Musical Prelude and Service

John 20:19-31
One of the challenges I have struggled with over the years is what does it means
when I question some of what are considered the basics of Christian faith.
How much of the story of Jesus do we need to take as literal truth? If I express
scepticism over these points, what does that say about me and my faith? I have
certainly been challenged a number of times by those who are more, shall we say,
literal in their reading of scripture.
This morning we are introduced to Thomas; who at hearing that Jesus is alive and
risen from the dead, refuses to buy into that narrative just because a few of his
friends tell him this. He needs something more. He needs to see Jesus and see the
wounds Jesus suffered on the cross.
At the same time there are people in that room who do take the word of Mary
and Peter. And what happens? Jesus comes to them all. Not just those who
believe immediately, but also Thomas who voices his scepticism and demands
something more.
I think it is important that this story was written and told for a community a few
decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was shared with people who
would have never met Jesus and quite likely none of the disciples. People who
were asked to accept the work with the stories told in this Gospel and others.
It stands to reason that there would be a mix of people within these early
communities. Those who enthusiastically heard and believed the stories of
miracles and signs; the story of Jesus suddenly appearing in a room to a group of
terrified and grieving disciples. And those who wished to believe, to hear these
stories and find hope and a promise of a God who hears our cries and comes to us
in our times of crisis offering new life and hope; but who also need something
more than the words of those around them.
What strikes me in this story is that Jesus comes to all of them and blesses all of
them.
Our doubts, our questions, and our scepticism do not keep us away from God’s
love. We are not condemned as a result of our questions. We are not condemned
as a result of our doubts.
I cannot really say when we started thinking doubt and questions were a sign of a
weak faith. It’s a notion that has certainly taken root in some communities. And I
find that sad. I believe we need to honour those questions and those doubts. We
need to be willing to sit with them.
Our faith is a living thing. It is supposed to be vibrant and part of a vigorous and
compelling conversations. As we take up the story of Jesus and his followers, we
are entering into a conversation. What does it mean that Jesus returns to the
living and inspires his followers to take the story and the message of his life and
teachings and his sacrifice to the wider world?
Our faith is meant to excite us and free us. It is intended to inspire us to be part of
building communities of compassion and care. It is not meant to trap us or
shackle us to one way of thinking and responding to the world.
In her recent book Freeing Jesus, Diana Butler Bass takes some time for the
question of doubt. She references another religious leader:
Alan Jones, former dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, would often say,
“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt. It is certainty.” An unpretentious faith —
paradoxical, really.
She points out that faith is about hope and trust. It is not about blind allegiance.
Walter Brueggemann in his writings, gives a lot of time to the tension between
certitude and relationship. He argues that when we see God as one of certitude;
where all the answers are readily provided, we quickly move to a relationship
based on a quid pro quo. This is, a God that promotes the status quo. There is
little room for hope and nuance.
By contrast Brueggemann says when we look to a God of relationship; a God who
is in constant conversation and care, there is tie for nuance. There is room for our
relationship to grow and to evolve. This provides for compassion, for mercy and
forgiveness. This is a God who desires more for us and from us. This is the God of
liberation; of freedom.
We live in a time of turmoil; a time of anxiety. We can see the evidence of
mistrust, of anger and fear. It can be very tempting to turn to people who claim
they have all the answers; who can provide easy answers to the many questions
we may have.
Doubt can seem weak. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Thomas may have
doubted, but he was still dedicated to his community. He still found safety in that
community of Jesus’ followers. They did not push him out the door. And Jesus
came to him. He blessed him.
He provided Thomas and all of the disciples with a purpose and a promise. And
they went out the door of that room and went forward and changed the world.

Rev. Warner Bloomfield

 

 

 

Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789