17-Introduction to Thomas - Act 1, Act 2
I was made aware that there would be visitors here this morning, so I felt it necessary to do a little catch-up review. In my recent sermons I have presented certain principles, in long chains of logical sequences, creating a certain point of reference; therefore, an understanding of some of the things I will be saying today, depends on a familiarity with some of these previously presented concepts. To whit:
About two months ago, having gone through some major philosophical digressions about ecstasy and death, I had just decided to get back to the Bible, and embark on a survey of the Acts of the Apostles; however in the very first chapter, I noticed a discrepancy: in Acts, Judas' death is described as taking place in a field, where his guts burst open. Of course, we know that, in the Synoptic Gospels, Judas hangs himself. Whassup wit dat? So, I got curious about Judas. Then I stumbled onto this whole big a library of so-called Gnostic Gospels, not all of which are actually Gnostic, but all of which are texts which were either rejected by the 4th century Nicene Authority, or that were discovered within the last 150 years most of them in the 20th century and some of them as recently as 2007.
As I familiarize myself with the Gnostic Gospels, and the principles of Gnosticism, I have come more and more to realize what we are actually talking about: we are talking about an intersection between the Historical Jesus and the Mythologized Jesus. Although it is well understood that the very moment in which Jesus shed His blood upon the ground for all mankind--that very instant--was a turning point in history; a moment too short to name, but which, nevertheless, changed the flow of events down the river of time forever. The pantheism of primitive man became doomed to extinction, and a God with a Human face was born. The ancient wisdom, which deplored earthly life and looked forward to the life everlasting as the ultimate spiritual goal, was replaced with a new idea--the idea of heaven on Earth. Jesus inaugurated this idea, here nicely expressed by Rudolf Steiner:
"When the apparently worthless in our existence is taken hold of by the spiritual, it is resurrected in a degree more perfect than before and is spiritually embodied. Nothing in existence is really worthless because it rises again if the spirit has entered into it aright."
Indeed, God is in everything, the earth the sky, the stars, but now the God has a personality which He extends to us as a model and a mold. As to the passing by of two historical eras, Steiner says this:
"In our period of evolution two streams of spiritual life are at work. One of them is the stream of wisdom, or the Buddha stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ stream itself that will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality."
Thus, the Christ Consciousness, experienced as a MORAL impulse, is the power that can transform Hell into Heaven. Now, even though the essential change was instantaneous, it took several centuries for this change to gather momentum, in the minds of the people, and influence the culture to a degree to which an appreciably different quality could be discerned in the collective unconscious. During this time of growth, those two to three hundred years, many things happened to translate the History of what happened into the Myth of what happened, and, hence, into a Literature of culturally held Philosophic/Religious principles.
As we know, history never happens in stepwise motion, it always evolves in gradual, slowly morphing, circular transitions, from one state to another. So, the charm of the Gnostic gospels, and of Gnosticism in general, especially Christian Gnosticism, is in its paradox: the apparent contradictions between certain dogmatic items in the two philosophies. At first glance, these contradictions threaten to cancel each other out, but, on closer inspection, we find that the disagreements are not fundamental, they are incidental--furthermore they are disagreements in transit. By this I mean: the Christian Gnostics represent an historical blending of two philosophies as the older, primitive, pantheistic philosophy morphs into the newly enlightened Christian age, in which the incarnation of God, as the Christ, becomes available to us, to enrich our lives, and to help us along a path toward ever more defined person-ness, and higher, ever higher, levels of consciousness.
As we study the Gnostic Gospels we witness the primitive, pantheistic, inarticulate Gnostic God, infusing Himself with the newly transformed personality of the Christ. Indeed it is fair to say that during the 200 years after Jesus' death (sic), there was a kind of a passing of the torch from the old to the new. Several general characteristics of the Gnostic Gospels consistently exemplify this idea, for instance: many of the things in the Gnostic Gospels, certainly in the Judas gospel, include Genesis-like descriptions of the beginning of the universe, and so on, which are not precisely in sync with our normal Old Testament readings. Heavenly hierarchies are described in majorly Old Testament language, which clearly look backwards, toward an older, more primitive world view.
