There is a list on our refrigerator of the Sundays coming up and a line for signing up to preach. I admit that I looked at the Gospel first before signing up and hit the jackpot with this one—with Thomas the “I think differently.” I will forever contend that he gets a bad rap when referred to as The Doubter. In my book, he simply needed the information delivered in a different way.
Preparing this with the readings we just heard, I also thought about a story I saw a while back on CBC. Toronto has opened the first Hospice for those who are homeless. The doctor who began it spoke with beautiful heart. “We may live differently, but we all die the same death.” He spoke of wanting the Hospice to offer respite, beauty, and a sense of place, of home, so that homeless people might be surrounded with this experience as they die.
They interviewed the first resident, Pandora, 27 years old, as she met with the doctor before moving in. You saw photos of the toll that a life of hard living takes on a person. You heard a story of choices made, abuse suffered, addictions that overwhelmed, and a final illness that counted her days in wispy breaths. She moved into the Hospice. Pandora died two days later, in a place of security, a room, the doctor said, that she claimed as her home.
I knew someone not unlike Pandora. He too struggled (and mostly lost) against the prevailing odds and he needed information delivered in ways that would make sense for him. Forget common sense or taking it on faith. Faith required a vision he did not have. A vision past, a vision beyond, that can imagine that the social structure will hold together and have room enough for him.
The doctor on CBC didn’t use the ‘language of faith,’ but Jesus did. And when Jesus did use the language and the actions of faith, of compassion, Thomas received what he needed and joined the household of God. “My Lord and my God!”
It didn’t surprise me that Pandora died two days after coming to hospice. She could let go in safety, she could relax in that dwelling place of God’s spirit. In the language of faith, the cynicism of life on the street gave way to a deeper vision of welcome and freedom. She had a place to bring her story where she was not judged but instead was taken by the hand like Thomas in Caravaggio’s painting and invited in. (If you’ve never seen that painting— it’s worth finding.)
The man that I knew also died two days after being put on hospice-care. His hard-living was done. He gained the freedom he spent a long time trying to find while coming at the world more differently than anyone I’ve known.
In Acts we hear that ‘many signs and wonders were done among the people, through the apostles. More believers than ever…all were cured.’ We may think signs and wonders are well over the line into Jesus’ department—but what if the radical act—the signs and wonders…was welcome for people as they are? Was inclusion, space-making. Understanding that others might need information differently, might have a unique outlook because of context or culture or circumstance, and we—us…you and me and others simply wandering around believing in Jesus and doing our best…welcomed, adjusted, tried again in a different way, without the judgement of a label like Doubting, or Wrong…
And oh…I know this is not easy…Imagine the Apostles with Thomas— Seriously?? What, our word isn’t enough? You actually think he’s going to let you… And he does. For Thomas and for us. Every time. Not only so that we too can come to Believe via the ways that each one of us needs… but so that we may not be afraid to offer this to others…so that by our actions, we may write upon the hearts of others what we have seen…what is…and what is to take place after this…
So that what we write with the ink of the Spirit bestowed is Love, Compassion, Peace, Welcome… I know of nothing more curative than that.