May 2012 Letter

These are phrases I quite often hear, as a vicar – presumably because people assume (not unreasonably!) that vicars are chosen for being ‘good at believing’ in the same way that you would choose a carpenter for his skills with wood and that therefore believing six impossible things before breakfast, like the White Queen is Alice through the Looking Glass, poses no problem once the dog-collar is firmly in place round someone’s neck.

 

But this article was due in the week following Easter, when  we read the story of ‘Doubting Thomas’ – the disciple who is famous for refusing to believe the others when they told him about the resurrection, saying he would have to see and touch the risen Christ for himself before he would believe.  I have always had a soft spot for Thomas, and feel he has had a bit of a raw deal in becoming synonymous with ‘doubt’. 

 

We could regard him instead as ‘Scientific Thomas’ – determined to put things to the test of real experience rather than take on second-hand beliefs – which would make him the ideal patron saint for our modern age.  Because I don’t believe (there’s that word again!) that God wants us to ‘believe’ in a way that involves unplugging the brain he gave us and leaving it at the church door.  The claims that religion makes should be testable in real life if they are to mean anything.  Of course, we are never going to be able to go back and plant a webcam by the tomb to see what really happened on that first Easter morning, so we have to rely on the reports of those who were alive at the time.  But Jesus himself said that the way to test things was by their fruit – and so we should be able to test and grow our faith in the process of living it.

 

That is what is so sad about people who think they are cut of from faith simply because they don’t currently feel they have it already.  Faith is not usually something mysteriously ‘given’ but something that we gradually build as we test out the premise that there might really be a God who is interested in us and in our lives.

 

          Our faith in God is built up the same way our trust in anything or anyone else is built up. Suppose you are employing a builder.  First of all you hear good reports from friends, then try him out on small jobs, and gradually trust him more and more.

          So in our spiritual lives, we dare to lean a little bit on

God, and then a bit more and more, our trust and faith growing as we take step after step.  So often, God waits for us to take a step forward before he shows us what he is going to do. And the people we admire and perhaps even envy for their strong faith are the people who have gone on putting one foot resolutely in front of the other, doing what they think God is telling them, and finding time and again that their trust is not misplaced.

          The people who stand, as it were, with the yellow pages in

their hands and say 'I can't employ a builder because I don't have one I trust' will never get their extensions built.

          And those who stand outside the community of faith and say 'I can't believe unless I see some proof' are actually cutting themselves off from the only way that they will get the proof they seek.    

          And so, we keep on turning up, each in our own way.   We pray, and perhaps find that there is someone at the other end who answers.  We struggle on through times when, like Thomas, we

feel it quite impossible to believe.

          And eventually, we find ourselves in the right place

at the right time, and Jesus meets us with his hands held out, saying  'Shalom Eleichem; Peace be with you'.

          It was so that that meeting could  happen that St John tells

us that he wrote his Gospel.  “So that believing, trusting, we may have life in his name.”

 

Rev’d Karen Spray                 01392 877400             church@revdkaren.org.uk


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