Additionally, the Gnostic Gospels tend to portray the character of Jesus in unprecedented ways; the Gnostic portrayals of Jesus are mostly consistent with the synoptic Gospels, but they also contain reports of occasional outlandishly-eccentric behaviors, the like of which do not appear in any of the accepted gospels. Examples of Jesus' outlandish behavior include His laughter, (nowhere in the accepted Bible does Jesus laugh--He weeps, but He doesn't laugh), His disapparition, (He comes and goes mysteriously, disappearing sometimes in the middle of a conversation), and, (the most outlandish action of all), at one point, He actually sells Thomas into slavery. These, if not shocking, are certainly surprising behaviors, which parallel some of the actions of Krishna, in the Mahabarata.
Thus, as the ancient idea of earthly life as a veil of tears from which we gladly escape, morphs into something new, with Jesus' message of Heaven on Earth, we witness, throughout Gnostic Gospels the growth of an idea, planted and watered by Jesus, (as mentioned in Judas), flowering into an era of hope, discovery, and worldly celebration.
A scene illustrating the passing of one era into another, appears in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. In this scene a temple is described in which are situated two statues, representations of a lower and a higher goddess. The lower goddess, Ungit, is a great, round stone, of no particular shape; as the blood offerings trickle down its sides, the observer may see a face, or faces, or no face in the uninflected gray. The higher goddess is a white marble Grecian statue, beautiful, articulate, focused. A peasant woman has just come in and said prayers to Ungit, the lower goddess, and, as she is leaving, the the onlooking queen stops her:
"Has Ungit comforted you, child" I asked.
"Oh yes, Queen" said the woman, her face almost brightening, "Oh yes. Ungit has given me great comfort. There's no goddess like Ungit."
"Do you always pray to that Ungit," said I (nodding toward the shapeless stone), "and not to that?" here I nodded towards our new image, standing tall and straight in her robes and (whatever the Fox might say of it) the loveliest thing our land has ever seen.
"Oh, always this, Queen," said she. "That other, the Greek Ungit, she wouldn't understand my speech. She's only for nobles and learned men. There's no comfort in her."
The representations in this temple are very different faces of a single goddess, different phases (note the word "phases")--I say, the representations in this temple are very different faces of a single goddess, different phases of a single identity. Although the outer forms of these two opposing representations are quite unlike each other, they both tend toward the same spiritual essence, even though it must be emphasized that the ARTICULATED form is the one that is finally accessible to all who embrace the new age. Some people need the old gods for comfort; they don't know what they are missing.
So, with these words, let us now proceed to the Gospel of Thomas.
This is the most popular, and longest of the Gnostic Gospels. It is also more like the Synoptic Gospels than the other Gnostic Gospels, with some significant differences. This is taken from an internet article, Where did the Gospel of Thomas come from?
"The spirituality in the Gospel of Thomas is a form of early Christian mysticism. It was a contemplative type of Christianity that grew in Syria as well as Alexandria. The idea was that each person had the choice to grow into God's Image or to remain stunted due to Adam's decision. If the person chose to grow, then the divinization process was gradual and included not only ritual activities like baptism and eucharist, but also instructional and contemplative activities. Part of the process then was living as Jesus lived - it was imitative. The other part was contemplating who and where Jesus was. This contemplative life led to heavenly (or interiorized) journeys and visions of God. Eventually the faithful would become like Jesus, replacing their fallen image with the image of God. This contemplative Christianity is not heretical, but an early form of eastern orthodoxy! . . .
This gospel understands Jesus to be a charismatic figure. By this I mean, Jesus continues to live in their community even after he has died. His spirit continues to speak to this community of faithful, and they continue to record his teachings. They do not appear to have made any distinction between the "historical" Jesus before death and the "spirit" Jesus after death, at least in terms of authority or historicity of his words. The Jesus that emerges in the Gospel of Thomas is not entirely foreign to the New Testament portrayals, particularly as we see him emerge in the Gospel of John - but also, as we see him in Mark, teaching publicly to the crowds and privately his mysteries to a few close followers."
