Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

I’m a tactile person, I like hugs, I like my hands to be held, I like to touch my hair when I’m talking, I love sharing the peace with people, I love feeling the warmth of others.

Touch can seal the deal when making new relationships, whether that is shaking hands, hugging, a kiss, or a shoulder pat.

However sometimes we have to believe that the relationships that we make and have are real without anything tangible happening. The story of Thomas and his doubting of Jesus’ resurrection is one of my favourites.

I know myself I have been slow to believe that something is real because I have not seen it or been able to touch it. Putting your faith into something that cannot be “felt” is risky on the heart and on the mind.

Jesus appears to the other disciples first who are locked away in fear and in hiding. He comes to them, shares His peace and shows them His wounds. I feel like in this place of fear and anxiety, that Jesus appears right in the middle of it all by showing them the wounds that he has got. This moment is a meeting together of wounds, the fear of the disciples and the damage they have felt to their hearts over the brutality of Jesus’ death and the physical wounds that Jesus bore for them.

The disciples are lifted and healed from their fear by Jesus’ appearance. Thomas has yet to feel that healing and expresses his doubts clearly and frankly even when the other disciples say to him that they have seen the Lord.

How can Thomas let his heart dare to believe that Jesus is actually alive?!

How can he allow his heart to feel the light footsteps of hope dance inside of him bouncing off every part of him like fire filled fireworks?

Thomas needs to be able to reach out and touch Jesus, to feel His wounds, to help the wounds inside of himself meet with Jesus’ wounds.

There is something powerful about how Jesus’ wounds can meet with our own, palm to palm, foot to foot, side to side.

How many times have we felt that we are so wounded that we are beyond any help, yet here in the middle of doubt Jesus gently takes Thomas’ hand and says “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side”.

Such trust and love is sealed in the pierced palms of Jesus, he says do not doubt, just believe. Perhaps these are the words we all need to hear when we are tentative to reach out and show Jesus our wounds and let Him show us His.

Through all of this it’s the exclamation of faith that seals the deal on the relationship between Thomas and Jesus. It’s not just the touch, it’s the love that pours out from the wounds that poured out His blood on the cross.

Thomas’ expression of love and the realisation that he could dare to let his heart believe that Jesus is alive, is beautiful,

“My Lord and my God”

Reach out, put your hand into His, do not doubt, just believe.

Advertisements

Jesus took off his outer robe

I don’t know if anyone has noticed but the modern world has become much more about self-service.

I walked into my bank the other week totally confused that the bank looked like a coffee bar. All the tellers had gone and had been replaced by self service machines. There were copious amounts of sofas, colourful house plants, modern slatted screens, and a man with an iPad that said I could wait for twenty minutes to transfer some money. I asked him where the tellers were and he said oh they don’t do those transactions anymore.

I sat on the modern minimalistic sofas with a group of other bemused people, it was the sad equivalent of an adult crèche that no one really wanted to be in.

I realised that today self service was now becoming the norm. In supermarkets we wrestle with the joys of the self scan checkouts. When we phone up companies they are automated. When we check in at hospital we scan a barcode. We report crime online. We speak to MPs on Twitter.

Jesus took off his outer robe

It’s like culture today is tearing us away from serving each other face to face. Perhaps it is because it takes too much time. Society is moving at a much faster pace year after year. People are having to adapt to that pace or face being left behind. By removing human interaction we can get what we want faster, without fuss, and without seeing any other people. In reality we are missing out on important relationships and what it looks like to be a community that works together and serves each other.

Jesus took off his outer robe

Today on Maundy Thursday we reenact and remember the most personal and humbling service and lesson from Jesus as he washes his disciples feet. Jesus takes off his outer robe to begin and this action has much to say to us today. That love has to do with complete self giving to another.

What outer robes are we wearing when we are out and about in the world. What barriers are we putting up that stops us from stooping down and serving our fellow human and giving ourselves to each other.

Is it pride, or is it just not expected of us anymore?

Cultural boundaries are becoming the outer robes that we are wearing today, and our need to do everything ourselves is pushing away the building of love and deeper relationships and giving of self to others.

Jesus took off his outer robe

Even in Jesus’s time what Jesus did by assuming the role of a servant was shocking, Peter articulates this quite clearly by saying to Jesus that you will never wash my feet! How often have we felt this when someone offers to serve us?

I did it just last week, a friend offered to help me out and I found myself telling them no! Fortunately they knew me enough to ignore me – but it is so easy isn’t it?!

It’s so easy to head to the self service checkout instead of having to let someone do it for you isn’t it.

And wouldn’t that be a thing if we actively chose to let people serve us and for us to serve them.

Jesus took off his outer robe.

Peter changes his mind after Jesus says that if he doesn’t let Him wash Peter’s feet then he has no share in Jesus.

