As I write, Captain Tom Moore has raised over £25,000,000 for the NHS at the age of 99 years old! He’s done it by slowly walking in his garden using a stroller and, having hoped to raise £1,000 before his forthcoming 100th birthday, his expectations have been far exceeded. With the fundraising still going on, there are now calls for him to be knighted and Captain Tom has vowed to continue for as long as the money still comes in. He’s been able to do it with the help and support of his family and has now become a hero in the eyes of many people, at a time when heroes are needed in the face of so much gloomy news about the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of my heroes is another Tom, Doubting Thomas, the focus of the Gospel reading for today. When Jesus first appeared to those frightened disciples who had locked themselves away that first Easter Day, Thomas was not there. He refused to believe it when they then told him they had seen Jesus – but he was present when Jesus returned a week later. Despite all he had been through, Jesus nevertheless invited Thomas to see and touch him as Thomas had insisted he would need to do, and something wonderful then happens:
Jesus said to Thomas,”….. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God.”
Then Jesus told him, “ Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” St John 20: 27-29, NIV
Thomas refused to believe just because he was told to but, when confronted with the reality of the risen Christ, he then takes a huge leap of faith and becomes the first person after the resurrection to call Jesus not just his Lord but also his God. That’s why, for me, he’s a hero: in being honest about his doubts and in wanting to find out for himself, Thomas shows us that, as we wrestle with our own questions, greater understanding can result when the time is right. Doubt can be an honest part of faith and so this simple image of a person in prayer forming the shape of a question mark follows. I was given it when I was ordained thirty years ago as an encouragement to keep on asking questions about faith throughout my ministry. It still reminds me of Thomas, who doubted but realised before all the other disciples who Jesus really is. Such was the effect on him that Thomas is thought to have taken the Gospel to southern India and, through him, Jesus charges us to see and explore faith at work in our world today – and to find ourselves blessed when we do.
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, we may have many questions to ask of God, the authorities, those around us and ourselves. As the struggle for understanding goes on in these troubled times, may the example of Doubting Thomas enable us to see the other heroes who are all around us today in obvious and unspoken ways. Centenarian Captain Tom found his expectations were exceeded beyond anything he’d anticipated when he put his belief that he could raise £1,000 into action and is now being called a hero. He achieved what he’d set out to do by tackling his target in small ways, not trying to do it all at once, and the anxious weeks ahead of us can also be tackled one day at a time. In the midst of doubts about the future, we may find our own expectations being challenged and greater understanding may eventually result if we don’t give up. There is consternation and anguish as the pandemic continues – but there times when we may also have to be heroic as life changes so radically and when our actions can make hope and blessing realities too. That’s beyond doubt!
With my prayers,