Saturday, 11 April 2015

I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It

My title has been taken from the title of a collection of columns by a late and irascible journalist named Mike Royko. The interesting context of doubt: doubt standing in the place of certainty, Royko's certainty that his observations about Chicago city politics and life in general are right on the mark. This, perhaps, serves to point us in the right direction with Thomas and this whole episode in some closed upper room in Jerusalem. For to get anywhere with this story, one absolutely must begin with the understanding that doubt is not the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is indifference, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel have reminded us.

Doubt, writes Frederick Beuchner, is the ants in the pants of faith. Doubt keeps faith awake and moving. Whether your faith is that Jesus is the son of God or that he is not, if you don't have any doubts, says Beuchner, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. We as humans wrestle with doubt and our ability to stick with our faith. Thomas is not a doubter. Thomas is a true believer. He has made that clear earlier in John's Gospel. It is Thomas who, when Jesus insists on going to Judea, declares, "Let us also go with him that we may die with him." And it is Thomas who makes the first explicit acknowledgment that Jesus is God: "My Lord and my God!"

This loyal believer who has given us the expression "Doubting Thomas" deserves to be remembered better than this. He did not refuse belief and wanted to believe, but did not dare without further evidence. Because of his belief, loyalty, and goodwill, Jesus gives him a sign after refusing to do so for the Pharisees. Please note that the sign did not create faith in Thomas but it released the faith that was in him already. Thomas is the patron saint of all who believe and still want to see for themselves.  Do we want to see Jesus? Do we want to be like Thomas and see for ourselves?  I can tell you the world wants to see Jesus. And the world looks to us, his body, the church, for a sign of some identifying marks that say, "My lord and my God!"

Thomas knows exactly what to look for as the identifying marks because any God apart from the Wounded One is no God at all. Thomas knows this. We know this. But it is so easy to forget. And so easy to turn our heads and look away from the wounds. It is so important for us to know that Jesus is the way. This God, Jesus shares our sufferings, grief, and pain and is with us every step of the way. That is where we can see him. So, when we are confronted with the loss of a loved one, Jesus is here in the midst of it. When we were plunged into the depths of national fear like Floods and Fires, we know that Jesus was in the midst of it with us. As we face the anxieties of further problems we can know that Jesus is in the midst of it. As we, or others we know, face the daily darkness of depression, disease, loneliness, racism, ethnic hatred, and religious intolerance, we know that Jesus is in the midst of it.

Any one of these situations could be enough to cause some doubt in our resurrection faith. Any one of these situations could be enough to send us to God asking for a sign. Our wounds are very much on the surface every day. Anyone can come into a church and look at around and see our grief, our pain, and our suffering. Anyone can come in to our churches nearly any Sunday at any service and see people reaching out to Jesus for healing of whatever it is that hurts: mind, spirit or body, in themselves or loved ones. People come to us with a desire to see Jesus. For, in truth, the hands we extend in love and care for others are his hands. If people cannot see Jesus here and in us, where else can they honestly turn? Without the insistence and testimony of Thomas, all of it would be more than we could bear. For those unable to be with us sharing as part of the Christian community , we must bring Jesus to them, and if only for that moment, make the whole body of Christ, this sacred mystery the church, whole and united and reconciled and healed present.

 Jesus joins us wherever we are. He comes back to show us that he has survived and risen above the grief and sorrow and pain of it all.  He comes back to show us that he is the one who transforms our wounds into new life. He comes back to lift us up, so we might show forth in our lives and in our very hands like his what we profess by faith. Then our doubts are once again relieved. Then we again might join with Thomas in proclaiming, "My Lord, and my God!" In our belief we then might have life, true life, and abundant life, in his name. " Hold Jesus in your hands. Feel him breathe on you the Spirit breath of God. And then be sent into the world so others might see him. All of us are sent-to show our hands. So others will see the wounds. So others will know him as we know him: My Lord, and my God! 

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