April 27, 2014
+ Just last night, I got back from a very enjoyable couple of days in Minneapolis. I met with a couple I am marrying this summer. And, of course, visiting my friend, Greg, his wife, Lisa and their daughters.
Poor Greg. I use him quite often here as an example. Luckily, I know he doesn’t read these sermons on my blog. But no fear: I’ve been honest with him that I actually use him in my sermons as my “token atheist.”
Well, this past week end, I realized something about Greg’s atheism. I think his atheism is so much more solid and set, than my faith in God. By that I mean: I don’t think he has ever doubted his atheism. I don’t think there has been a moment in his adult life when he may have thought: You know, there actually might be a God.
I wish I could have a faith like Greg’s atheism. I wish my faith was not pocked and spotted with doubt. But, to be brutally honest, it is sometimes.
I do doubt sometimes. We all do. Yes, we struggle with these issues of belief in our lives.
Let’s face it, we don’t get the opportunities that Thomas had in this morning’s Gospel. Doubting Thomas, as we’ve come to know him, refused to believe that Jesus was resurrected until he had put his fingers in the wounds of Jesus.
To be fair, I’d be the same way. If someone I knew and cared died and suddenly everyone is telling me that person is now actually alive, I would doubt that. And if I knew that person had died and was now standing in front of me, I would still be skeptical. Skeptical of my sanity, if nothing else.
So, it wasn’t enough that Jesus actually appeared to Thomas in the flesh—Jesus, was no ghost after all. He stood there in the flesh—wounds and all. Only when Thomas had placed his finger in the wounds, would he believe. That’s wonderful for Thomas.
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.
Now, I know this might sound a bit simplistic, but doubt is actually somewhat easy. It’s easy to doubt. But faith, now that’s something. It’s not easy to have faith.
I don’t have to tell anyone here this morning about faith. We all know how hard it really is. It takes work and discipline. 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. 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. Being a believer in God does not just involve being nice on occasion and smiling. It means living one’s life fully and completely as a believer.
And being a Christian is even more refined than just a believer in God. As Christians we are committed to follow Jesus. And more than just that, we are also called essentially to be the Presence of Christ in this world. It means being a reflection of Christ’s love and goodness in the world.
The key words here are “love” and “goodness.” More often than not, I will be asked: So what does one have to do to be a Christian? And I always say: “Jesus said, Love God and love others as you love yourself.” And the response to that is usually, “Well, that sounds easy enough.”
The fact is, it isn’t that easy. It isn’t easy at all. Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves isn’t easy at all. Loving a God who is not visible—who is not standing before us, in flesh and blood, is not easy. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone here this morning: loving others—those people who share our world with us—as ourselves, is not easy by any means.
To love those people who bug us and irritate us and are abusive to us is hard. It is REALLY hard. It takes constant work to love. It takes constant discipline to love as Jesus loved. It takes constant work to love ourselves—and most of us don’t love ourselves—and it takes constant work to love others.
But look at the benefits. Look at what our world would be like if we loved God, if we loved ourselves and loved others as ourselves. It was be ideal. It would be exactly what Jesus told us it would be like.
But to do this—to bring this about—to love God, to love ourselves, to love each other, is hard work. Some would say it’s impossible work. Certainly, it seems overwhelming.
It seems too much for us to even consider in times when the world seems out of control, when hatred and violence seem to reign supreme. It is difficult to be the conduit of the Light and Presence—the love and goodness—of Christ when others are shouting in hatred in the same name of Jesus. It seems impossible when we realize that what we are asked to do is love and serve even those other Christians who are acting so un-Christian. It is hard to truly respect the worth and dignity of all people and their religions and to recognize in them that they too are strivers after God, they too are strugglers in their relationship with God and that the God we are all striving after is the same God who, for us, remains cloaked and invisible.
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. All of us. Of course our belief—our faith—doesn’t have to be perfect. We will still always doubt. Will still always question. And that’s all right.
Blessed are we who believe but don’t see now. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly ours.