Love and disagreement
Posted on the 24th Jun 2014 in the Category - Sermons
Bishop Glyn was asked to write a reflection for the Diocese of York Newsletter. This is what he wrote...
They say a week is a long time in politics. The week following Jesus’ resurrection had to feel even longer for the disciples in the Gospel according to John (20.19-29). On that first day of the week, the disciples met together in a house. They were afraid, so they locked the doors. Now, Thomas wasn’t with them for some reason. But, despite the locked doors, the risen Jesus came and stood among the ten disciples who were there and said ’Peace be with you’, and they were glad when they saw the Lord. At some point later, Thomas came to the house, and the ten disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord’. But he would not believe them. He said: ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ And that is why he is often referred to as Doubting Thomas, the apostle whose feast we celebrate on the 3rd of July. But I don’t think that’s terribly fair to Thomas. What’s most important about Thomas in this passage is not his doubting, but rather his dissenting. Dissenting Thomas I might call him instead, because, in his conscience, he could not believe what he had been told. And I think that is important, and I think that Jesus thinks it is important, too. More on that in a moment.
Now, what is important for us present-day disciples of Jesus, as General Synod votes on giving final approval to the possibility of ordaining women to the episcopate, is what John the Evangelist says next, namely, ‘A week later Jesus’ disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.’ That week had to have been a long week. The ten disciples who had seen Jesus were convinced of his resurrection. Thomas was not. They could not disagree more about something more fundamental. Yet they stayed together. The ten didn’t excommunicate Thomas, and Thomas didn’t leave.
Their love for one another, their bonds of affection, had to have been more important to them than their disagreement. And in that sense, they were all truly Jesus’ disciples, for, as Jesus had said after he had washed the disciples feet, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. (John 13.34-5) I think that this might point to the reason Jesus appeared to some but not all of his disciples on that first day of the week, and then gave them all a week to live in difference together, to see what they would do.
Would the ten say to Thomas, ‘Because you do not believe, you have no part with us?’ Or would Thomas say to the ten: ‘Because I do not believe, I have no part with you?’ No. No-one said anything of the sort. They stayed together. After that week, Jesus then appeared to all of them, including Thomas, and Thomas, the supposedly Doubting Thomas, (and this is why that name makes no sense) then made the greatest Christological confession recorded in the Scriptures saying, ‘My Lord and my God!’, something it took the rest of the Church until the mid-Fifth Century to realise for themselves.
We, in the Church of England, are at a point in our discipleship not too dissimilar from that of the eleven after Jesus’ resurrection. We disagree about something important. Some of us favour the possibility of ordaining women to the episcopate. Some of us do not. Will those who favour this possibility make room for those who do not, as the ten did for Thomas? Will those who do not favour this possibility stay in the Church, as Thomas did in that house? I hope and pray that we all will, make room for one another and stay together. Just as Thomas was as much a true disciple of Jesus as the ten were - he was the one who had said previously, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (John 11.16) - so are Anglicans who disagree with the ordination of women to the episcopate as much loyal Anglicans as those who agree with the ordination of women to the episcopate.
Love is indeed stronger than death, as Jesus’ resurrection proves. It is also stronger than difference, as the disciples staying together proves. May everyone know us all, despite our disagreement, as the disciples of Jesus by our love for one another.
The Rt Revd Glyn Webster,
Bishop of Beverley
Update on Bishop Glyn
Posted on the 6th Jun 2014 in the Category - News
Bishop Glyn continues to remain somewhat immobile and still in severe pain. He is taking a hefty cocktail of painkillers (occasionally washed down with Gin) which are only having a moderate impact on easing the pain. He feels he's been confined to the house for long enough now! Bishop Glyn is desperate to be out and about, therefore he is doing his best to do what he can manage. At the moment the root problem is still undiagnosed and he is awaiting the results of a recent MRI scan. However the symptoms do seem to point towards a neurological problem. He has been grateful for your prayers thus far and would be grateful for your continued prayerful support.