Good morning everyone. It is hard to believe that we are into the 6th week since we have worshiped together as the church body. Like me, I am certain that all of us really miss the opportunity to be together and to share our life adventures. We miss singing the hymns, praying together, and worshiping the Risen God. At this moment, I really doubt that churches will reopen on May 15th as recently Bishop Easterling said. Opening will be driven by what Governor Hogan authorizes and even then, many of us will still be concerned about being together. So, in the meantime, Lynn and I prepare different Reflections and send then to the entire church body – The Gathering Table and the Sunday 10:30 worship services. We would appreciate your comments and suggestions as how to reach as many people as possible. Right now, we send this out to about eighty people who have internet access. We ask you to make a hard copy of the text and share it with others who do not have email and to forward to others with email service. These are posted on Facebook also.
Each week after Easter, I have been working with “post- Resurrection” stories. These are found in the last chapters of all the Gospels and each one is different. Last week I reflected on the walk to Emmaus, where the Risen Christ appeared to two very downtrodden men who were discussing what had happened over the weekend. And Jesus appeared to them at the breaking of the bread. Immediately they returned to Jerusalem with the good news that “they had seen the Risen Lord” (Luke 24: 13-33). Today we will visit – the story about Thomas who was not convinced that Jesus was alive until he touched him. Let’s look at the Scripture.
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy as they walk home on the last day of school. Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy, I got straight A’s. isn’t that great!” Lucy in her typical fashion shoots down poor Charlie Brown and says: I don’t believe you Charlie Brown. Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.” Can you relate to Lucy? Seeing is believing, isn’t it? Most people have to see something before they can believe it.
This is often how we describe the apostle Thomas but is this accurate? 27 Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
As Christians, many of us initially believed in God and Jesus because someone else told us it was true. Our parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, or someone else presented the Gospel to us, we believed it, and trusted Jesus for our salvation. The Holy Spirit confirmed that truth in our hearts, and we knew we were saved. However, as we live out our faith, there will be times when we have doubts, when we are just not sure about something. Maybe we hear a person say something about Jesus that does not sound quite right. We may begin to doubt when we keep asking questions and the answers, we get do not seem to satisfy us. Maybe we question the existence of God or the healing power of prayer. Maybe we doubt that the resurrection actually happened!
We may have small doubts about relatively insignificant matters in the Bible, or they might be huge doubts about foundational doctrines of Christianity. Whether large or small, be assured, there will be doubts. It is our human nature – the God given gift of reason to question and there is power in addressing our doubts.
I have come to experience that doubt can actually be a good thing because it forces us to nail down why we believe what we believe. Doubt raises questions and if we are serious about our Christian faith then we have to search out answers. How, you may ask? The answer may seem simple, but in reality, it is the path to increased faith. Explore the Bible. Search references about what others have said about the faith questions that you are experiencing. Talk to others who you respect about their faith journey. Answers come in bits and pieces and after a while of exploration – faith begins to gel.
Back to the Scripture about Thomas. This is a post-Resurrection story about the appearances of Jesus. So, we need to ask ourselves – What changed after the Resurrection? Thomas was concerned because he had reports from the other apostles that Jesus had appeared to them, but Thomas was not there. Now Jesus was in front of Thomas – the Resurrection was becoming very real to Thomas. Any Sunday School veteran worth their salt knows that after the resurrection our sins were forgiven, the grave was conquered, and all things were made new. Or, you know, something like that.
Now, to be clear, I believe those claims, and more are true. But here’s the rub: if we press pause on the Sunday School answers and look around at the world around us with dogma-free eyes — a world filled with death and sorrow, terrorism and abuse, rape and murder, oppression and exploitation — it’s hard not to wonder if anything actually did change after the resurrection. This is an example of doubt.
When you think about it that way or when you simply turn on the nightly news, it becomes hard not to ask if anything actually did change after the resurrection. Why does a loving God allow evil to persist in the world God created, is a question without an easy answer — or perhaps any answer at all. As Christians, we are not naïve enough to believe that Jesus walked out of the tomb that first Easter morning and in an instant, everything changed, all things were made new and suffering and death were no more. As Christians, we believe that when Jesus walked out of the tomb that first Easter morning everything began to change, all things began to be made new and the reign of suffering and death was finally beginning to come to an end.
In the end, Thomas’ story can give us hope in our moments of spiritual doubts and droughts. God can come to us, wherever we are in our lives. God can meet us right where we are—whether we are full of faith or our faith is almost hanging by a thread. When we face those profound and desperate questions in our lives or experience suffering or loss unlike anything we’ve known before—we can rest assured that God is present in the midst of our hardest moments. We won’t always have our eyes opened right then. We won’t always hear the still small voice of God in our hearts. We won’t always be able to reach out and touch Jesus even though that’s what we may long for. Yet God does seek us out, sometimes in surprising ways. God is seeking us out. We need only look to this profound story of Jesus meeting Thomas right where he was to help us believe again. Thanks be to God. Amen.