Homily, April 15, 2012 - Rev. Malcolm Spencer
Doubt and Belief
We have two stories today one of a trusting and excited early Christian community in Jerusalem and the other coping with a doubt illustrated by Thomas. He did not accept the others when they said they saw the risen Jesus. This is not so uncommon-sometimes it is easier to doubt than to believe. When someone tells us something we think is fanciful we often don’t believe it. When an advertiser claims something we question, we often doubt the claims in fact maybe we don’t doubt enough in this field. If you have ever bought a used car doubt is a major factor in claims about it makes it seem like a perfect auto. We live in a time when many doubt the church and faith as we have had a perfect history after those heady days of resurrection joy living among the disciples.
It took a visit by the wounded risen Jesus to convince Thomas that he was alive, the real thing present in the world and among the disciples. Sometime we look for proof to believe in something. That is especially true if we have felt betrayed by someone then we need assurance of real change or reform. Like Thomas we like to open the box to see that all the parts are there.
Yet every day we trust a lot that our bank card will work in the ATM or if we fly that the plane will take off and land. Experience has taught us to trust in many things in life. So it is in our Christian life that Jesus frees us to see him and know him as we care for others and even ourselves.
1. Doubt is an ally of faith
It is very natural to doubt, our very make up as humans is that we learn from experience and to critically think about things. Nothing would ever change in the world if someone didn’t have doubts about how things were going. It can be an ally of our faith as sometimes our faith is grounded more in our ego rather than in the living God or Risen Christ. Doubt can challenge some of our prejudices we acquired from the unthinking culture. It allows us to re-examine and reconsider things, become free from things that hold us back from a more compassionate and caring faith that Jesus has encouraged us to practice. Doubt can be unfortunately an ally of cynicism as well as when we are unsure we have no hope in the future. We know that a lack of hope is a tragic loss. Jesus’ risen presence is our hope. It is the statement that whatever you throw at it, love and hope will persist and bring us fresh new life.
This is the 100th anniversary of the unsinkable Titanic, many movies have been made and much has been written about this disaster yet even in this disaster there was great courage; the workers below tried to save the ship, the musicians played on while other jumped off and this even happened as today’s ships sink so there is no unsinkable ship-but it does give us pause - these tragedies test our faith and demonstrate our courage as well –when John was writing this gospel life was becoming hard for that Jerusalem Christian community since rebellion was in the air- much suffering would come to the Jewish nation at the hand of Rome yet he tells this story of Thomas to show that even the doubters can see the risen Christ in the midst of all that is going on.
Like Thomas we are right to seek proof and as Mary of Magdala we too can see Jesus among us, giving us new life and redeeming the world – one day last year I was in the religious section of a large bookstore and someone said to me that Christianity made sense since only love will save the environment and save ourselves from cruelty and war like activities. Certainly I think that person has got it. Like Thomas we can all declare “My Lord and My God!”
Someone has written that when Jesus asked Thomas to touch his wounds he was also asking Thomas to recognize his own wounds.
2. The wounded believe
The disciples were wounded with fear haunted by betrayal and locked in a room like those afraid of their neighbours Thomas was wounded by his doubts, his independence, his desire to know separate from the rest. But Jesus come and say Peace be with you, Jesus came in peace. This is the peace the shalom where redemption is possible. We are as a congregation in transition moving slowly to that Peace where the doubting, the hand wringing the trouble of another day has passed and we are preparing for the future.
Let us take heart with the disciples they went from the frightened to the daring. Thomas went all the way to India. They launched the faith to the Gentiles and were not afraid to die for what they believed – and even that small cooperative community in Jerusalem survived with Paul’s help collecting money, they kept the flame of faith alive and watched it grow in the empire.
Take heart the wounded living Lord risen and alive is with us.
Let us pray
Sacrificial and loving God you have given us a sign of great love and hope –help us to open our hearts to you and to love as you have loved and keep us ever in your love.
In Jesus’ Name we Pray Amen