Easter 2A, 4/3/05
Stood With Them
ur text is mainly about doubt; human doubt, our kind of doubt, the doubt with which we are all familiar. We have come to where we are in our pilgrimage through a refining process of doubt and faith, believing and refusing to believe. Doubt is not always the opposite of certainty; sometimes we are just not yet certain. Haven't we all been in the quandary between contradictory positive and negative positions toward the Christian faith and have at times thrown in the towel, or felt like it but did not?
Neither does God throw us out if we are mired in some stage of doubt. He can see us moving in the right direction. Our Heavenly Father must feel like a Mom and Pop whose kid is flunking out of college yet the parents keep on paying tuition.
All of the Apostles were doubters, not just the one singled out as “Doubting Thomas.” Magdalen, Peter and John also doubted on Easter Sunday morning. They saw the empty tomb and ran home to hide under the bed. They locked the doors and assembled the rest of the doubters. They only believed when "Jesus came and stood among them” The Apostles believed immediately when they saw him and heard him say, "Peace be with you." Actually, any reasonably intelligent person would have believed with all their little minds when they saw him and touched him and ate with him. All of us way above average folks would have cast our doubts away under these circumstances of actually meeting a formerly dead friend.
So, why are most believers critical of poor old Thomas? He was not there during Jesus' first visit! He missed seeing and believing. He had reasons to doubt.
Our only criticism of Thomas is that he did not believe the stories told by his friends. So, when Jesus walked through the same door the next Sunday evening and Thomas was there to see and touch the Resurrected Lord, Thomas said, “My Lord and My God!”
We've been there too. We have felt his presence so close that it felt like a part of us. We can even understand what people are saying when they talk about Jesus living in their hearts souls and minds. It is supposed to be that intimate. And if we can believe just one miracle, we can believe them all. It is not magic or a trick but it is an intervention from God. All of us have been created with the capacity to believe. Faith is wired into us.
Jesus wants to come and stand with us through all of life. He does not always solve our problems; rather, he pushes us to grow up into mature persons as he stands with us through adversity. Jesus loves us and wants out love in return.
Jesus gives us someone to Love and something to do . Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (v.21) We have been strengthened and made fit for a cause. It beckons us forward. Jesus sent the Apostles out to evangelize with the Good News of peace and hope. The Risen Savior gives us something to do, our calling, and He gives us something to look forward too , mainly eternal life, a Life after this Life. “That we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing we might have life in his name." (v.31)
The real point of the coming of the Son of God into our world was to redeem lost humanity. As believers we have a share in that great purpose. It is God's will that we all might grow spiritually to a higher level where doubt is left behind. Jesus said to Thomas, “Do not doubt, but believe.”
The life of believing that we seek is not limited to this world, but it hopes for an even better life with God forever in a real place called Heaven. Would it not be the cruelest turn of history if there turns out to be no heaven after so many have staked their hope on it? It was the hope of heavenly rest that enabled African slaves to look up out of sweltering cotton fields and sing, "Glory Hallelujah!" They were not thanking God for the shape they were in, but were praising Him for the place they were going. Heavenly hope throws a rainbow over our old doubts and fears.
As people of the Bible, we of the Judeo-Christian tradition, agree that life is a precious gift and that it should be preserved at all costs. It is natural for humans to cling to every moment of life because life is a gift from God. But, as did Jesus, we will all give it up someday. It is a sad day when a person dies because that stage of their existence is over. The page is turned forever, but there is another page and life goes on in another realm.
Today, the world grieves for Pope John Paul II. He seemed to accept death with serenity and assurance that God has in store for him on another level. It is not uncommon for believers to die in this state of acceptance and with a longing for home.
So, the Great News is for all of us that Christ was really resurrected from the dead and that he wants to come and stand with us in adversity. He also gives us a share in the mission of making new disciples. This can become the apple of our eye and can be our passion for life. Also, along the way we are given an assurance of heaven, a foretaste of glory. Thus, we are already dual citizens of heaven and earth.
Doubting Thomas became Believing Thomas and a leader of this Happy Band of Pilgrims on our way to the Promised Land; not stumbling anymore but walking straight and tall with our eyes focused on Jesus who comes to stand with us.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor