John 20:19-31

April 27, 2014 by Ken Dale

??????????? Today is the second Sunday of Easter.? Truth of the matter is that it is a continuation of last Sunday?s great joyous celebration.? Today is also dubbed Low Sunday and I read a description of today that said to be in worship today can feel a bit like showing up at a party after most of the guests have left and those who remain report on what a grand time you missed by coming too late.? Interesting, as I would think most if not all of the people in church today were in church last Sunday.? Christmas Eve we usually hear Luke 2:1-20 and on Easter John 20:1-18 and today more often than not it is John 20:19-31 and that reading is quickly labeled ?Doubting Thomas.?? I?ve always felt that was totally unfair.? Thomas was not the only one who wouldn?t believe until he saw for himself.? Mary, first to arrive at the tomb and first to see the risen Jesus, did not believe until it was proven ? but we don?t hear about Doubting Mary.? The disciples, when told by Mary that she had seen the risen Jesus, did not believe until they had proof standing in front of them ? but we don?t hear about the Doubting Disciples.? But it seems like everyone knows who Doubting Thomas was.

When we look at the story of Thomas a week after that first Easter day we see that doubt is not a problem for Jesus.? Thomas is not condemned by Jesus for wanting proof, nor does he despise Thomas for his need.? With great patience Jesus offers him the opportunity to see and to touch.? We don?t know if Thomas did or not ? but he does end up believing.? I think an important lesson in the encounter, especially if we are seeking to follow Jesus, is to see that Jesus greets people where they are.? Mary needed to hear his voice and he spoke.? Thomas needed to see and Jesus gives him that opportunity.? He approaches his followers in different ways because our experiences are different, our approaches to life are different.? A way is found to bless.? There is a good lesson for us all in our interactions with each other ? to greet people where they are, and as they are with no initial expectations or conditions.

It?s also notable that Jesus first appears to those who perhaps disappointed him more than any.? His own disciples had forsaken him, abandoned him, denied him.? Actually for those disciples it was still Good Friday and as far as they knew the darkness had won.? It would be interesting to know what the conversation was if any ? Peter was there and they all knew after his grand declaration of fidelity and courage he had denied even knowing Jesus.? In some way they all betrayed Jesus ? it wasn?t just Judas.? I wonder if there was any blame going around that gathering behind closed doors ? how would you and I be if we were part of that group?? But to this pitiful little band of failures the Risen Christ first appears and greets them with peace ? Shalom? -? peace be with you. No blaming, no harsh words, no questions about their behavior, no comments about disappointment ? just peace ? and in that peace surely forgiveness.? What an impact that must have had on them.

In my reading this past week I came across what I found to be an intriguing question:? One of the Quaker Questions:? When did God become more than just a name for you?? Or we might go with when did Jesus become more than just a name for you? ?Either way, I found it a most thought provoking question and I also found that I couldn?t really come up with a very specific answer.? My lack of specific answer is probably due to the fact that it was a gradual over time thing for me.? For others it may have been more like the Apostle Paul when he got knocked of his horse ? it wasn?t gradual but more like a lightening bolt.? Coming to faith ? or becoming aware of being on that journey called faith.

I wonder if and how doubt was part of that journey.? The poet Alfred Lloyd Tennyson once said ?There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.?? Thomas was not willing to accept second hand faith ? he needed to know for himself and not just believe based on what someone else said.? I think faith is out there or perhaps deep within us ? it is a question of whether we are willing to deal with it and to what extent are we willing to deal with it.? Walter Brueggemann captures it with these words:? We are, all of us, children of faith.? We have been conceived and birthed, generated and summoned, given life by this faith and none other.? Faith keeps having its way among us.? We must come to terms with it.? We spend our lives struggling with faith, sometimes for faith, sometimes struggling against faith.? Faith always has its say among us:? It will not go away.? Its voice is a haunting one.? And in it we hear the very voice of God; majestic sovereignty, awesome holiness, passionate grace, weakness made strong.? We have haunted lives filled with yearnings for what is not in hand, promises not yet filled, commands not yet obeyed, desires not yet granted, neighbors not yet loved.? And because faith will not go away or be silent, we are destined to be endlessly haunted, uneasy, restless, on the way.? (From The Clergy Journal May/June 2001).

That?s why I love the word ?journey? for faith.? It is a process that is always on going ? a relationship with a God who is living and living in relationship with us both personally and in community at many settings.? Doubt can lead us to a deeper, finer and firmer faith ? if we are willing, like Thomas, to work on it.? With all that we celebrate in Easter and its message for that journey of faith ? how can this possibly be a ?low Sunday? when it is in fact only the Second Sunday of Easter as it continues?

I have long loved the point made when an arrogant astronomer approached a minister at a party.? ?Pastor,? the astronomer said, ?wouldn?t you agree that all of Christian theology could be summed up in this simple song, ?Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.???? ?Yes,? replied the pastor, ?if you would agree that all of astronomy can be summed up in this song, ?Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are!??? We worship and live in relationship with a Living God ? and we understand by faith that that Living God has come to us and continues to be among us in the person of Jesus and in the gift of the Holy Spirit ? One God ? who desires for us each and all fullness of life.? Are we willing to be on that journey?