[Sidebar: In the accepted Gospels, Jesus is OCCASIONALLY depicted with a single disciple, off to the side, giving personal, exclusive, advice and insight. In the Gnostic Gospels Jesus is nearly ALWAYS depicted that way. Each Gnostic Gospel's author seems to have been singled out by Jesus for some distinct quality or other, and given an anomalous, personal message. This action may violate our democratic sense of fair play and equality, however, it is not untrue that all men are UNequal. The hierarchical division of the cosmos into levels, in the Gnostic Gospels, is paralleled by the idea that every created soul inhabits an absolutely unique place in the cosmic hierarchy.
Back to Where did the Gospel of Thomas come from?:
"His message is either similar to the New Testament Jesus, or contiguous with him. He teaches against carnality and succumbing to bodily desire. He's an advocate for celibacy. He preaches that the Kingdom of God is here, that people must make a choice whether to enter it or not, that this choice requires an exclusive commitment to him and God, that the going is tough and few will be able to make it. He demands a lifestyle of righteous living, promises rewards including personal transformation and revelation."
So, the book is called the Gospel of Thomas, though it is sometimes called the Acts of Thomas, or The Acts of Judas Thomas. The Acts of Judas Thomas, are a group of tales--each act is a discrete story, which may have one or two miracles involved in it. Today we will explore the first two acts.
The first act is a two-part story, so beautifully told, in the book, I really hate to vulgarize it with a prosaic summary; but I just can't read out the whole thing, it would take too long, so, in order to focus on the more spiritually meaningful sections, we must sacrifice some of the elegant, narrative details.
The thing begins with Jesus: the Jesus who hung around after His resurrection to give the Apostles some final instructions before sending them out into the world with the Good News. There are many people who think that Jesus remained physically incarnated and physically active for some time after his resurrection, and continued to teach and direct the disciples into their various missionary objectives. In just such a missionary assignment, Thomas was chosen to go to India. Thomas didn't want to go, he refused to go, so Jesus simply sold Thomas, as a slave, to this merchant who was in the market for a carpenter capable of building a palace for his master, a king of India. So Thomas, kind of like Jonah, found himself on a boat bound for someplace he didn't really want to go.
So, the ship travels around the horn, through the gulf of Aden, into the Arabian Sea, and lands in a coastal city of India. The King of that city has just proclaimed that there will be a great marriage feast, because his daughter is getting married. Everybody in town is expected to attend this big party, and Thomas and his new master, the Merchant, decide to go to the feast, so that the King will not be offended.
At the wedding feast Thomas is just sitting there, stoically, not doing anything, when this busboy comes up and slaps him in the face, because he is not doing anything, eating, or drinking, or celebrating. Thomas takes this the slap in the face, then he says,
"My God will forgive thee in the life to come this iniquity, but in this world thou shalt show forth his wonders and even now shall I behold this hand that hath smitten me dragged by dogs."
Of course, he was speaking the Hebrew language, and nobody there understood what he was saying, except this flute player. There was this girl flute player, entertaining at the party, going from group to group, playing for them; she happened to be standing next to Thomas when the cup-bearer struck him. Since she was also Jewish, she understood the Hebrew that Thomas spoke, so she understood what happened later. The plot thickens:
Presently, this cup-bearer goes outside to the well, to get more water, and there he encounters a lion; the lion tears him to pieces and leaves him lying on the ground, where the town dogs fight over his flesh. One of the dogs picks up a severed hand in his teeth, and walks into the marriage ceremony, like dogs do, saying, "Look at me! Look at the prize I've got in my mouth! Yummy!"
So when the flute player sees this, she announces to the party at hand that Thomas has performed a miracle of prophecy. Some of them believe that he has, and some don't. But, in any case, word of this reaches the King, and the King sends for this doer of miracles to pronounce a blessing on his daughter on her wedding night. Thomas follows, it says, unwillingly.
I'm interested in the detail that mentions that Thomas goes to see the king unwillingly. One wonders why he was unwilling. Perhaps he just didn't want to be told what to do, and thus be diverted from his mission to go with the merchant to build a palace for this OTHER King; or it may have been something like when Jesus turned water into wine--remember He chastises His mother for making Him do what it wasn't quite time to do, ("Woman My hour is not yet come."); perhaps Thomas was unwilling because he knew that the truth of what he had to say might change the children's lives, and cause the father to take revenge on him, or detain him, which almost happened.
How many of us are unwilling witnesses? How often do we allow ourselves stick out, in a society in which spirituality is not openly spoken of, in which spirituality is not part of normal daily conversation? How many times have we made reference to it, in informal conversation, and watched the conversation freeze in embarrassment, or in a paroxysm of complex of emotional responses. Certainly, in the academic world, mention of anything spiritual, or even nonscientific, is expressly taboo. It is the rare person who is willing to take the risk of speaking out, in a social context in which the word "religion" may ignite a tinder box of preset prejudicial reactions. So, an unwilling witness is really a hero, because nobody wants to stick his neck out, but we know we must be willing to do it anyway. Let us not forget that the unwilling witness is the most effective proselytizer of them all, because he witnesses only when the Spirit is present and decrees, through divine intervention, that an act of primordial significance must be performed.
When Thomas meets the bride and groom at their home, he speaks the following prayer; the prayer is a song of praise to God in His manifold manifestations, and it has a structure and poetic feel similar to that of the Rig Vedas:
"'My Lord and MY God, that travellest with thy servants, that guidest and correctest them that believe in thee, the refuge and rest of the oppressed, the hope of the poor and ransomer of captives, the physician of the souls that lie sick and saviour of all creation, that givest life unto the world and strengthenest souls; thou knowest things to come, and by our means accomplishest them: thou Lord art he that revealeth hidden mysteries and maketh manifest words that are secret: thou Lord art the planter of the good tree, and of thine hands are all good works engendered: thou Lord art he that art in all things and passest through all, and art set in all thy works and manifested in the working of them all. Jesus Christ, Son of compassion and perfect saviour, Christ, Son of the living God, the undaunted power that hast overthrown the enemy, and the voice that was heard of the rulers, and made all their powers to quake, the ambassador that wast sent from the height and camest down even unto hell, who didst open the doors and bring up thence them that for many ages were shut up in the treasury of darkness, and showedst them the way that leadeth up unto the height: l beseech thee, Lord Jesu, and offer unto thee supplication for these young persons, that thou wouldest do for them the things that shall help them and be expedient and profitable for them.'
And he laid his hands on them and said: The Lord shall be with you, and left them in that place and departed."
The story goes on:
"And the king desired the groomsmen to depart out of the bride-chamber; and when all were gone out and the doors were shut, the bridegroom lifted up the curtain of the bride-chamber to fetch the bride unto him. And he saw the Lord Jesus bearing the likeness of Judas Thomas and speaking with the bride; even of him that but now had blessed them and gone out from them, the apostle; and he saith unto him: Wentest thou not out in the sight of all? how then art thou found here? But the Lord said to him: I am not Judas which is also called Thomas but I am his brother. And the Lord sat down upon the bed and bade them also sit upon chairs, and began to say unto them:
"Remember, my children, what my brother spake unto you and what he delivered before you: and know this, that if ye abstain from this foul intercourse, ye become holy temples, pure, being quit of impulses and pains, seen and unseen, . . ."
[At this point there is a long diatribe against carnal knowledge, and the many disastrous consequences of having children.
"But if ye be persuaded and keep your souls chaste before God, there will come unto you living children whom these carnal blemishes touch not, and ye shall be without care, leading a tranquil life without grief or anxiety, looking to receive that incorruptible and true marriage, and ye shall be therein groomsmen entering into that bride-chamber which is full of immortality and light."
And when the young people heard these things, they believed the Lord and gave themselves up unto him, and abstained from foul desire and continued so, passing the night in that place. And the Lord departed from before them, saying thus: The grace of the Lord shall be with you."
After this, the bride and the groom are so moved by Thomas' sermon, and the first-hand experience of Jesus the Christ, that they decide not to get married and to remain celibate. They both make speeches to the king:
"And the bride answered and said: Verily, father, I am in great love, and I pray my Lord that the love which I have perceived this night may abide with me, and I will ask for that husband of whom I have learned to-day: and therefore I will no more veil myself, because the mirror (veil) of shame is removed from me; and therefore am I no more ashamed or abashed, because the deed of shame and confusion is departed far from me; and that I am not confounded, it is because my astonishment hath not continued with me; and that I am in cheerfulness and joy, it is because the day of my joy hath not been troubled; and that I have set at nought this husband and this marriage that passeth away from before mine eyes, it is because I am joined in another marriage; and that I have had no intercourse with a husband that is temporal, whereof the end is with lasciviousness and bitterness of soul, it is because I am yoked unto a true husband."
[Sidebar: Reflection on celibacy:
Celibacy affirms a basic principle of Gnosticism, in its favoring of the spiritual body over the physical body. In the speech to the bride and bridegroom Jesus makes reference to "foul desires". Foul desires can only mean what Freud called primitive consciousness, and what the Hindus would called lower chakra consciousness. So celibacy is one more article in the Gnostic doctrine which denies the reality of a Heaven on Earth; it says Heaven is not possible if earthly desire is part of the package, even though earthly desires occupy most of us most of the time.
Many religious disciplines promote celibacy, for instance the Catholic Church; notice that the comments of the bride sound a lot like the type of vows that a nun might make on entering a convent. Catholic priests, nuns, and monks are supposed to be celibate, (although of course many of them aren't); the purpose of celibacy is to enable the devotee to give him-her-self totally, mind and body, to God.
In kundalini yoga, celibacy is demanded, because the life force of kundalini is intimately related to sexual impulses, or, that is to say, primal energy. It is thought that wasting this precious life force on sex, when you could be directing it toward achieving enlightenment, is a sin against your own spiritual progress. Remember that boxers don't have sex before a fight, because sex drains them of the power to go the distance. The total celibacy so uncompromisingly spoken of here, is not a new recommendation; indeed, it must be remembered that this recommendation is for the special Elect of God, and not necessarily for the layman, whose responsibility it is to replenish the earth.
In the preceding paragraph I made reference to the "Elect of God". Is there such a thing, or is this a choice we all make--whether to be included in the Elect of God or not, to go the distance or not? Can it really be said that any one of us is not the Elect of God, or would choose NOT to become the Elect of God. Can there actually be levels of religious devotion acceptable in the sight of God? As we have seen, in ALL the gospels, Jesus' ministry to His disciples was very personalized--each disciple received his own special insights, and his own special blessings. Can it possibly be that Jesus accepts each one of us, each of us having ever, ever, ever so slightly different graduated niches in the hierarchy of the cosmos? We must admit that upward and downward mobility in this hierarchy is a feature of its construction, but the idea, that each one of us might be on a different plane, is somewhat mind-boggling, but also somewhat clarifying.
Jesus' commentary on celibacy sounds a lot like Shakespeare. As such, it is not only suggesting a strongly Gnostic perspective, it is also very rhetorical. This rhetorical aspect is one of the things that weakens the impact of the message here, in terms of making us believe that Jesus would actually say this. To me, this section does not sound as much like Jesus, as lots of the other places in the Gnostic Gospels. That may be because I'm not especially in favor of celibacy, but it also might be because this section, more than other sections in the Gospels, seems to be preaching a dogmatic principle, an action which is at odds with the typically free-and-unfettered-through-grace philosophy of Jesus. If He were a teacher of Kundalini yoga, as many people think He was, then he might be preaching absolute celibacy for all worthy travelers on the spiritual path. Nevertheless, as I was saying, the rhetorical aspect makes Him seem more like a character in a play, especially if we think of the character participating in the "Play of the Prince and the Princess". Also, once again perhaps this whole speech should be thought of as a personal message to those two kids, a message which may not be intended to be universally applicable. At least that's what I would like to think.
This speech of the bride to her father is of interest, not only because it expounds the many virtues of celibacy and the deplores evils of carnal reproduction, (to say the least), but because it also includes a rhapsodic love song to God. Perhaps this humble bride is a good example for all of us; perhaps there is a lesson here about where we all should be placing our most high affections.
The bridegroom has this to say:]
"And while the bride was saying yet more than this, the bridegroom answered and said: I give thee thanks, O Lord, that hast been proclaimed by the stranger, and found in us; who hast removed me far from corruption and sown life in me; who hast rid me of this disease that is hard to be healed and cured and abideth for ever, and hast implanted sober health in me; who hast shown me thyself and revealed unto me all my state wherein I am; who hast redeemed me from falling and led me to that which is better, and set me free from temporal things and made me worthy of those that are immortal and everlasting; that hast made thyself lowly even down to me and my littleness, that thou mayest present me unto thy greatness and unite me unto thyself; who hast not withheld thine own bowels from me that was ready to perish, but hast shown me how to seek myself and know who I was, and who and in what manner I now am, that I may again become that which I was: whom I knew not, but thyself didst seek me out: of whom I was not aware, but thyself hast taken me to thee: whom I have perceived, and now am not able to be unmindful of him: whose love burneth within me, and I cannot speak it as is fit, but that which I am able to say of it is little and scanty, and not fitly proportioned unto his glory: yet he blameth me not that presume to say unto him even that which I know not: for it is because of his love that I say even this much."
These speeches of the bride and the bridegroom are a manifesto of dissatisfaction with earthly relationships, and set up a very high spiritual goal for the soul. Now, it must be admitted that there is, lurking in the background of this speech, a very Gnostic idea: the bride and the bridegroom both appear to be affirming the superiority of spiritual existence, and degrading earthly experience. This would be a typical Gnostic interpretation of life, and, although we, as Christians, want to place our highest value on eternal things, we still, I reiterate one more time-- we still strive to experience and realize the eternal within the confines of the earthly realm.
When all this comes down, the King sends out a group of soldiers to bring Thomas back to the city, to receive the thanks of the King; but Thomas has already set sail for India.
The concluding scene in the first in the first act is very touching, because we find the flute girl (the girl who introduced Thomas to the men at the party, and through them the King), we find the flute girl lamenting. She is very sad because Thomas did not take her with him to India, but she goes to see the bride and the bridegroom, and they speak together of the message of Thomas, and through Thomas, Jesus, and they sort of begin the first Christian community in India. They successively bring in the father King, and then the rest of the town.
It's a lovely story in the about the power of the mission, and it shows that you that an idea is like a virus--that the truth can be catching, and can spread through the minds of men like a wave. the message for us is one of witnessing. We should learn that, by standing our ground in social situations, where it might be embarrassing to proclaim our Christianity, we should, instead, stick to our convictions, and hold forth on some point or other which might bring the mediator ship of Jesus to the forefront. This might turn out to be an aggressive action pregnant with possible good ramifications.
The second act of Thomas is a very charming story indeed.
Thomas and the merchant arrive at the city of the employer of the merchant, The King who needs a palace built. Thomas goes to the King, and the King interviews him for the job--asks him about his qualifications. Thomas says, "Out of wood I can make pulleys, and plows, and yokes, etc., and I can make columns and palaces out of stone." The king hires Thomas for the job.
So they go out in the country to this beautiful place where the palace should be built, and the King leaves Thomas there, and goes back to the city to wait for Thomas to build the palace.
While Thomas is at it, he prays this elegant prayer:
"I thank thee O Lord in all things, that thou didst die for a little space that I might live for ever in thee, and that thou hast sold me that by me thou mightest set free many. And he ceased not to teach and to refresh the afflicted, saying: This hath the Lord dispensed unto you, and he giveth unto every man his food: for he is the nourisher of orphans and steward of the widows, and unto all that are afflicted he is relief and rest."
