The resurrection.

In the name of the Father, The son and the Holy Spirit.

Today, on the Third Sunday of Easter, our gospel reading
Is from Luke’s Gospel.

It’s not enough that the tomb is empty.
It’s not enough to proclaim, “Christ is risen!” It’s not enough to believe in the resurrection.
At some point we have to move from the event of the resurrection to experiencing the resurrection.
Experiencing resurrected life begins with recognizing the risen Christ among us.
That is the gift of Easter and it is also the difficulty and challenge described in today’s gospel reading from Luke 24.
Much in the same way that….. we can learn from another Luke reading about
Cleopas and his companion, they are telling the other disciples how Jesus appeared to them on the road to Emmaus when Jesus, again, shows up out of nowhere, interrupting their conversation. “Peace be with you,” he says. They see him, they hear his voice, but they don’t recognize him.
They “thought that they were seeing a ghost.” They know Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. They know dead men don’t come back to life. This can only be a ghost, a spirit without a body.
The reality here is that, The tomb is open but their minds are closed.
They are unable to recognize the holiness that stands among them. They are continuing to live, think, and understand in the usual human categories.
They have separated spirit and matter, divinity and humanity, heaven and earth.
Whenever we make that separation we close our minds, we deny ourselves the resurrected life for which Christ died, and we lose our sense of and ability to recognize holiness in the world, in one another, and in ourselves.
With Jesus’ resurrection, however, God shatters human categories of who God is, where God’s life and energy are to be found, and how God works in this world.
Resurrected life can never be comprehended, contained, or controlled by human thought or understanding. Jesus’ resurrection compels us to step outside our usual human understandings of reality and enter into the divine reality.
That new reality begins with touching and seeing, flesh and bones, hands and feet, and cooked fish. Jesus said to his disciples,
“Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Then “he showed them his hands and his feet.” After this he ate a piece of fish in their presence.
Flesh and bones, hands and feet, and cooked fish are the things of creation, the natural order. Mary, a woman created by God, gave Jesus his flesh and bones and his hands and feet. She also gave him the stomach that would eat the fish God created.
The resurrected life of Christ, it seems, is revealed in and through the created order. It is not, however, bound by the by that order. Rather, the resurrected body and life of Christ unite the visible and invisible, matter and spirit, humanity and divinity.
On the one hand Jesus has a real body. On the other hand, it is not subject to the natural laws of time and space. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. It is a new and different reality.
The degree to which we have allowed ourselves to be bound by the created order is the degree to which are unable to see resurrected life and holiness in this world.
We bind ourselves through our fears, our sorrows and losses, our runaway thoughts and distractions, our attachments and addictions to things, people, and even beliefs.
Sometimes it’s our unwillingness to allow or trust God to grow and change us. In binding ourselves to the created order we lose recognition of and the ability to live in the sacred. That’s the very opposite of resurrected life.
The resurrected life of Christ reveals that all creation and every one of us are filled with God’s, holiness, divinity. Nothing can bind or supersede the grace that is given us through resurrection: unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness, unconditional life.
That is, I think, one of the most difficult things for us to see, believe, and live into. It is, however, the divine reality into which we are invited, not at some future time and place but here and now.
Christ our God longs and desires to open our minds to understand the scriptures, to understand all that has been written, spoken, and revealed about him in whatever form that happens and has happened. That’s what Jesus did for the disciples and it’s what he does for us. This is not an academic or intellectual understanding.
That the disciples are witnesses does not mean they now have all the answers. It means they now have the life Jesus wants to give them. They are witnesses based not on what they know, but on who they are, how they live, and their relationship with the risen Christ.
I don’t know how this happens. I can’t give you a set of instructions or a to-do list. That would be like giving you a set of instructions on how to fall in love. The resurrected life is not acquired it is received. It happens when we risk unbinding ourselves from the usual ways of seeing, living, and relating. This is not a rejection of the natural order.
It is allowing the natural order to open to and reveal something more. That’s what happened for the disciples with Jesus’ hands and feet, with his flesh and bones, and the fish. They saw and recognized something about Jesus and in so doing they saw and recognized something about themselves; holiness. It happens for us too.
Think about a time in your life when you lost track of time. I don’t mean you forgot what time it was, but that you were so awake, so present, that you entered a new world.
Think about a time when life seemed more real than it ever had and you touched or tasted life in a way never before. Recall a moment when your heart opened, softened, and you knew you were somehow different. Remember that day when you sensed something new was being offered you; possibilities that you did not create for yourself. They just opened up. Reflect on that moment when you realized that you were ok and could again start to live.
Those are the moments when Christ opens our minds to understand. They are moments of awe and wonder that leave us in sacred silence. They fill our eyes with tears. We weep, not from sorrow or pain, but the water of new life. They are the moments in which we say, “I never want this to end. I don’t want to leave this place.”
In each of those moments the one who is fully alive and risen, the Christ, is calling us to see and recognize him, to join him, and to discover our new life. This is the authentic self we long to become, the self that we already are, and the self we are becoming. This is resurrected life.
Let’s not lose this moment. Let’s not put this text behind us. Don’t let that happen It is much too easy to come here each Sunday, listen to the gospel, hear, for better or worse, or whatever is preached, and then return to life as usual.
Grasp the moment people Your life is too important to let that happen. Carry this text with you over the next week.
Let it open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to the life Christ is offering you. Let it be the voice of Christ opening your mind to understand. Sit with it.
Pray with it. Wrestle with it. Trust it. As soon as you catch a glimpse of the risen Christ and your own resurrection and experience Christ in your lives “You are witnesses of these things,” he says to us. Tell it. Live it. Become it. The resurrected life is yours. You are witnesses. We all are witnesses.
Amen.

