“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”These words were written by St Catherine of Siena and spoken by the Bishop of London at the Royal Wedding on Friday. It was a wonderful way to start that royal sermon for that beautiful couple, Will & Kate, and such wise words for them.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”You could also picture Jesus saying this to his disciples in that locked room after Easter. Hidden away, fearful of their lives, Jesus comes into their midst. “Peace be with you.” And when they see him and his wounds, they finally feel his peace and their fear drops away. As Dietrich Bonheffer put it,
Even as they find joy in the community again, Jesus doesn’t want to leave them with just this peace, for Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Their time in the locked room is over; they are being sent out from that community to the world. For their joy and that Good news, needs to be shared with others. The first person they go and tell is the one who was missing from among them. Thomas.
“Peace with you"—that means: he who himself is this peace, Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected, is with you. The word and sign of the living Lord bring the disciples joy. Community with the Lord, after anxious, dark days, has been found again.”
But Thomas doesn’t just want to hear about their experience, he wants to feel it himself. To see the wounds, to know it is the Lord. And a week later he gets the chance; Thomas with the other disciples are in that same room, and Jesus comes again into their midst, and shows Thomas his wounds, Do not doubt but believe, he tells Thomas, and Thomas does believe.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”The disciples leave that place and go tell others about Jesus; they start to do the ministry Jesus had called them to do and they began to set the world on fire. As we know, Jesus would appear to his disciples several times after his death & resurrection in order to give them instructions on how to continue the mission of God. And maybe another quote from Catherine of Siena might also be true of the journey of Thomas and the other disciples:
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”So what happened to Thomas? Tradition has told us that Thomas went to India. One story from an ancient Syriac manuscript called the Acts of Thomas:
And Thomas agrees to the sale and finally accepts the mission and off he goes to India, where the seeds of the Gospel would be planted and the Christians of India still see Thomas as their disciple to this day. Sometimes, Jesus has to get us out of our locked rooms, our stubborn selves, the “I can’t do that,” to help us find that true peace and joy, just as he had done with his disciples, including Thomas.
As the story goes, after Easter, the disciples cast lots to see what regions of the world that they would go to. Thomas pulled out India but refused to go. Jesus appeared one night to Thomas in his own room to speak to him, urging him to accept his assignment. But Thomas still refused, saying he was a simple Jew who knew nothing about India or its people. It would be useless for him to go there. During the day Jesus appeared in the marketplace in Jerusalem. He approached a man named Habban, whose business was buying and selling slaves, a legal and very common occupation in those days. Now on this particular day, Habban happened to have an order from an elderly Indian king who needed an carpenter — a skill that Thomas just happened to have.
And so Jesus appeared out of the crowd and offered to sell his slave Thomas to Habban. Habban agreed to buy Thomas and a bill of sale was written and Habban said, "I'll buy the man if we go to him together and if he admits in front of us both that you are his rightful owner." And as Thomas strolls down one of the winding streets of Jerusalem just after the first Easter, Jesus points to Thomas, walking up the street. Habban runs and takes the startled disciple by the arm. Habban gestures to Jesus: "Is this man your master?"
Thomas looks up in adoration and answers, "Yes, yes, my only Lord and Master." Thomas in that upper room who wanted proof is now the disciple who freely calls Jesus Lord & Master. And Habban said: I have bought you from him. And Thomas held his peace. The next day, Thomas prayed: I will go where you go, Lord Jesus: your will be done.
So what will our story be? What remains locked for you, preventing you from following God’s call in your life? (Jenna & Julia) & for all of us gathered here this morning, let us in this Eastertide be led by the Spirit so that we can indeed set the world on fire by being the person who God meant each of us to be. Let us pray.
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised though you well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. (A Prayer of St. Chrysostom)