Doubt & Belief

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My ‘star word’ for 2019, taped to the tape dispenser on my desk. 

How many people get excited when they receive a letter or card in the mail? I know I do. From pictures drawn on cave walls to the printing press, written communication is a way that we can be in touch with and have impact on the lives of those who are outside our immediate circle. It is, and I think always will be, a essential method of exchanging ideas and information.

From a letter that may have taken months to be delivered to the recipient, to the almost instantaneous transmittal and receipt of email, communication between people who are apart has had implications that are far reaching and long lasting. Letters are a method of staying connected even over thousands of miles.

Paul’s letters to the various communities of faith across Asia are an example of this. They were a way for the communities to be connected with each other and to Jesus. But Paul wasn’t the only person to write letters. Listen now to the letter that Thomas, the disciple who became known as the doubter, wrote to Mary Magdalene shortly after that first Easter morning.

Dear Mary,

I, Thomas, an apostle of Jesus greet you in his name, and trust that this letter finds you in good health. I am so glad that Jesus didn’t hold to the idea that women shouldn’t learn to read and write. I have never seen anyone learn faster than you when he taught you! And so I can write this… I know it is unusual for a man to write to a woman who he isn’t related to, but you are the only one with whom I can share these thoughts.

You may have heard by now that the other disciples say they saw Jesus in the room with them that night. They said that the door was locked and yet he came in and greeted them. Greeted them with those words that he so often used, saying “Peace be with you.” And then he showed them his scars.

They even said that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them and told them that he was sending them out to do the work that he had begun. I think there were spirits in that room all right, but I think they must have drinking them. That’s the only reason I can think of that would cause a mass hallucination like that. I knew that Jesus had been crucified and buried, how can someone come back from the dead? I know that he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead, but just between you and me, I think Lazarus was sleeping and Jesus simply woke him up when nobody else could. And even if he did raise him from the dead, how could he raise himself from the dead? And if he was raised from the dead how did he get into a locked room? After all how can anyone get into a locked room? This all seemed too unlikely to me, so I told them, “Unless I see that scars myself and touch them myself I do not believe.”

Because of these words I spoke they have been mocking me, saying that maybe I wasn’t one of the chosen ones after all and I don’t think that is right. Is it so bad that I wanted to see him too? It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t believe them, but it just didn’t seem fair that on the one night that I was late getting in, he would come.
Mary, I knew that I would be able to share these thoughts with you because you said that you didn’t recognize Jesus when you saw him in the garden that morning. That you didn’t believe it was him until he spoke to you and called you by name. This didn’t make sense to me either. How could you mistake him for the gardener when you had spent so much time with him?

Mary, someone is calling me to help feed some hungry people, I will write more later; and then find someone who is traveling to your town to bring this to you.

Mary, this is a whole week later! What an incredible week it has been. You wouldn’t believe the change in Peter. You remember that bumbling fool who denied that he even knew Jesus. Well that bumbling fool has become an eloquent and persuasive speaker! You should hear him tell the stories that Jesus once told! He says that it all happened according to God’s plan. He even said that our King David knew it would happen, even though King David lived long ago. Well I don’t know if I believe this either, but there I go, doubting again.

I don’t think of it as having a lack of belief in God or Jesus. I think of it more as a questioning. You see I want to understand how this could be. And if it was all according to God’s plan, why did God let him die up there on that cross, just to raise him from the dead three days later?

I know that I will never understand everything about that amazing man, but I know that I saw him feed the hungry and clothe the naked and touch the untouchables. Anyone who did all of those things must have come from God. And the rest of the disciples have been busy too. They have taken up Jesus work just as if the Holy Spirit had been breathed upon them.

Why just yesterday I saw Andrew laying hands on a leper. And I saw some of the others feeding some beggars and looking into their eyes the way that Jesus looked into our eyes during that last meal he shared with us. Sharing the bread and the wine like it was Jesus body and blood just as Jesus commanded us to. The love that they were showing to those starving people was the same love that Jesus showed to us.

I was starting to think that maybe Jesus had been in that room with them, because they are so different from the ordinary people that I once knew. I suppose just like you and I are different from the people we once were. I have saved the most incredible thing for last!

All of us were gathered in a locked room eating our evening meal. There was even some joking about maybe since I was present this time Jesus would come once again. No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than I turned around and there he was. Standing there as plain as day, and he greeted us saying, “Peace be with you.” He looked right at me and said, “Touch me, feel my scars.”

I was afraid, but I reached out and he was there, and I feel on my knees saying, “My Lord and my God.” He did not condemn me for wanting to touch him, he seemed to know that all week I was moving steadily towards belief anyway. I would like to think that he was sorry that he had missed me that first time he visited the others, and he wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see him. I can’t explain it any better than that. I saw him die and I saw him walk among us again, even through a locked door. Rejoice Mary, he is alive, just as you and I are alive. Your friend in Christ, Thomas.

My friends in Christ, the God who is beyond all human understanding welcomes our questions and our doubts. We can question and still believe. Believe in the risen Christ.
The Christ that lives in each mouth fed, each naked one clothed and each sick person tended. He is alive! Thanks be to God, amen.

John 20:19-31
April 28, 2019
Elmsdale Cooperative Ministry

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