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Let us reflect, On Doubting Thomas.

I was rather unsure what I was going to talk to you all about this morning when I looked through the lectionary I decided on the story of doubting Thomas.
And how this story relates to us and how it can touch our lives.
Although I must mention I will speak more on this subject in the sermon. But I felt I had to reflect on it first in my Address.
Trusting God and believing in his love and grace brings strength and great joy.
But living a life of faith doesn’t come without struggles – I feel that we’ve all been there.
And we’ve all had moments where we might have questioned ourselves, our faith, and our path.
These moments are especially hard to overcome when life throws a particularly difficult obstacle our way or we go through an incredibly painful experience. When that happens – pain and or anger sometimes opens the doorway to doubt.
And doubt can be incredibly difficult to overcome.
If you look at scripture, it even touched the disciple Thomas. You may know him as Doubting Thomas. After Jesus’ death, Thomas doubts the resurrection, even after being told by the other disciples that Jesus has risen. It is not until Thomas sees Jesus for himself that he believes.
Thomas’ faith journey is one that might resonate with many people out there. His story is one of fear and doubt, but also redemption and courage.
After Thomas sees the risen Christ for himself, it is believed that he risked his life and undertook a dangerous journey to India to spread the Gospel, evangelize, and share Jesus’ message of love.
Most of the time we might need a re assurance of all that is going on in our lives is happening for a reason and we can doubt that is true but with perseverance and allowing God to guide us our end goal is often in sight
And sometimes this is the hardest part defining it realising that all that happens is happening for a reason and then and then actually admitting that we are here we have arrived at our destination.
One way that helps me overcome doubt, renew faith, and find joy in Christ. Is reading
Psalm 91: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…”
Sometimes just talking to God and taking stock of your blessings can be so helpful in our faith journey.
Each and every day.
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Prayers of intercession.

Let us pray.

Loving and caring father God, hear our prayers of intercession
We pray for all, for our Christian brothers and Sisters here on Bute
And within the Presbytery of Argyll, throughout our country and the world.
your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.

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In his resurrection
life and peace are restored throughout all of God’s creation.
Comfort us as we pray, for all victims of intolerance
and those oppressed by their fellow humans.
Lead the oppressors towards compassion
and give hope to the suffering.
Loving God and caring, father God
Lead us to work for the welfare
and protection of all young people.

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May we respect their dignity
that they may flourish in life,

Strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow

we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal.
As we stand before the radiance of the cross
God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them with shelter.

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Loving and caring Father god,
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict,
for those who live in fear and pray in secret
divided by religious and racial hate
reach out father and hold them near to you
and grant them your peace.
through The Christ.
Amen.

Let us Pray

As we come together as One, with a thoughtful and resolute awareness of the one true love – that, being, the presence of their Lord, and Christ. No greater and faithful friend can a person have.

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Let us pray.
Almighty God, whose glory touches and transfigures the mind and the material, whose intimate, gentle Spirit embraces our vulnerability and fills our empty spaces with hope, may we know the deep calm that only You can give. Through the mystery of absence and presence, come, fill us with Your emptiness, Your eternal silence.

