That which we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
I have spent every day since Eater Sunday immersed in our Spring Break Vacation Bible School, and it was a good week.
On Monday, we reviewed child safety policies and boundaries (not the most pleasant part of the project, but necessary and sound), and distributed lesson materials amongst the leaders, checked our schedules, prayed for the week to come. On Tuesday, the children arrived. In a whirlwind. We spent six hours of each day together till Friday, then yesterday morning the children brought their families to show them what we had done together, what we had heard and seen with our eyes, what we had looked at and touched with our hands concerning the word of life, not to mention playdough, jump-rope, painted t-shirts and soft toys.
One of the daily features of the week was our God-sightings project; bunting created out of paint and old t-shirts, and pictures of God.
The God sightings were, of course, a variation on the theme that we introduced last year with the simple question: Where have you seen God?
At first, when we introduced the question, the children were doubtful. We had just learned a song which calls God “invincible,” which led to a small investigation of the difference in meaning between “invincible” and “invisible;” but when it came to seeing God, it was God’s invisibility that raised doubts and caution in the children’s minds. How could they hear God with their own ears; see God with their own eyes; touch God with their own two hands?
It is Thomas’s dilemma, and it is the human condition, to wonder how to trust the evidence of our sense when they are working beyond the realm of the visible, audible, smellable, touchable world in which we live and move and have our being. The world, I might add, that God gave us.
The other disciples tried to persuade Thomas of what they had seen and heard, but he was doubtful, at least at first. By the end of the week, though, when Jesus returned once more, Thomas was ready, and his only recorded words at that meeting are not of doubt but of joyful worship: “My Lord and my God!”
Had his brother persuaded him? Or at least sown the seeds of doubt in his mind at his own stubbornness, the resistance of his senses?
We do influence one another, in the way that we see or don’t see God; in the way that we look upon the world that God has made. Choosing to look for God’s actions within it helps us to know where we are called to act in union with God’s will; to know where it is that Jesus is beckoning us to hold his hands, touch his side, follow him.
There is a strong theme of thunder in the t-shirts hanging downstairs. The children found God’s voice in the thunder; they recognized God’s power in the storm; and they saw the light split open the darkness. By Wednesday or Thursday morning, when the thunder rolled in before dawn, before my alarm went off, I found myself rolling over and rumbling back, ”Good morning, God.” The children at our VBS had influenced where I found God, heard God’s voice, calling me to rise to another day.
This morning, I awoke to the sound of a flock of geese. The ancient Celts thought that these were a sign of the Spirit; how else, they wondered, could they know how to fly in a perfect V formation, except by divine inspiration. In the half-light this morning, I imagined the V of the geese flying the line between the light and the dark in the sky, bringing the light to life: Good morning, God.
These fifty days of Easter are a strange and troubling time, when the risen Christ walks abroad, taking his disciples by surprise on the road, by the water, behind closed doors, murmuring of Peace. They are days when the signs of God are all around us, the signs of resurrection, calling us into the good news that the kingdom of God has drawn near. But as the disciples trembled to recognize Jesus – Mary in the garden, the couple on the road to Emmaus; Thomas, hearing the news second-hand – so it is easy for us to dismiss and even willfully ignore the signs of Christ’s presence, unless we choose otherwise; unless we choose to walk in the light, with our eyes open.
It is easy; it is too easy to see the dark side. It is never hard to find; it never was, from the rise of Rome to its falling; history turning in its grave. It is our vocation to find the new life of the light of Christ, whether in a historic handshake or the embrace of brothers; and it is our vocation to share the good news of the risen Christ at work in the world; to tell the story of God’s love for the world, of Jesus who returns with a greeting of Peace; because we have influence in the way that the world lives and moves and has its being, when we choose to share what we have heard and seen and touched concerning the word of life.
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us… so that our joy may be complete.
We have seen the Lord.