‘What IS’   is more than   ‘what is, and 
‘What isn’t’ has MORE IS than isn’t! … When
All-of-a-sudden, we realize that in God’s World 
we always live poised on the edge of a miracle.     
Essences unfolding, taking us all the way from doubt 
to ‘Knowing, to Knowing, to Knowing …’
Indeed … Doubt may be a God Thing!   Peace be with you!”