Hidden God, we bring to this sanctuary and place on this table, our burdens and brokenness, our self-image bruised and hurting, our fears, shame, doubts and anxieties, the raw materials we ask You to bless and change, that in our dark tunnels we may begin to see light and in our desert experiences we may find You.

Jesus says, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

Loving and caring father God, open to us today the sea of Your mercy and water us from the springs of kindness. May we see radiance within fragility, draw strength and inspiration from the inner beauty of others, hear the silent call of the Divine in our hearts, and may the wonder of the stars be a light, a source of hope, on our pilgrimage. this day and every day.
Amen

 

Prayers.

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let us pray,

I come to you and seek refuge

In my pain

my fear and my anguish

You are our Hope and our Salvation

Our loving and caring father

We come to you in prayer

We come to you in Hope.

We come before you

We seek direction

Help those who

Live in fear of those who

Darken your creation

save those people from

Warmongers, terrorists

From those who Oppress

save all from Persecution

Who live and pray to you in secret

segregated by religious hate

From Continual Abuse

from ridicule

Let us all be accepted for who we are

Not for who people want us to be

Teach them to accept us, as you do

Without exception

Our loving and caring father God

in the name of The Christ.

Amen.

 

 

 

“As I Reflect”

A reflection of Gods gift to us all, The world of which we look at Daily,
Do we stand on the shore and survey the calm,sea, with a gentle breeze, and the fish swimming around and maybe waves gently
Almost like a music, swish over the rocks of the shoreline.
While,Cloud of cotton wool wander around.
While endless sea birds , feed and live out there lives in and around the shore.Do we stand and stare as if in a dream almost as if being one to one with our God
The scorching sun Blinds us, Maybe we don’t see the wood for the trees, and an inner voice will say to us.
These seas are not always calm, But angry,and deafening, like thunder, and lightning as if flashes across our horizon.
Painting a slightly different picture, than the one we had thought of earlier, not a peaceful, world, but a realistic world,
A world where life is real and not how we want it to be. Like the one in our imagination, far from a world of poverty,violence,starvation.
An abusive world full of hate and religious wars, despots, dictators,ruling there people with an iron rod, and keeping them in a false state of deprivation.
But all is not lost,for there is hope, there is peace, it can be found, easily , the antidote to all is welcoming Jesus into your heart, To let him show you his world, and feed us at his table and let him guide us throughout our lives,
Amen.

“Doubting Thomas”

Some years ago my son and I went on a holiday touring the Scottish Highlands, my son had written a to-do list of must see and do subjects.
Which to honest was extensive and to be absolutely honest I doubted we could actually see all the things that were on that list.
But like all parent’s we have to believe that we can in order to keep our cherubs happy,
I drove overnight from Colintraive to The pentland firth in order for us to get the early ferry to Orkney and we made it.
But on route we seen the northern lights a bright glowing light of bright green dancing around on the night sky, indeed a sight to behold and to treasure.
And that was one box ticked on his endless list of amazing things to see….
After our ferry sailing we motored over the islets and made our way to Kirkwall.
Alas we reached our hotel and then further planning ensued while I was reading about a brewery and a distillery I was abruptly reminded that this holiday is mine and you, dad are my driver.
So we set off on his adventure visiting museums and archaeological digs sites of great interest like Ness of Brodgar, Skara brae Maweshowe.
Entering Maweshowe was an interesting experience down that long tunnel like shaft, no problem for the then skinny 11-year-old, maybe not so much fun for dad……
I was glad when we ticked that off the list. Another fascinating place was the St Magnus cathedral also known as the light of the North. Also gave me the opportunity to visit a friend who is a minister there.
We found these Islands rich and Full of history. Telling stories of Pagans and their settlements and also about invading Vikings who settled and later become Christian and so around these island we seen so much, visiting the museum about Churchill’s barriers and the ww2 Italian Chapel.
We visited the round Church built by the Vikings which had a brewery attached and ruins of settlements. But in my mind I doubted we would see everything on this holiday.
As we left Orkney my son said “Off now to Loch Ness “
Yes, people guess what was next on the list of must see
yes, the Loch Ness Monster. Maybe at this point dad was thinking how do we explain this, if it does not show up. How do we explain to someone who believes in Santa Claus?
We arrived at Fort Augustus and settled into Maisie’s cottage B&B, and munched our way through much of her fantastic Shortbread and selection of baking.
Well we spent the next day getting eaten alive by those lovely midges and by the second we had bought the “Argyll” nets that cover your head as we trolled the banks of the loch.
I was trying to explain there was a possible chance that The Loch ness monster is mythical and really it doesn’t exist that it is maybe too fantastic of a story to really exist.
“In the name of the Father, The son and the Holy Ghost”.

