‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’ You only want to be like someone you admire and actually investing energy into trying to be like them speaks of the depth of admiration. Not surprisingly, therefore, ‘imitation’ is an aspect of Christian discipleship. When Jesus says ‘Follow me,’ this, for those first disciples, meant a summons to go with him wherever this itinerant, charismatic, wonder-worker went. Besides belonging to the group that accompanied Jesus on his journeys, it also meant ‘following his example’. Being a disciple was about developing Jesus’ gracious approach to other people and his willingness to challenge those in authority.
Those who have been notably good at imitating Jesus become known as ‘saints’ and because they are aiming to be like Jesus, they can, in turn, echo Jesus call to ‘follow me.’ Saint Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth told the Christians there, ‘Be imitators of me, as I of Christ.’ At the Saturday Spectacular event on 1st July from 2 – 9 p.m. – you can, of course, come and go; you do not need to stay for the whole day – we are focussing on Saint Thomas. The theme is ‘in the footsteps of Saint Thomas’. Besides expressing this idea of following the example of this saint, there is also an allusion to the long missionary adventure of this great saint who many believe helped to establish the church in India. Andy Colebrooke, the former Rector of the Icknield Way parish, will be guiding our reflection on Saint Thomas. To underline the importance of learning from the saints and supremely from Jesus, there will be opportunity to do some learning – some copying – as we make bread, weave willow and work with clay under the guidance of some relative experts. The usual mix of fun, activities, good food, and worship are in the programme too, making it a very good event. The cost is £15 for an adult, and anyone under 18 is free. Booking forms can be found in St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden or downloaded from the church’s website. I encourage you to come.
Saint Thomas is best known for his unwillingness to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. That is why he is sometimes known as ‘doubting Thomas’, an epithet used commonly to refer to anyone who is sceptical. His movement from doubt to a robust faith, from ‘I will not believe’ to ‘My Lord and My God’, demonstrates that doubt can lead us to a deeper faith. When we struggle to trust God, there is an opportunity to engage vigorously with God, thereby discovering more about God’s faithfulness. Doubt and faith, therefore, should not be considered opposites. Rather doubt is the route to a stronger faith, providing that we seek God when we doubt as opposed to turning away.
In these anxious and uncertain times, we need, as a nation, to have faith in God, to turn to God. Trying to find our way out of what looks like a political maze looks problematic (I am writing on the day after the General Election). Allied to the failure of politics to give us a clear sense of direction, with the recent referendum proving a blunt instrument and this election, called to bring clarity, resulting in a confused picture, the nation is looking increasingly polarised. Our relationship with the wider world is in a state of flux too with negotiations on Brexit about to start and President Trump in the White House. As, like Thomas and all the saints, we turn to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, let this be our prayer.
Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.