By The Rev. Sherry Deets
2 Easter – April 15, 2012
The movie, Simon Birch, tells about a boy, Simon, whose growth has been stunted–but he believes that God has a purpose for his life. Simon has a friend, Joe, who is a doubter–we would probably call Joe a realist. After all, what boy could believe that his buddy–who happened to be a midget–could be destined for great things? In the movie, we see Simon and Joe walking home from their favorite swimming hole. Simon acknowledges that he is ordinary right now, but he says, “But things will be different once God makes me a hero.” Joe responds, “You know you shouldn’t talk about this hero stuff, Simon.” Simon asks, “Why not?” “Because it’s weird. The other kids tease you enough as it is.”
“I don’t care. It’s the truth.”
“But you don’t have any proof.”
“I don’t need proof. I have faith. Your problem is that you have no faith.” To which Joe responds, “I got faith. I just want proof to back it up.”
So today, we hear about Thomas. Thomas who has been referred to as “doubting Thomas” throughout the years. I still think Thomas gets a bit of a bad rap. I don’t think he’s a “doubter” as much as he is a realist. I mean, he saw Jesus nailed to the cross and die. And so you can’t blame him for wanting a real encounter with a really risen Lord just like the other disciples got.
And that’s what strikes me about this story: the realism. Not just of Thomas, but the realism also about how hard it can be to believe, at times. When you read through the resurrection accounts of all four gospels, you quickly realize that Thomas is not alone in his doubt. In fact, doubt isn’t the exception but the rule. No one — even after all the predictions — no one says, “Welcome back.” Or “We knew it.” Or even “What took you so long?” No one anticipates Jesus return and when he shows up, everyone doubts. Everyone.
Which makes me think that maybe doubt isn’t the opposite of faith but, actually, part of it, maybe even an essential part of it.
And this, in turn, shapes the way I hear Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Do you believe because you’ve seen? Blest are those who have not seen and yet come to believe!” I don’t think — as I used to — that Jesus is rebuking Thomas. Instead, I think Jesus is blessing all those — from John’s community up to our own — who have managed to believe without the benefit of direct experience; all those who have managed to come to a faith that is not the opposite of doubt but which lives with doubts and yet still finds a way to believe.
We are a Resurrection people. And Resurrection people don’t need to have it all figured out before coming to church, or helping out a neighbor, or feeding someone who is hungry, or caring for someone in need. If we have to figure it all out ahead of time, then we’ll never get started. Because, frankly, don’t you ever wonder if your acts of mercy or care make a difference? There are so many hungry people — will the few I can help really change things? There is so much hurt in the world — does the hand I extend or listening ear I offer really change that? I believe they do, but I, like you, at times wonder…and doubt. And yet because we are resurrection people, we believe as well as doubt and believing, even in this more fragile way, we act — we reach out, we feed, we care, we tend, we struggle, we work, we love, all without any guarantees, just a promise from the Lord who continues to bless those who believe amid their doubts and keep faith amid their uncertainties. As resurrection people, we remember and believe in the promise of the resurrection.
The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; “Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.”
As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein arose and said “Young man, I too know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.”
And that is the good news of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal. And unemployment doesn’t change that promise. Neither does divorce, or bankruptcy, or cancer, or depression, or felony, or failure. Through elation and deflation and every emotion in between, this truth remains; we know whose we are and we know where we are going, because the Son of God has promised. And this, my friends, is faith. Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Amen.
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