Sermons



Martha Mutikani
27th April 2014
Jesus the Chosen One Who Transforms Our Unbelief and Doubt

If anyone had asked me which football team, I believed was most successful a year ago, I would have said Manchester United. As an arsenal supporter I should not be heard saying that! In the past years when Manchester United were playing, nothing else was expected except a win. No one ever thought the day will come, when Manchester United would be number 7, taking places of teams like Everton on the premier league table.

For Manchester united fans their normal has been winning games and being at the top of the league. Until this last weekend Manchester United initially had believed the chosen one their new manager ‘David Moyes’ will keep them at the top of the league. He was supposed to be the chosen one for Manchester United the one to maintain their success. Sadly after several losses his fans, team and colleagues began to doubt he was the chosen one, he was sacked.  How could this happen to Manchester United?

Unlike the David Moyes of Manchester United – The resurrected Lord Jesus is truly the chosen one. Jesus meets us at our point of need, even when drowning in unbelief and doubt. He takes hold of our low opinions of ourselves and transforms them. Jesus meets us at the point like the disciples in our reading, when all hope is gone and fear grips us. When feeling isolated and locked in our world of despair. Jesus says peace be with you as he experiences our suffering. He holds our hands asking us to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to take us through the low points in our life time.

Jesus is available to all for free – you can only deny him, you cannot sack him!  The Disciples were full of fear and unbelief and Thomas in doubt.  What had changed – can unbelief and doubt happen to us as people of faith?

The crucifixion was overwhelming for the disciples! They had believed in their chosen one but he was dead. It is no surprise we find them locked up. They were used to being winners; their Messiah was the well known healer. He had cared for the poorest. He had even fed 5000 – how could they fill this void.

When we face doubt and unbelief where do we go?

The disciples remind me of a dark winter morning on 16 December 2011, I had woken up feeling doubtful. It was 9 days, since I had returned from the conference, which gives the final recommendations to the Bishop, on whether an individual should or should not train as a Priest. The Bishop had promised to email the outcome on the 16th, I had been waiting for the outcome anxiously.

During the waiting period, I had wondered whether my perception that God was calling me was of God or a day dream. Sometimes I would say to myself “Martha you are not good enough?”- Why would God choose you? I was full of unbelief and doubt, like Thomas.

When I received the email from the Bishop, confirming they were sending me to train as a priest. I shouted my God and my Lord thank you! I had tears of joy. It was like a big cloud had been lifted. The journey to becoming a Priest, that I had doubted would ever happen was set to begin. Despite all that positive news and starting my training, I have had moments when I have been in despair and doubt about the future. Sometimes our situations can leave us feeling despondent. Yet our chosen one is alive, Jesus visits us in our situations. Jesus reassures us of his presence even when despondent.

In our reading we have the disciples locked up in a room in despair, in fear of the Jews struggling with unbelief. Earlier in the same chapter in verse 18 of our reading, Mary Magdalene had informed the disciples that she had seen Jesus. The disciples had not believed her they wanted their own proof, and we do too.

Especially in our world situation, when facing injustice, political disputes and disasters- such as those in Syria and Ukraine. Sometimes there is nothing we can do about our situations except wait in hope just as the disciples waited in their fear in hope of help.

When in despair it is hard to find any positive views. The disciples could not relax, or even go to the local co-op! They probably debated amongst themselves, I imagined them saying:

“Who will go to buy food today” — “Not me” said James “I don’t wish to be killed”.

“Oh come on” said Andrew “we will starve here in our hiding place!”

“Then you go Andrew” said Peter, “we cannot be seen outside we will be arrested.” Thomas you go – and off he went shopping.

They were focussing on their loss and distress. Like the disciples our world can change any time. If only we could have courage to draw on the strength of Jesus Christ. During communion – the priest says – “lift up your hearts” and we respond “we lift them to the Lord”. Lift your despair, unbelief, pain whatever it is and wait on the lord as he helps you through.

The disciples could not pray to draw on the strength of Jesus who was the bread of life. They had forgotten that Jesus had believed in them and had called them despite their in adequacies.

The journey of a disciple is never easy as we have gathered, despite all they knew about Jesus they remained scared. No one is ever a finished product. In faith we are transformed daily, as we read our bible learn from it and pray for guidance.

In their unbelief, Jesus had appeared and said “peace be with you”. I wonder whether they were shocked. John’s gospel does not say how many disciples were present, but we know that Thomas was not present. I think he had gone to the local co- op! Jesus had known where they were and how they felt. He had known the value of saying peace be with you to the disciples. They believed him and accepted his peace. They became joyful again. Jesus realised their weakness without him.

It may not be as simple as that in some of our situations.

When Thomas finally came back from the shops he missed Jesus. He did not believe his fellow disciples, when they told him Jesus had visited them. He wanted to see his wounds before he could believe he had risen. I think Jesus valued Thomas as his disciple. Jesus without being told he knew that Thomas would only believe when he sees his wounds. Jesus returned on a day when Thomas was present. He invited Thomas to feel his wounds, but Thomas responded to seeing Jesus by saying “my Lord and my God”. We don’t know if he ever felt the wounds. But notice that Thomas used a personal confession, he did not say The Lord but he used “my” that is a significant personal confession. Thomas recognised his Lord as also his God, and immediately his unbelief was gone.

No fear or unbelief can keep Jesus away only accept him and believe that his presence and confidence can help you through your worries. There are times when it will take days, months and years of suffering/struggling but that does not mean God has left us. It took me years to tell anyone that God was calling me to be a priest. For some of us it can take us years just to confide our hurts/doubts/unbelief to someone. Jesus says Peace be with you, lean on his word and let his peace be your shield.

As we exclaim – “The Lord is here” – let’s do so knowing we have the Holy Spirit. It strengthens our faith so we can believe in things unseen – let’s continue to call on God’s help in prayer. Like Thomas all we need to do is to recognise “The Lord” as ours – my Lord my God – he is here with us.