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Doubt - Sermon 2nd Sunday of Easter 2013 (C)

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Sermon delivered to Christ Church Lutheran
April 7, 2013 - 2nd Sunday of Easter (C)

"Doubt" - Text from John 20:19-31




Doubting Thomas.jpgChrist has risen. Holy Week is over, all the work that led up to it can be put away. Now we can move onto other things, right? Well, not quite, and who would want to? Easter is a time of celebration for our glorious savior has returned and will raise us up in his kingdom. And we continue to proclaim that Christ has risen not one Sunday, but for the following 50 days, we get to go on living within his wondrous resurrection.


The Easter Season is about a remembrance and it is about the now and it is about the future of humankind. We are pointing in the forward direction in anticipation of that blessed event while at the same time looking back on it. And each successive Sunday in Easter we reflect on the never-ending story of the resurrection of our Lord and savior, and the season serves to position us in relation to the living God in the world now while pointing us to the glorious future to come.

Today's reading from John begins by relating the very first Sunday of Easter, when the disciples have gathered in the upper room together. In many ways, this institutes the first church worship service, a basis for our worship today. The faithful--the disciples, gathered together and encountered Christ. And Christ is standing among them, and they react...

And he says, "Peace be with you." and they react....

Finally, Christ shows them his wounds and then...not before, then the disciples rejoice, knowing it is their friend, their teacher, the one that they love who stands among them once again. Then they rejoice, because he who they thought was dead is there among them and sharing the Spirit with them and offering them forgiveness and commissioning them to forgive others. How can you not believe when he has presented himself in such a manner.

So when the disciples encounter Thomas over the course of the next week, can we really blame him for being skeptical? The other disciples are privileged. They happen to be there gathered together that first Sunday, Thomas was not with them. We don't exactly know why Thomas wasn't there, but a lot of stuff had just gone down in Jerusalem--it wasn't exactly a safe or secure place to be, especially for a follower of an executed rabble-rouser, so Thomas was probably somewhere hiding out, laying low, being safe. So calling this passage "Doubting Thomas" is not really fair to the subject of this part of the passage. Shouldn't he be Skeptical Thomas or Unprivileged Thomas or even Thomas Who Didn't Make the First Worship Service So Jesus has to Do Everything All Over Again.

It's just not fair to Thomas to always depict him as a doubter simply because he questions what the other disciples saw... not having had the privilege of being present when Christ appeared in their midst.

So Thomas showed up came the following Sunday. He showed up in the gathering of the faithful. He was willing to suspend his disbelief and see what the heck was goin' on with them. And in showing up, making the effort to be present, he was there to witness Jesus alive, to see and touch him.

And Jesus was very much ready to respond to the response to his skepticism, saying that very familiar line, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have come to believe." But who is being blessed here? Not Thomas, of course, this is all said to contrast Thomas's skepticism and demands that he be witness to Jesus. But he's not really singling Thomas out. Because these particular blessed are certainly not the other disciples either, because they didn't actually react until they themselves saw his wounds. THEY DID NOT BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING.

So who are these blessed?

A common interpretation of this gospel is that people who John is referring to are those those that came after the disciples, the faithful who never walked with Jesus during his time in human form because those are the people who John is writing for.

But in all honesty, is that even the case? Even two thousand years later, we see Jesus in the sacraments every Sunday. Our faith, our coming to believe is a gift, but is it one we are granted without actually having fully participated in the gospel? Can we honestly say we've come to believe without seeing?

Coming to believe has some interesting connotations for me. I've mentioned before that I had some chemical dependency issues some years ago, and I have managed to get some sobriety through the help of a twelve-step program very much like Alcoholics Anonymous. So when I hear the words, "Come to believe" it brings to mind the 2nd step of any twelve step program, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

But I don't know how many people that simply happens on hope and someone telling them. Because for me, and many other people, we came to believe because of the power that we saw happen within the rooms to other people, the change that came over them. The restoration of life, for some a complete and utter life they'd never even experienced before.

And that sounds a lot like what God gives to us, this transformation that takes place by his spirit through His grace and mercy. We come to believe, based on our own experiences, what we see, hear and taste, with our living god all around us.

I know most of us if not all of us have have people in our lives, who just can't seem to understand where our faith comes from, because when you break it all down their way, worshiping a diety, who made his son on earth and then sacrificed that son, in a humiliating and agonizing execution to substitute for all the bad stuff that we do right now. When you dumb it down like that, it just does not make a lot of sense.

And who in their right mind would simply believe anything that we believe without having the real presence of Christ here among us?

But to dumb it down like that doesn't do what we, as people of faith understand and experience.

It's why we gather together every Sunday, in something that started out as a gathering in the upper room of disciples mourning for their lost Lord and master, in shock over the traumatic events that had taken place and then became the tangible evidence of Christ still being with them and standing among them. He is among us in the sacrament even as he speaks to us in the word. We believe because we are blessed by the gift of his grace; among us.

Doubt is a part of life. It is a part of who we are. There is nothing wrong with being as skeptical as Thomas and demanding that we see and touch Jesus' wounds for ourselves. We see and touch and even taste him when we share this blessed feast with one another and when we bear witness to the miracle of his presence in this body gathered together each and every Sunday morning.

So it's perfectly fine to doubt, because doubt is not a sign of a lack of faith, even the most faithful of us can and do live with doubt on a regular basis.

But with our doubt and with our faith, we gather together as with Jesus Christ is in the midst of us, not only with us as he is always with us but preeminently present in this gathering.

We cannot help but see him and touch him here, and the faith that has promised us, the grace that we receive in that gift, is a light brighter than any shadow that doubt can cast.  


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