“Doubting Thomas” is perhaps one of my favorite Sundays, which is always the Sunday after Resurrection/Easter morning.
Thomas is forever remembered for a single moment of doubt.
At times I wonder if we too are not remembered more for our moments of doubt than we are for our moments of faith. But doubt is an important part of our faith.
There are moments that happen in our lives that cause us to question because it defies our known reality and logic. Thus, we question our encounter.
“Doubting Thomas” always causes me to think about an Easter a few years ago.
I was serving as an Intern Pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Olympia, Washington. My mother, step-father, sister, and her significant other were visiting from Arizona to celebrate Easter with me.
The following week, we decided to explore Seattle. After a walking tour in Pioneer Square, we decided to walk to Pike Place Market. My sister, Amanda, is a smoker and as we approached Pike Place Market she said “I have to smoke before getting into THAT crowd”. While the rest of us thought “Amanda, you JUST smoked”.
Note: Amanda was laughing because she knew it was true.
Amanda’s significant other was in a Starbuck’s phase at the time AND the original Starbuck’s is located in the Pike Place Market area. Therefore, we decided to walk to Starbuck’s so Amanda could smoke, he would see the Starbuck’s, and we all would have drinks for the marketplace.
As we walked to Starbuck’s, we suddenly noticed a man attempting to take a selfie with the Starbuck’s logo (as it is different). We were saying to one another, ‘wow that looks like Mikey but why would he be in Seattle’. Mikey is my cousin who was raised in Connersville (Indiana), lives in Connecticut, and works out of New York City.
My mother, Tonya, decided that if she called out his name the worse thing that would happen is that this man would not turn around and others in the crowd may think she lost her mind.
He is a professional model/actor, who was in town for a photo shoot. He had a couple of hours to spare before the airport and figured he had time for a beer OR a coffee. Although he debated this in his own mind, he too is a BIG coffee drinker and decided to have the taxi drop him off at the original Starbuck’s.
There are moments in our lives that if we were not present and bearing witness to the event, we would not believe it because it would be too far-fetched and unreal. In fact, I have been asked if I fabricated this story (but I have pictures to prove it).
It is sort of like your Rabbi (teacher) coming back from the dead.
Jesus’ disciples, similar to us, did not expect resurrection BUT God works best when using ordinary means for extraordinary purposes.
Paul Tillich, a 20th century Lutheran theologian, lived during World War II. He was a German who taught at a university and was vocal against the NAZI party. Once Hitler and the NAZI party was elected, he became unemployed, his wife left him, and he had nowhere to turn. He immigrated to the United States of America, learned the English language, and begun to teach in our Seminaries.
Tillich is a theologian known for walking a thin line and/or being within the ‘gray’ that exists between the “black and white” designations, which is expressed in an infamous quote:
“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith”.
It is within our moments of doubt that we are called to struggle and wrestle with questions, including:
- Who is God?
- How is God active in our life?
- How is God active in our community, the Church, and the world?
These moments of “doubt” can lead to significant spiritual growth.
According to our scripture, the disciples remain behind closed doors hidden away from the world. Despite encountering the Risen Christ and having the Holy Spirit breathed upon them, the disciples remain uncertain about going forth to proclaim and share the good news of the Risen Christ. THIS is the Easter season summed up in a nutshell.
On Easter, we celebrated that Christ is Risen! But, the Easter season continues with the disciples hidden in rooms behind locked doors or walking on empty dirt roads separated from other people. These disciples are scared, fearful, and uncertain about what will happen next.
Does this sound familiar?
How often are we hidden away?
How often are we confided by our own fear and anxiety about what the future holds for us, the Church, and the world?
And yet, Christ offers us peace (“Peace be with you”) three times within our passage.
Again, Thomas is forever remembered for his moment of doubt although moments of doubt are shared by all disciples (including ourselves), which is our scripture next week.
Yet, Thomas received the title “Doubting Thomas”, but how many know the rest of his story?
Note: This is a lesson we can learn from our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, because the stories of the saints are important witnesses of faith.
Thomas was an architect by trade, who traveled to and founded the Christian Church in India. Thomas was potentially the first, and perhaps best, evangelist. Although Paul evangelized the Gentiles (non-Jews) he remained within the Greco-Roman Empire and area of influence. Thomas, however, was the first to step outside of that cultural ‘box’.
Thomas was commissioned by a wealthy political leader to build a great temple to this Christian God. As the primary investor, he had given significant resources to Thomas but was not witnessing progress. He went to Thomas and asked:
When are you breaking ground? Because I thought it would be completed by now and you keep asking for more funding although I do not see progress on a great church.
Thomas, however, offers a profound response:
I am building a great Church for those resources have been used to feed the hungry, to cloth the naked, to care for those in the most need in our community. Those resources have been used to introduce people to God, to build that relationship, and to grow their faith for the Church (kingdom) is not being built on earth but rather in heaven.
Thomas did GREAT work and yet we will forever remember him for his doubt.
My hope this Easter season is that instead of hiding our doubts, fears, and anxieties in darkened rooms behind locked doors….
- Let us wrestle with it;
- Let us ask the tough questions; and
- Let us find peace within doubt knowing it is not the opposite of faith, but a part of it.
- Let us trust that God works in extraordinary ways through ordinary means.
These ordinary means include doubt, fear, anxiety, and worry. In fact, there are moments when we simply need to get out of our own way and open that door.
My hope this Easter season is that we embrace that journey and I invite you into it.
Thank God for the extraordinary moments that happen everyday. Amen.