The word fantastic has a dual meaning in our culture. It can mean something that is made up and thus not to be taken seriously. It can also mean something that is exceptionally good.
Today, on the second Sunday of Easter, our gospel reading takes us to the story of the disciple Thomas’ encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.
To Thomas, the story of Jesus’ resurrection told by his fellow disciples was fantastic in the sense of being unbelievable, too good to be true. In an increasingly sceptical world, Jesus’ resurrection is often viewed as even more fantastic than it seemed to Thomas.
Our Scripture readings today paints a different picture. They tell of a Christ-centred spiritual family, embracing together the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
In Acts 4:32-35 we learn of that family sharing life together, and of the apostles proclaiming the story of Jesus and his resurrection to the world.
1 John 1:1-2:2 we Learn of the apostles’ witness to Jesus and of the reality of Christ. The people in these readings share a common belief in a story that outsiders tend to view as being fantastic.
My sermon today is from John 20:19-32 is about that story and its effect on one apostle in particular who begins doubting and ends up believing and worshipping.
The story begins in the evening, as the Sunday on which Jesus was resurrected drew to a close:
(John 20:19-20)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
You will recall that Jesus’ tomb had been found empty early that day, and reports of his appearances had circulated among his disciples, who now were assembled in the Upper Room where they had met with Jesus on Thursday night for the Last Supper.
Since Jesus’ arrest late Thursday night and his crucifixion on Friday, they had lived with the fear that the enemies of Jesus might come after them. Now, as they were cowering in fear in the Upper Room, Jesus appears.
Have you ever been startled by someone suddenly, unexpectedly, appearing close by? The surge of adrenaline that hypo experience? can cause sweaty palms, goose-bumps, and even hair standing on end. The sudden appearance of Jesus in the midst of these already nervous disciples might have drawn such a reaction.
Jesus acted quickly to calm them with his greeting, “Peace be with you.” Just a few days earlier, these “friends” had abandoned him; one even denied him. Yet, the first thing Jesus said to them was full of grace and forgiveness.
His next actions—the showing of the crucifixion wounds— would have reassured them that the person talking to them truly was Jesus. Instantly, they flipped from shock to joy!
Words are inadequate to describe this experience. Imagine someone you believed was dead, now standing before you alive!
Consider the agonizing death of a loved one, now reversed into life! Visualize your joy when a devastating loss turns into an indescribable victory!

All of these thoughts, feelings, and more were overwhelming the disciples at this moment. With emotions filling the room, Jesus spoke profoundly:
(John 20:21-23)

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The repetition of “peace” was deliberate for emphasis. With it he quelled any uncertainties about his attitude toward them. He relieved them about their standing with God, despite the failures and fears of the previous few days.
How gracious is our God! In the person of Jesus, he stood among them with a loving, patient and friendly tone. Then, he got to the point: they were to go on mission, just as the Father had sent Jesus on mission.
Jesus had sent them out on mission temporarily before, but this time was different. They were now going to go with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jesus had spoken to them about the Holy Spirit a few nights earlier at the Last Supper. He said,
Reading from John 14: 16-17
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

The Spirit of Truth, the Advocate, who would be with them and in them forever, would provide the guidance and power they would need to fulfil their mission on which they now were being sent.
In breathing on them, Jesus demonstrated that he was a flesh and blood, breathing human.
At the same time, his breathing was symbolic—acting out what would be fulfilled almost 50 days later on the day of Pentecost, when the sound of a rushing wind would accompany them being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jewish words and thought depicted the Holy Spirit as the breath of God, which imparted life to Adam and prophetically to the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. As recorded in John 14 and 17, Jesus had explained that the Spirit would come forth from the Father and be sent by Jesus.
What did Jesus mean by his statement concerning the forgiveness of sins? Referring to Jesus, Paul wrote this: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). Paul was not contradicting Jesus’ words to his disciples.
Jesus himself had said to his critics, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins Clearly, forgiveness of sins is through Jesus. Neither the apostles nor anyone since has been given that role. However, through the gospel, forgiveness of sin is proclaimed. Note what it says in Acts 13:
(Acts 13:38-39)
Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
The mission on which the disciples were being sent involved proclaiming the gospel, which means proclaiming the forgiveness of sin in and through Jesus.
If the message is not delivered or not received, the forgiveness is not experienced and thus has no power in the person’s life. Paul reiterates this in Romans 10:
(Rom. 10:14-15
How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?
Thus we see the vital role of the proclamation and reception of the gospel.
For unexplained reasons, Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Jesus knew he was absent, and remembered that Thomas, upon learning that Jesus was returning to dangerous Jerusalem, had pessimistically stated, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). John’s account continues:
(John 20:24-25
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Jesus’ appearance to the other disciples was dramatic, and he showed them the same evidence that Thomas demanded. Thomas knew that an unexplained apparition could deceive people into believing that they saw something else.
But he took what might have been healthy scepticism all the way to cynicism, dismissing the testimony of his closest friends. As a result, he was given the nickname Doubting Thomas.
We now fast forward a week: (John 20:26)

