St. Mary's Church

Thomas the Apostle

Thomas the Apostle

30 Jun 2022 • General news

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Sermon 3rd July 2022

This morning we are celebrating the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle. Like various other Saints days throughout the year, when some of the major festivals occur on a Sunday, it offers us an opportunity to ponder what made that particular person so special and what we can do to emulate a little of them in our lives.

For me, St Thomas comes in a mid- range of Jesus’ disciples. He is not one of the four who are almost always mentioned -Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their friends from the fishing community James and John - but there are a few times during the Gospel accounts that Thomas is mentioned, so for me at least, he is one of the ones whose name also springs to mind when I try and think about all twelve of the men who were counted as Jesus’ closest friends and students, those who we all the twelve disciples.

The name disciple literally means a “learner” in Latin, so the disciples were those closest to Jesus, who, he taught the meanings of the parables too, and who he often took off to the more deserted places to teach and to pray with.

Thomas is more often saddled with the moniker “Doubting Thomas”, as he did not believe the other disciples when they told him that they had seen the LORD, risen back to life after his crucifixion. When a week later, Jesus again joins his followers in the upper room of the house they were staying in, and Thomas is invited to come close to Jesus, to see his wounds with his own eyes and to touch his scars with his fingers, Thomas’ response isn’t to prod and poke Jesus, but, as we have heard this morning, his words are an astonished and a reverent cry of “My LORD and My God. ”For me, Thomas shows amazing faith and courage, in this statement, at a time, where many of his friends and colleagues, appear too scared to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity. Thomas declares it to them all.

Another passage from St John’s gospel which is special to me, comes in Chapter 14, where Jesus is trying to explain to his followers that the time is fast approaching where his life will come and end, and he will leave them to continue his ministry to the world.

St Thomas asks Jesus “LORD, we don’t know where we are going, so how can we know the way?”. As some of you may be anticipating, Jesus response is a very famous verse

“I AM the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Those of you who remember Owen Vigeon, may remember some of his anecdotes about his time as Vicar of St Thomas’ church, Lytham St Anne’s. I recollect on more than one occasion, Owen talking about how difficult it was to lead a Patronal festival for St Thomas, where every year you got the same reading about “Doubting Thomas!”

Owen’s words came back to me, as I was thinking about the preparation for today, so I found out our book of Saints, to find out what information it gave about St Thomas, after Jesus’ death, resurrection and Ascension.

Unlike a few of the other disciples, whose movements about Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are well known, St Thomas’ life is less well known.

Some stories have St Thomas travel to India to evangelise those who lived in South India . Ancient accounts state that Thomas was martyred after trying to evangelise to a ruler’s family and was buried at Mylapore near Madras. Later on, remains that were said to be those of St Thomas, were moved to a church in Italy.

As I sat preparing this sermon, I tried to imagine St Thomas, probably with others, planning their journey to “go and make disciples of all nations” as so many have done since. I wondered how scary it must have been to leave all you had ever known behind to travel across part of the known world, telling his own story of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Looking at the maps, it is quite possible that St Thomas never originally intended to go to India - it is thought he arrived about 20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and was martyred about another 20 years after that. If you walk, by land from Jerusalem, to Syria and then though what we know of as modern day Iraq and Iran (then Persia), you eventually come to India, and it may well be that as St Thomas travelled from place to place, preaching and teaching, getting to know communities and peoples with different languages and customs to his own, that he reached India and settled after many years of travelling around. His journey of probably 4000miles, would have taken many hours in the road over that time, and there would have been no thought of going back to his homeland.

Today, in our Cathedral and in many churches around the country people are being Ordained as Deacon or as Priest in the Church of England, an outward visual sign of each of these people giving their lives and all that they are to God. This time of year - and Michaelmas at the end of September are the two traditional times for the Ordination of priests, and almost all of those ordained will have their own anniversary of Ordination, either around the end of June/beginning of July or at the end of September.

While we do not have an incumbent at this time, I think it is still important to recognise the vocation of those called to the Priesthood, or to the Permanent Diaconate, and a little later in our prayers we will hold up to God those who are being interviewed for the post of priest here at St Mary’s in the coming week.

Just as St Thomas’ life and experience, would have guided him on his journey across Asia, for each of us, our own life and vocation is also guided by our history, both the wonderful parts and the difficult bits too. St Thomas might have been known as “Doubting Thomas” through the ages, but his life and legacy live on, through the Christians of southern India, who ascribe to him their faith and though the churches around the world that are dedicated in his honour, including of course, St Thomas, Longford, and St Thomas at Keresley, each just a few miles from here.

As we ready ourselves to begin a new week, with all the joys and challenges that might bring, I pray that we may each have the courage to step outside our comfort zones and to embrace the opportunities we are offered to share the Good News of Jesus and to hold in prayer, those whose new steps in ministry begin today.

Amen.

Intercessions for 3 July 2022

Govern and direct your holy Church; fill it with love and truth;
and grant it that unity which is your will.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Give us boldness to preach the gospel in all the world,
and to make disciples of all the nations.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Enlighten Christopher and John, our bishops, and all your ministers with knowledge
and understanding, that by their teaching and their lives
they may proclaim your word.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all those who are being Ordained as Priest or as Deacon in your church this weekend, LORD.Give them strength and courage as they begin their new phase of ministry.

Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Give your people grace to hear and receive your word,
and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Strengthen those who stand, comfort and help the faint-hearted;
raise up the fallen; and finally beat down Satan under our feet.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of peace and justice. Holding especially in our prayers the people of Ukraine; Syria; Afghanistan and Yemen, and we acknowledge that there are other places in our world which are not in our news and where peoples’ pain and struggle is unknown to us, but we know you are all seeing LORD and oversee all your precious people.

Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Bless those who administer the law, that they may uphold
justice, honesty and truth.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Give us the will to use the fruits of the earth to your glory,
and for the good of all creation.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Keep in safety those who travel, especially those who are fleeing homes and al they have known to try and find places of safety.We give thanks for all who support those who are refugees and especially those who have offered shelter to those from Ukraine and other places in Coventry and the surrounding area.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

We hold up to you all those who are sick, especially in a few moments of silence, we hold in our hearts all those who are on our hearts and in need of our prayers at this time

Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Hear us as we remember those who have died in the peace of Christ, both those who have confessed the faith and those whose faith is known to you alone, and grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.
Lord hear us

Lord graciously hear us.

Merciful Father, Accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,

Amen

July Diocesan Prayer Diary Link:  prayer-diary---july-2022---booklet.pdf (d3hgrlq6yacptf.cloudfront.net)