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'You gotta have faith': The apostle Thomas (3 July)

To show that faith is an essential part of life and is not incompatible with rationality.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To show that faith is an essential part of life and is not incompatible with rationality.

Preparation and materials

  • You could play George Michael’s song, ‘Faith’, as the pupils arrive.
  • The reading is John 20.24–29 (see ‘Time for reflection’).

Assembly

  1. Sceptical, disbelieving, needing proof: words which might be used to describe your teacher’s attitude to your latest excuse for not handing in your homework, or indeed the attitude of modern rational people to the world around them. These days we are not going to believe it unless we see it.

    Despite George Michael’s exhortation, ‘You gotta have faith, faith, faith’ (great song!), there seems to be precious little of it around.

    The buzzword of our age is ‘postmodernism’ – which means many things, but to a large extent refers to the radical suspicion of the present age. We are living in a time when people are suspicious of Big Ideas – suspicious of religion, suspicious of authority, suspicious even of language itself.
  2. Yet despite this atmosphere of suspicion, faith and trust are prerequisites for life. This morning you will have faith that the classroom roof will not collapse on your head, that your teacher is teaching you the right GCSE or A level syllabus (you might want to check that one out, actually!), that what your best friend tells you at break is true.

    Without those fundamental faith assumptions, life would be very difficult and we would all lapse into chronic paranoia.
  3. Professor Richard Dawkins and his supporters, who advocate a militant atheism, seem to be blind to the irony that they have the same level of certainty as the religious believers they criticize. How can they – short of being omniscient – be so sure that there is no God? How can they be sure that all the mysteries of the universe can be comprehended by our rational faculties? 

    This is not to say that faith is irrational. Rather, faith is about having the humility to recognize that some things might lie beyond our rational understanding. Faith is about being open-minded, about being open to the truth which lies beyond us.
  4. More than that, we need faith to have hope for our world. Reason alone cannot solve the problems which beset humankind; it cannot provide a vision for the future. Many of the great visionaries of the past and present – people such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jnr and Desmond Tutu – were and are people of faith.
  5. All of this does not mean that it is wrong or sinful to doubt. Faith is not certainty. Doubt is a part of faith; indeed, we need to go through doubt to establish a stronger faith, a faith which is personal and meaningful.

Time for reflection

The feast day of the apostle Thomas is on 3 July. More than any other disciple Thomas embodies modern scepticism and rationalism – he refuses to believe in the resurrection unless he sees proof, as we shall see in the story we are about to hear. Yet it is because Thomas honestly expresses his doubt that he is able to find a real faith, and can proclaim those great words in John’s Gospel, ‘My Lord and my God!’

(Read John 20.24–29)

Prayer
Lord, there is so much in our world which causes us to be disbelieving, cynical and suspicious.
Grant us the gift of faith
that we may live lives suffused with a sense of joy, hope and wonder.
Amen.

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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