Friday, 6 April 2018

I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It.

“I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It,” is 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 room in Jerusalem – found in the scripture from John’s Gospel this week. For to get anywhere with this story (John 20:19-31), 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 remind 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. 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.

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.  

The Lord still confirms his presence in the scripture from John this week, as he acts in his unique and unmistakable way. Jesus enters into our experience by his own initiative, breaking through all barriers. Jesus is there despite "the doors being shut" ...... from fear. The familiar greeting of shalom was spoken with authority with upraised hands spread in the familiar gesture of blessing - this was the needed action to calm the disciples fear. There is nothing quite like the word of Jesus to deal with our fears and nothing like the presence of God as Jesus to deal with our aloneness. 

As indicated Jesus enters into our setting, to be with us at our points of need, helping us to deal with the present that constantly assails us. For the disciples, the problem was fear that had reduced them to cowards hiding in fright. Jesus dealt with them at their point of need and continues to deal with his followers at their points of need, no matter what they are.

The second shalom in this reading from John was with the future in view. I believe Jesus was helping those present to move towards going beyond that hour that they were experiencing. As God has sent me, even so I send you. The "breathing" upon them signified the freshness that would be with them, their life and work. It was a symbol of their reception of the very spirit of Jesus so that they were open to further gifts and guidance to serve God.

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