Our resurrection appearance account today comes a week after Easter Sunday, and is found in John’s gospel.
“ One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”
One Sunday morning when I was relatively new to parish ministry, one of my congregation asked a question of me at the door after the Easter Sunday service.
He shook my hand and said, “Do you really believe all that stuff you preach on Sundays?” I was somewhat taken aback and said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s a simple question......do you believe all that stuff about Jesus.?”
Being new to in my first charge and not wanting to show any vulnerability, I said, “Of course I believe. I would not be standing here if I didn’t” “Ok” he said, “Just checking”
Of course I believe, and yet, many years later, I would say there have been times when like Thomas, I have wondered..............when life was tough, when unexpected tragedies struck my family, when I have felt I was at the end of my tether...........
A colleague of mine said recently, as he prepares for retirement, “You know, for much of my ministry, I have felt like I was ‘lashed to the mast’, bobbing around in stormy seas, not sure of where I was heading, and if I would ever enter into calmer waters. And yet deep down, I knew what I knew what I knew..........that Jesus is Lord”
I was amazed to hear this confession, but strangely comforted by it.
So often, we think of faith and doubt as opposites. But that’s not really true. Faith and apathy are more opposite than faith and doubt. But doubt is often a key part of the journey of faith. It’s a stop along the way that most of us make more than once. And when we find ourselves there, it’s not an indication of us being bad Christians or disbelievers. It’s a sign that we are taking our relationship with God seriously enough that we are letting ourselves be honest, and we are letting ourselves start a journey without knowing exactly sure where we are going.
Thomas was like that. As much as he is “doubting Thomas”, he’s also known to millions as Saint Thomas. Christian tradition holds that he set sail for India and was the first to spread the Christian there. In the end his doubt, his desire to know Jesus for himself, was what brought him faith. And that faith gave him the strength to bring that message to so many others. And if you go to India today, St. Thomas is the one who didn’t just doubt, but who believed, and who helped others to do so as well.
I was reading a story recently about a woman in her 30’s who one day had this overwhelming spiritual experience. She knew God was present, and she felt God calling her to do something new, and scary, and hard. But she felt God so clearly that day, that she couldn’t deny it.
The young woman did go out, and for the next 50 years she did amazing things. But inside she doubted. She wrestled with faith. She had what Christian writers for centuries have called a “dark night of the soul”. Sometimes she even questioned the existence of God. Her lack of faith bothered her.
The other disciples may have called her, “Doubting Theresa”. But you and I know her as Mother Theresa, the woman whose life many call saint-like.
I used to see pictures of her and think, she must be so holy. She must be so certain of what she is doing. But after her death her spiritual guide revealed that she was just like us, and she was just like Thomas.
So, if that’s you today, take heart you /we, are in good company.
Risen Christ, For recognizing you in the Scriptures, for recognizing you in the breaking of bread; for recognizing you in the stranger:
WE GIVE YOU THANKS
Risen Christ, for times of doubt and struggle, for times of confusion and chaos, for times of wrestling for a blessing,:
WE GIVE YOU THANKS
For thankfully you are present in bread and in battle, in darkness and doubt, in every corner of our lives, in every place in our world, for you have gone before us.
SO, WE PRAISE YOUR NAME!
Go gently into this new day, God bless.