The New Room is sharing a Friday reflection each week during the time that we are closed. Even though we cannot currently join together for our usual Friday lunchtime Communion service in the chapel, we hope that these short reflections will act as a point of spiritual focus, enabling a moment of quiet thought and prayer.
This week’s reflection is from Howard Wilson, Regional Learning & Development Coordinator (South West) in the Methodist Church.
I was born in the manse in Wolverhampton but now live in Bristol, via Fordhouses, Doncaster, and Sheffield. I trained in Youth and Community work and Teaching Religious Studies at S.Martin’s College, Lancaster and have worked with young people ‘on the edge’ for most of my career.
I now work for the Methodist Church Learning Network as the Regional Learning and Development Coordinator for the South West, covering Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly districts. I am a local preacher in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit.
The lectionary for 3 July notes that today is the feast of St Thomas whose story is told in John 20:24-29. When told about the risen Christ, Thomas’ first reaction is to ask for proof. It always seems somewhat unfair that Thomas is remembered primarily as the ‘doubter’. In some respects he is the ‘honest’ one who wants so badly to believe, but knows that the story is so fantastical that a bit of evidence would really help him to cope. How many of us would really like something a bit more concrete to help us believe?
I have always loved the book ‘An Impossible God’ by Frank Topping. In the book he examines the stations of the cross (before and after) through the eyes of various characters in the story. As Thomas speaks he expresses the depth of the love that he had for Jesus, how he would have followed him to the ends of the earth, but he exclaims at one point;
“It was not that I didn’t trust him
not that I didn’t believe him.
I simply did not understand him.”
How could anyone really understand the mystery and wonder of a God willing to become part of his own creation? A God who loves enough to submit to a degrading and humiliating death, with a love so powerful that even death cannot contain it. A God who does all of this in order to make it possible for us to enter into a personal relationship with the divine. All we have to do is believe. Thomas was able to believe because he saw the risen Jesus, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29, NRSV).
A prayer by Frank Topping;
My Lord and my God,
who has granted me
the gift of faith,
hear me when I pray,
“Lord, I believe,
help my unbelief.”
Lord, I am easily diverted,
So often I balance precariously
on the edge of unbelief.
when my prayers seem to echo
fill the void.
When I am alone,
speak to me.
When I am in darkness,
be my light.
When the faith I possess
begins to slip my grasp,
secure it for me.
When I begin to doubt your love,
reveal yourself to me
as you did with Thomas,
that with him I might pray,
“My Lord and my God”.
from Topping, F., 1985, An Impossible God, Fount:London