Pretty much, the only story most Christians… most Protestant Christians hear about the Apostle Thomas is how he doubted the resurrection of Christ and said he would not believe until he had seen Christ’s wounds and stuck his fingers into them as proof. He will always be known as ‘Doubting Thomas’ in all of Protestantism.
Last night, however, in catecumen class, we were treated to a story by our parish priest about Thomas that I had never before heard. Saint Thomas built a church in India. That’s right… a CHURCH … in INDIA! And how he did it is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.
Now, when I say he built a church, I’m not saying a physical building. I’m talking about the body of Christ. We, the congregation, are the church. The buildings in which we worship are temples.
Thomas went to India. He asked the Lord what he would be doing when he got there and the Lord replied, ‘You will be an architect.’, Thomas protested saying he didn’t know anything about building. When he arrived, the local prince was looking for an architect to build his palace. Thomas said he would do it. The prince gave him money to get started and then the prince left. Thomas took the money and gave it to the poor telling them to pray for their prince. The prince inquired as to the progress of his palace. Thomas told him he needed more money and the prince gave it to him. Again, Thomas gave away the money to the poor asking them to pray for their prince. The prince arrived one day to check on the progress of his palace. Upon learning that nothing had been done and the money given to the poor, he had Thomas put into prison. Shortly thereafter, the prince’s brother died and went to heaven. While he was there he saw a magnificent palace. He asked God, ‘Whose palace is that?’.
‘Your brother’s palace that Thomas built.’.
The man then said, ‘Please send me back so that I may tell my brother what I have seen.’.
The Lord sent him back and he told his brother all that he had seen in heaven and implored him to release Thomas from prison. Thomas HAD built a magnificent palace for the prince, it just was not here on earth.
Is that not something much better to be remembered for than being doubtful of Jesus’ resurrection? This is something you will not find in scripture but does that make it any less valid than if it had ended up in the canon? No. But we miss out on such things by only reading our bibles, or modern studies instead of learning about those who where Christians before us.
I have two points of thought for you.
- If you are a Protestant and you read ‘Christian’ books other than your bible, why do you read those books but fear reading uncanonized gospels? Being part of the canon does not make one gospel more accurate than another nor does it mean one gospel is wrong or dangerous to read. Think about it. You read books by ‘Christian Authors’; Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyers, Beth Moor, etc., but reading a book written by someone who we Orthodox Christians refer to as, ‘ancient fathers’ is off putting to you… even scary. That ‘Circle Maker’ book that was so popular a few years ago is flat out witchcraft. How many of you have read it? How many of you have read; 50 Shade of Grey for crying out loud? But you think reading about Christian saints is wrong? I humbly offer to you your first (maybe your first) Orthodox Christian book to read: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika. It might make you wonder, ‘If this is what it means to be a Christian then what have I been doing so far as a Christian?’. It is not a self-help book that teaches you how to; ‘Think and Grow Rich’ or how to, ‘Live Your Best Life Now’. It is a book that deals with difficult aspects of living a Christian life like; how to react when people offend you. How to pray for your neighbor and your community.
- If you have been unhappy attending your church. If you have been wandering from church to church, by not look up your local Orthodox church and attend 5-10 services? Not just the Sunday morning liturgy, but the night time prayers on Wednesday & Saturday and drop in on a catechumen class, or 2… or 10. You will learn so much about Christianity. I grew up in church. I read my bible. I went to Sunday school and bible studies. I did studies by; Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer. I even watched the movie, ‘The War Room’. Even when I was a Protestant I though tit was watered down and trite. A movie filled with cliches.
Modern Christianity, I think, has become rife with sound bites. Where is the meat and potatoes I’d heard so much about but never experienced for myself? I never found it until I started attending the Orthodox Christian church.
Please, forgive me if anything I have said offends you. It is not my intent to hurt people but that does not mean that it does not happen. I just remember how I felt searching and struggling in my Christianity for so long. How disappointed I became as I saw it become more commercialized and worldly.
I am debating about whether or not to start a vlog series about coming to Orthodoxy. I’m praying about it.
If you have been struggling with your Christian faith, if what you read in your bible does not align with what you are hearing from the pulpit or seeing on stage, take heart. don’t give up on Christianity. The Orthodox church is the same as it’s ever been. The same as what we read in the book of Acts. Give it a go and see what happens. But give it an honest go. Don’t just dabble around with it. Don’t just go once or twice and blow it off because you have preconceived ideas about it or because of some misinformation you read about it on the Internet.
If you have any questions I will try to answer them the best I can.