April 7, 2013
+ I often get in trouble for this. Or I have in the past, shall we say? I often get in trouble for sharing some of my doubts. Doubts are not what people want to hear from their priest. I think people want their priests to have all the answers-=this rock-solid faith that can never be shaken. If you have ever met that priest, please introduce her or him to me. I would love to meet a priest like that. I want to BE that priest.
The fact is, yes, I have doubts too.
Yesterday, we celebrated the baptism of Emerson and Adeline Crosby. As you know, I LOVE baptisms. But baptisms are all about confronting our doubts. I say “confronting” our doubts. It is not about getting rid of them, or eliminating any doubt from our lives, or having all our doubts answered and proved.
But in Baptism, we are asked some very important questions about our faith. Do you believe these things? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
Those are hard things to believe in at times. Those are hard things to wrap our minds around at times.
It’s much easier, I think, not to believe anything. It’s easy to look up into the sky and say, we see no God. It’s easy to say we don’t believe in things we can’t see. It’s easy to say there are no ghosts, no demons, no angels. There are no hidden secrets. There are no frightening unanswered questions about existence. No one is watching us, looking over us, observing us. No surprises await us when we shed this mortal coil and head into the darkness of death. There is no hell, and no heaven.
I get that. I almost—ALMOST—envy that.
And when the atheists start raging about the white-bearded male god who sits on a throne in heaven, I realize: if that is what they don’t believe in, then…I’m an atheist too. I don’t believe in that god either. I don’t believe in a god that is so made in our image. I don’t believe in a god that is simply a projection of our own image and self. Who would want that god? We might as well go back and start worshipping the pantheon of pagan gods our ancestors worshipped.
The fact is, our God is not like that. Our God is not that easy to quantify. Our God is not that easy to pin down and define.
For us, Christians, it isn’t as easy. Being a Christian is actually quite hard. Yes, we do believe in the existence of a God that is beyond our understanding.
When I am done with this sermon, we will all stand and profess what we believe in the Nicene Creed that lays out quite clearly exactly what it is we believe as Christians. That Creed is not easy. It’s actually quite complicated. In it, we say we believe in complicated things like the Incarnation, the belief that, in Jesus, God has become actual flesh and blood. Or to use the words of the Creed:
We believe that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light,/true God from true God…”
Or the Resurrection. We believe that Jesus, God in the flesh, having been murdered ‘[on] the third day…rose again…”—in his flesh and blood.
And we believe these things not because we’ve seen them with our own eyes. We didn’t. We are essentially taking the word of a pre-scientific (dare we say “primitive”) group of people who lived two thousand years ago. We believing what a group of pre-Enlightenment, Pre-rational, superstitious Jews from a backwater Third World country are telling us they saw.
But believe because we know, in our hearts, that this is true. We know these things really did happen and that because they did, life is different—life is better, despite everything that happens. We believe these things in true faith.
We didn’t see Jesus while he was alive and walking about. We didn’t see him after he rose from the tomb. We don’t get the opportunities that Thomas had in this morning’s Gospel.
But, the fact is, for the rest of us, we don’t get it so easy. Jesus is probably not going to appear before us—in the flesh. At least, not on this side of the Veil—not while we are still alive. 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. A strong relationship with God—this invisible being we might sense, we might feel emotionally or spiritually, but we can’t pin-point—takes work—just as any other relationship in our life takes work. It takes discipline. It takes concentrated effort.
Being a Christian does not just involve being nice on occasion. Being a Christian doesn’t mean just being ethical and moral. Being a Christian means living one’s faith life fully and completely as a Christian. Being a Christians means being a reflection of God’s love, God’s Presence, God’s joy and goodness in the world.
And when we do that, God is present among us. We can’t prove it. We can’t quantify it. But we know it. And we feel it.
Now, for Thomas, he saw. He touched. It was all clear to him. But we don’t get that chance.
“Blessed are those who believe but don’t see,” Jesus says this morning.
We are those blessed ones. We are the ones Jesus is speaking of in this morning’s Gospel. Blessed are all of you. You believe, but don’t see. Seen or unseen, we know God is there. And our faith is not based on seeing God here in front of us in the flesh or proving the existence of God, or finding scientific proof for the Resurrection. Because we have faith that one day, yes, we will see God. Because Jesus died and was resurrected, we too will die and be resurrected.
We too will live a life of unending perfect sight in God’s presence. We will, on that glorious day, run to God and see God face to face. And in that moment, our faith will be fulfilled.
Blessed are we who believe but don’t see now. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly ours.