A week later [Jesus’] disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Jesus then addresses Thomas directly: (John 20:27, NASB).
“Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Thomas must have felt like a child caught with his hand in the Sweetie jar. Jesus gave him the evidence he demanded, taking away Thomas’ reasons to disbelieve. In doing so, Jesus rebuked Thomas for being overly sceptical and illogical
The doubt of Thomas in the face of the witness of the others was not a proof of his superior intelligence. Sceptics usually pose as persons of unusual mentality.
How could Thomas have been disbelieving in the company of friends who believed? More importantly, how could he persist in being clueless about Jesus? You would think that all Jesus had said and done should have prompted at least a reaction from him.
Whatever the case in the past, Jesus’ words and actions now broke through to Thomas who voiced his now-famous acclamation of faith: (John 20:28)

“My Lord and my God!”
Not only did Thomas snap out of doubt and acute scepticism, his revitalized belief moved him to worship!
Thomas’ dramatic turnabout shows the transformational effect of Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas had been with Jesus for three years and witnessed the power of God in all Jesus did, but all that he witnessed and experienced did not compare to seeing Jesus, who Thomas knew had been dead, standing alive before him—wounds and all.
Jesus’ appearance after his resurrection so convinced Thomas of Jesus’ divinity that he worshipped him on the spot!
Thomas was chosen by Jesus to be an apostle—a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. But what about the rest of us? Do we need to see Jesus and feel his wounds to believe that he is the risen Lord? Of course not!
Don’t we believe all kinds of things without seeing evidence first-hand? The earth is round; the sun is 93 million miles away; the oceans are thousands of feet deep. Do we need to personally witness these facts to believe them?
Most people believe such facts because they believe in the credibility of those who told or taught them. God our Creator graciously granted humanity the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection through 12, rather ordinary, witnesses.
History tells us that these ordinary men gave their lives insisting that their witness was true.
Theirs is not the only evidence; others also saw Jesus alive after his resurrection from the dead. Why wouldn’t these witnesses be believed?
Evidence notwithstanding, notice what Jesus said about all who believe him without seeing first-hand evidence?
(John 20:29)

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
For Thomas, the saying “seeing is believing” described the way he approached faith in Jesus. But as the author of Hebrews notes, real faith is believing what is not immediately visible: “Faith is… assurance about what we do not see”.
Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who believe without seeing (or touching) the evidence of the resurrection in the way Thomas did. What does that blessing entail? Peter answers: (1 Pet. 1:8)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
A blessing is a gracious outpouring of good from God. The recipients of this blessing are able to love Jesus, though they have not seen him. Their grace-endowed faith and love results in exuberant joy that expresses confidence in the salvation they have been granted. This is the blessing upon all who love Jesus and trust in him for their salvation.
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Here is how John concludes the story of doubting Thomas, who became believing Thomas:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
All around us is a world that views the claims of Christianity with scepticism, even hostility.
They defend their scepticism as being logical and scientific. But Thomas’ story reminds us that there is hope for sceptics.
Just as Jesus confronted doubting Thomas in love, so too will Jesus confront a doubting, sceptical world.
In fact, he is doing so all the time, and the evidence he presents involves us—the faith-filled testimony of our lives and words.
For all who love and trust in Jesus, the fantastic, yet true promise of eternal life awaits—life in communion with our triune God in the fullness of God’s kingdom—a life filled with love, joy and peace.

And so we pray, come Lord Jesus. Amen.