Witnessing the Unexpected
Jesus appears to the disciples
Why don’t the children come forward as I’m going to need some help.
Now, having been on holidays, I have to admit I’ve been a bit out of touch with the world. So I’ve been trying to catch up reading news online. As usual there is lots going on; the Commonwealth games, horrific developments in the war in Syria and other news closer to home. There are constantly so many things going on around the world, we must rely on others to tell us what is happening in the world – we need to trust them to tell us. Of course doubt is also important, ‘fake news’ is out there, we hear incomplete stories, and we always get a person’s take on the story. It’s important we don’t always take people’s word for it.
Asking the children: Do you know what the Scientific method is?
– always remain sceptical.
– come up with a hypothesis,
– test, observe, measure (witness)
– and then you modify your hypothesis, and test again
Experiments have to be repeated, and our knowledge builds up from others – an important part of science is getting others to prove our discoveries are repeatable. Knowledge then builds up with different people bringing their own observations to what has happened. Sir Isaac Newton who is often considered to have discovered gravity is famed as saying that if he appears to have seen further than others it is because he was standing on the shoulders of giants.
It’s important to remember that one person’s experiments or observations aren’t enough. The discovery of DNA for example, the material that appears in every one of our cells. Understanding it wasn’t simply achieved when it was discovered in the 1860s, but it took nearly a century and the gathering of information from many different scientists to understand what DNA really was and how important it is to us.
Ok, so I’m going to claim I can put this egg into this bottle without touching it. Placing egg on bottle with narrower neck than egg. Do you believe I can do it? Then let’s experiment.
A match is lit and dropped into the bottle before quickly placing the egg on top – the egg, hopefully, gets sucked into the bottle.
Speaking to the children: Now you are witnesses – you’ve seen it happen but the rest of the congregation couldn’t see, they need to trust you and believe you. Can you make some observations? What happened…
In today’s Gospel we are told that Jesus opened the disciples minds so that they could understand what scripture was talking about. Up until his resurrection the disciples are a bit lost and confused. Then they begin to understand. It’s very easy to sit back and let somebody else think for us. Imagine at school the teacher came round and wrote the answers down for you in your homework book, you would never learn to think for yourself. Jesus had been feeding the disciples the answers, but now the time was approaching when they would need to go out and explain to others what Jesus had been teaching. And we are told that they had doubts. Doubt is an important part of our faith. If the disciples hadn’t doubted, would they have been convincing telling others what they had seen? Would they have ever taken note of touching him and seeing him eat? In this period after Easter, as well as hearing the stories of Jesus in the Gospel, we hear the stories of what his disciples did after his ascension in readings from Acts of the Apostles, because Jesus death, even though he is then resurrected, passes the baton on to them to go and teach others. So it is important that we hear about those stories too.
But it’s not just for the disciples – we are all witnesses to how God has changed and shaped our lives. We all have our own perspective based on our own personal experience, we have our own doubts and our own understanding. And we each bring new understandings to the message, new observations. Jesus sends the disciples out with this message of forgiveness and reconciliation for all the world. The Job of engaging with our faith is not just down to me, or to academics in universities, or to the bishop. Just like learning at school isn’t just dependent on a teacher. We each are called by Jesus in this passage to be witnesses of God’s love. And we witness that love by demonstrating it to others in the way we live our lives.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams