Sunday, April 15, 2012

2 Easter

Low Sunday
April 15, 2012

John 20.19-31


+ I’m going to say something you don’t very often hear from a pulpit. Certainly not something you hear from a priest, of all people. But…I actually like atheists. I really do. I respect them. I respect their honesty. I respect their integrity. I respect their ability to question and explore areas of spirituality and theology and religion that we Christians sometimes are afraid to explore. And they ask and ponder questions we are sometimes afraid to ask.

Most Christians are afraid to ask some questions, are afraid to explore their doubts. And I think we are doing ourselves a major disservice by not exploring our own doubts. Because, we all need to be honest: we all doubt. Everyone in this church this morning has doubted at times. And the fact is, there is nothing wrong with doubting. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest things we can do as believers.

In this morning’s Gospel, we encounter doubt of course in the person of the apostle Thomas. Doubting Thomas, as we’ve come to know him, doubted that Jesus was resurrected until he had put his very fingers into the wounds of Jesus. It wasn’t enough that Jesus actually appeared to him in the flesh. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t a ghost or something after all. He stood there in the flesh—wounds and all. Only when he had placed his finger in the wounds, would he believe. I always liked this story and what it stands for.

In Rome, you can actually go and see what is believed to be St. Thomas’ incorrupt finger. This finger that touched Jesus in such a way is now supposedly preserved, in a glass case in the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It actually doesn’t look much like a finger. It looks like a piece of bone, actually. But for over a thousand years people have believed that what it is.

I think it’s always interesting to hear this story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas, I think, is so much like us in many ways. We sometimes do need little bits of proof to make our faith meaningful. We sometimes need to touch the wounds of our own faith to actually believe. We sometimes need to proof just to get us through the difficult phases of our belief.

But, the fact is, we are not St. Thomas. For the rest of us, we don’t get it so easy. Our doubts are not as easily done away with. Jesus is probably not going to appear before us—in the flesh. And we are not going to have the opportunity to touch the wounds of Jesus. Let’s face it, to believe without seeing, is not easy. It takes work and discipline.

Look at us this morning. More likely than not, we can all think of at least one or two things we’d rather be doing this Sunday morning than being in church. But instead, we made the choice to come to church. We made a choice to come here this morning, and worship a God we cannot see, not touch.

A strong relationship with God takes work—just as any other relationship in our life takes work. It takes discipline. It takes concentrated effort. And with that, we cannot get around the fact there will be times of doubt. We will question. We will, however briefly, question God’s actions, God’s love for us. We might even question the actual existence of God at times.

It’s important to question. Questioning means we’re not robots. And doubting is not a bad thing in and of itself. Without some doubt, we would, again, be nothing more than unthinking and unquestioning robots. And that is not faith.

Faith is being able to weigh both the certainties and uncertainties and still make that step forward into the unknown and hope and believe that we will be sustained. Doing so is not the easiest road to take. It takes constant work to make that step into the unknown. Belief doesn’t—and shouldn’t—come easy. It takes constant discipline to believe in something we can’t see or touch. It takes constant discipline to believe that there is something out there that we cannot see or feel that will sustain us when we take that step forward.

In a sense, we are sometimes like blind people groping in the dark, trying to understand who and what God is in our lives. We make our guesses. We see God as we want to see God. We often form God into our image when we can’t do anything else. And when we can’t do any of that—or if we just get tired of all the human-made images of God that exists—we deny God. We say, there is no God.

Now, for Thomas, he saw. He touched. It was all made clear to him. But we don’t get that chance. We are often just groping about in the void, trying to make some sense of who this God is that we follow and love and worship.

“Blessed are those who believe but don’t see,” Jesus says this morning in our Gospel reading.

We are those blessed ones. We are the ones Jesus is speaking of in this morning’s Gospel. Blessed are we. We believe, but don’t see. We are the ones who are able to look up into the void, into the very depths, and, unable to see God with our eyes, we somehow still have faith. Seen or unseen, we know God is there. And our faith is not based on seeing God here. Because we have faith that one day, yes, we will see God.

We have this faith because the One we the follow—Jesus—showed us the way forward. He stepped out into that void and was held up. He still motions to us to come forward, to step into what we think is a void. Because Jesus did what he did, we know we too will be held up. And because he died and was resurrected, even though we might doubt it at times, even though it doesn’t make sense to our rational minds, we know—deeply—that this is what awaits us as well. And, on that glorious day, we will run to God and see God face to face. And in that moment, our faith will be fulfilled.

Blessed are you who believe but don’t see now. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly yours.

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