So the King gives him a huge pile of cash for building the palace, for workers and materials, and such, and Thomas goes out into the countryside, performing miracles and distributing the money among the poor. The King sends again, "How's it going on the palace?" and Thomas says, "Almost done, just have to put on the roof." So the King sends more money, and it is once again distributed among the poor. When the King finally comes to the place, to see the palace there is nothing there. The King questions Thomas thus:
"Hast thou built me the palace?
And he said: Yea.
And the king said: When, then, shall we go and see it? but he answered him and said: Thou canst not see it now, but when thou departest this life, then thou shalt see it. And the king was exceeding wroth, and commanded both the merchant and Judas which is called Thomas to be put in bonds and cast into prison until he should inquire and learn unto whom the king's money had been given, and so destroy both him and the merchant."
So the king is getting ready to flay Thomas and the Merchant alive when this subplot sneaks in:
At the same time all this palace-building is happening, the King's brother falls ill, and on the very same night that Thomas and the Merchant are locked up, the sick brother dies. He goes to heaven and the angels show him around looking for a place to live. During this tour of heaven, the brother comes upon the magnificent house that Thomas has built for the King and, immediately, he desires it. The angels say he can't have it, because it belongs to the King. Thomas has built the palace the King asked for, but he has built it in Heaven not on Earth.
The brother instantly becomes enchanted with his house and wants it for himself, so, instead of dying he goes back, his body wakes up, says to his brother, "I want to buy this house that Thomas has built for you." When the King gets the idea, he refuses the brother's request:
"Then the king considering the matter, understood it of those eternal benefits which should come to him and which concerned him, and said: That palace I cannot sell thee, but I pray to enter into it and dwell therein and to be accounted worthy of the inhabiters of it, but if thou indeed desirest to buy such a palace, lo, the man liveth and shall build thee one better than it."
At the end of the episode, Thomas prays this prayer:
"And the apostle, filled with joy, said: I praise thee, O Lord Jesu, that thou hast revealed thy truth in these men; for thou only art the God of truth, and none other, and thou art he that knoweth all things that are unknown to the most; thou, Lord, art he that in all things showest compassion and sparest men. For men by reason of the error that is in them have overlooked thee but thou hast not overlooked them. And now at mv supplication and request do thou receive the king and his brother and join them unto thy fold, cleansing them with thy washing and anointing them with thine oil from the error that encompasseth them: and keep them also from the wolves, bearing them into thy meadows. And give them drink out of thine immortal fountain which is neither fouled nor drieth up; for they entreat and supplicate thee and desire to become thy servants and ministers, and for this they are content even to be persecuted of thine enemies, and for thy sake to be hated of them and to be mocked and to die, like as thou for our sake didst suffer all these things, that thou mightest preserve us, thou that art Lord and verily the good shepherd. And do thou grant them to have confidence in thee alone, and the succour that cometh of thee and the hope of their salvation which they look for from thee alone; and that they may be grounded in thy mysteries and receive the perfect good of thy graces and gifts, and flourish in thy ministry and come to perfection in thy Father."
In conclusion, these two acts of Thomas convey truths which are important for us to remember today, and which are consistent with any traditional interpretation of Christian doctrine. The idea of the unwilling witness is important; the responsibility of the initiated to witness, constitutes the brunt of the weight of the cross each one of us must bear. But, by far the most important point to remember is made in both of these first two Acts of Thomas: the story of the celibate devotee, saving his/her sexual energy for transport to God, and story of the palace built in Heaven for the life to come, are both glorifications of the spiritual, and remind us of the sentiments exposed this morning's call to worship:
"19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
So once again, as we speak of the Gnostic Gospels bridging the gap between the historical Jesus and the mythologized Jesus, we are reminded of an eternal principle which surely has dominated man's spiritual strivings since time immemorial, then and now, principles which are very consistent with every principle taught by the accepted Gospels: we must put God first. Now, there's a thought.
Let us pray. Jesus thank you for this testament to universal values. Thank you for appearing to us and yet more magnificent character portrayals, and thanks especially for passing on your knowledge and your power into the hearts and bodies of those who put their faith in you and rely on you for guidance and strength. Amen.