St. Thomas a Becket

(chaplain this month)



I was talking to a vicar in another village today and she told me how she’d been into a school recently and asked the children how long Christmas was – 12 days; how long Lent was – 40 days; how long Holy Week was – seven days; and then the one that stumped them was how long Easter was. One voice called out ‘Three days?’ Easter in fact lasts 50 days and Pentecost, which signifies the ending of Easter, comes from the Greek word for ‘50th’. In other words Pentecost happens on the 50th day after Easter. So as you read this you will probably still be in the Easter season and may even have some last, lingering Easter eggs.

One of the things I am curious about in Easter resurrection stories is why most of the people who encounter the resurrected Jesus don’t initially recognise him. They only seem to realise who he is when they engage in a more intimate exchange with him. Last week I was in London on a course. On our afternoon off I went for a short stroll along the Thames path. Walking past a pub I glanced in wondering if I might stop for a rest and sitting inside was one of my heroes – Sandi Toksvig. After I’d nearly fallen over my feet desperately trying not to stare too obviously I walked on and then started questioning. ‘Was it really her?’ I’m not great on facial recognition at the best of times. Rounding the corner I bumped into some friends from the course and we all decided to sit in the outside area of the bar. A little while later one of my friends started pointing behind me and I turned and realised the ‘possible Sandi’ was leaving. As she began to climb the steps up to the main road I leapt up in a fit of madness and called out ‘Sandi.’ She turned and smiled and said hello. We then had a brief conversation, although embarrassment got the better of me and I suspect I ended up babbling unintelligibly. What struck me the most was how she looked like the Sandi Toksvig on TV but also didn’t – she looked much more natural and relaxed.

Reflecting on this afterwards I realised that I needed that moment of personal interaction to really know it was her. That seems to be what those encountering the risen Jesus need – a personal contact with Jesus.

In John’s Gospel there is a pattern of people hearing about Jesus but not being sure about him until they meet him face to face. Of course, our encounter with Jesus can’t literally be face to face but we can meet him in other ways – at church, through prayer or meditation or sometimes through unexpected experiences that happen to us. When we are uncertain about what we believe often we will do nothing about it. However, if I hadn’t gone and spoken to Sandi I’d probably still be wondering if it really was her. When we’re feeling uncertain or unsure maybe what we need to do is get up and speak to God.