Peter immediately becomes less self serving because he knows what he will be missing out on by following Jesus. Peter realises that to be in love, to be in Jesus’ love he has to give himself completely to Jesus because that is what Jesus is doing to Peter and the other disciples as he washes their feet and institutes the communion feast, the bread and wine, become His body and blood. Jesus. Here in complete self giving of Himself to us is the risky Holy love that ultimately ends in His execution on the cross for all of us.

Pride, expectations, boundaries, culture, society, all go out of the window when responding to Jesus because he cuts through all of these things with calm delicate vulnerable serving love.

He models a new shape of love one that is hands on, soaked in water, and poured out in wine and broken bread. A shape of love that cries out for us to seek out each other and to love each other. A shape of love that compels us to give a complete self-giving to one another.

Jesus says I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

By stripping away our outer robes, we are entering into the love that Jesus commands us to dwell in, to just “be” in because it is a love so amazing so transformative that everyone will look up and take notice and know and see that Jesus is present through and in us.

Jesus took off his outer robe

There is nothing convenient or quick about stepping away from modern comfort and society of self service, it requires effort not just to do it but allowing other to serve us too.

We cannot be blinded by comfort thinking that is all we need. We cannot be blinded by the shallowness that is provided by the illusion of comfort, just like my experience at the bank.

We can’t be seduced into thinking that we can rush through to Easter past Good Friday because it takes too long or makes us feel uncomfortable.

Removing our outer robes, getting down on our knees, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty for the sake of others is the depth of love we must wash in.

Maundy Thursday strips back everything that doesn’t matter, and this is reflected in the dramatic stripping of the church too, so that we are left with the starkness of Christ alone and power of his cross on Good Friday.

It isn’t in the grandeur of the items around us that Jesus is known, it is in the rough wood of the heavy cross that held his body, it is in the crude iron nails that pierced his flesh, it is the crown of thorns that rained his blood onto his face.

Jesus took off his outer robe, for you, for me, for the whole world, and we must be bold enough to do the same for His sake.

Amen

I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.

This week I went on retreat with college to Foxhill. It was my first silent retreat and I was looking forward to spending some time with the Lord in the beautiful scenic surroundings.

We were fortunate with the weather with the sun beaming down and even though it was chilly, walking around the grounds was breathtaking.

When it came to dinner, we all sat together in silence and started to eat. I never realised that trying to eat in silence for the first time would be so interesting. Things ticked on by until certain events that really weren’t funny started to be hilarious. Daft things like cutting into food and it going flying now seemed to be the funniest thing ever, filling up someone’s water and splashing it everywhere was comedic gold. The harder we tried to remain serious the funnier became.

Trying to stop a laugh is actually really difficult. Once I started to snigger the rest of the laugh started to break through, a giggle turned into a chuckle and that grew again into full out laughter.

Typing it out sounds ridiculous that I an adult could not eat a meal in silence without laughing, but there was something beautifully joy-filled about this.

We were so enjoying being soaked in the silence and in the presence of our Lord that His boundary breaking, transformative joy was pouring through us.

I personally was bursting with joy over the retreat and the harder I tried to suppress it the more it seeped out.

This story of my giggly silent retreat came to mind as I heard the liturgy of the Palms this morning. Jesus says in response to the Pharisees asking Him to silence His disciples “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Jesus is correct! How difficult it is to try and suppress the wonder of Him and the joy and glory that He provides and brings.

But how confusing it is that we as Christians sometimes find it difficult to articulate our faith!

Jesus says that we cannot be silent because even the stones will cry out, and that is what happens. We end up seeing His glory being witnessed and proclaimed in different ways. If one place is silent then another with cry out.

If a place where Jesus’s love and glory is seen that is not expected, are we meant to stay silent? We have to remember that Jesus breaks through everything and that means our human experiences and expectations, the Pharisees struggled with this and wished silence could cover what they were witnessing. Let us hope that we try and not do the same.

Palm Sunday has always been special for me. On this day in 2014 I waved a paper palm leaf made by my children as people around me sang. I wasn’t singing myself but slowly, during that moment I felt an overwhelming feeling that God loved me and that He had a plan for my life and it started right then. My mouth was opened and the stones inside of me began to cry out – proclaiming the glory of the King of my heart.

On my last day of my retreat I spent time watching the silken pearlised petals of a Magnolia tree slowly fall to the ground. The beauty of the tree stood proudly, but soon the tree would be bare and the petals would be gone.

This image reminded me of the journey that we begin today towards the cross, slowly the palms that were so beautifully waved are put down and left to rot into the ground, as Jesus was hung left to die on the cross.

But we know that death did not win and so like the Magnolia tree, leaves begin to grow again and wave and proclaim, that every tongue will confess, every knee should bed and all the stones will cry out that Jesus is Lord.