“When In Doubt”
After Easter, I’m sure many of you felt a bit of a let down. Like Christmas, there is this build-up to the big weekend. We prepare ourselves for Good Friday, then on Sunday morning there is the great celebration.
Then we go home.
Things go back to normal. Right now, there really isn’t anything big to look forward to in the church year until after summer rolls on in.
For sure we have activities, we’ll have our basement to attic sale, we’ll have our strawberry dinner. There’s lots to do. Lots of fun to be had. But worship-wise, we’ve covered the big ones. Everything is “back to normal”, there’s less stress, less planning, we can just go about our usual Sunday morning activities.
I confess that this week, I relaxed a little. A lot has happened in the last couple weeks. So I took a couple days to slow down and get some energy back. I also found my office which disappeared under piles of paper as I made notes, received mail, printed services and sermons. But now, now it’s probably even presentable enough for visitors for the first time since we moved in!
I also took some time this week to observe. I’m a people watcher. I like to watch and listen to what is happening around me. So I spent some time trying to hear the people of the town, and learn about their lives.
After a busy time, I need to sit, relax, be silent, and bring back my focus. To hear again where God may be speaking to people.
I’m trying not to fall into a post-Easter lull. I’m trying to keep focused on what being the church in Sydney Mines can be. How the churches can continue to serve and meet the needs of this community. To not forget all we have done over these last few months as we came together to worship and serve together.
It’s easy for us to do right? It’s easy for us to say, “Well, we finally made it through Easter, now we can take a break.”
For 6 weeks we’ve travelled through Lent, building anticipation as we approached Easter weekend. We have this great celebration on Easter morning with music, communion, crazy people with funny hair…
Then it’s Monday, and we can’t help but think, “Now what?”
You wonder maybe what the disciples were thinking. In our reading from John this morning we heard that on the night that Jesus rose from the grave, they had locked themselves in the house for fear of their own prosecution by the Jewish leaders.
Then Jesus appeared to them. Behind locked doors, Jesus appeared to the disciples, right in the middle of them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he showed them his hands, where the nails had gone through them, and then his side where the spear had pierced him.
When the disciples saw these things, they rejoiced that Jesus was with them.
Later on, Thomas comes to join the rest of the disciples. Where he was earlier, we have no idea. But he wasn’t with them when Jesus first appeared.
The others tell him what they saw and what Jesus did among them.
Thomas says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
This is where we pick up the term “doubting Thomas”.
Thomas listened to what the disciples told him about what they saw, how they encountered Jesus, and he wanted to see proof.
But look at what happened leading up to this.
What did the disciples do just before this? Well, earlier in the day they heard from Mary Magdelene what she saw, and how she encountered Jesus outside the tomb. Yet they still go lock themselves in the house. When Jesus appears to them, they do not believe, they don’t rejoice until Jesus shows him the mark of the nails and spear. They did not believe until they saw proof themselves that Jesus had risen from the grave.
Poor Thomas. He’s the one listed as the one who doubts, yet he acted no differently than any of the other disciples that night. He did not believe until he saw for himself the risen Christ. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t until a week later.
Thomas is not a doubter. Thomas responds very faithfully in the Gospel of John. In John 14, after the last supper, when Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for those who follow him, and how they know they way go to, Thomas is the one who says “How do we know the way?” Thomas wants to make sure he knows how to be where Jesus is. He, again, like the other disciples is unclear, uncertain of what is coming, so makes sure he is getting as much information as possible so he can complete the journey with Jesus.
When Lazarus died in John 11, Jesus says he is going to see him so that the disciples may believe. It is Thomas who pipes up and says, “Let us go also, that we may die with him.” A statement of faith, Thomas wants to believe and be renewed in his strength and faith in Jesus. He wants to see what Jesus offers.
Are those the statements of a man full of doubt?
Thomas wants to know the true source and identity of Jesus, so he asks questions. He seeks proof. He wants badly to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
Thomas is just like us. He asks the questions we want to ask.
We long to be close to God. We long to be with Jesus Christ and to follow him.
We long for meaning, we want to understand what will happen next, and why.
We want to ask Jesus, “how will we know the way?”
We don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus face to face to ask such a question. For us it’s a little more challenging to get a clear answer. All we can do is pray and wait for an answer to our questions. And wait patiently and attentively.
In the time after Easter, it’s a time to continue to seek to follow Jesus. The Bible lays out a plan for us. It tells us how we can be faithful, and how to live according to God’s plan.
But there’s more to life than following the rules.
In Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples before his arrest, Jesus tells them the greatest commandment. He tells them to, “love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus wants us to show love to one another. Jesus wants us to spend time getting to know one another so that we are able to live faithfully in the world and able to serve one another as Jesus served those he met during his time on earth.
As Jesus travelled around, he got to know people. He understood them and their needs, and then he was able to help them.
On Friday, I spent some time at the food bank. Watching the volunteers prepare for the busy afternoon. Watching them work with the people who came through the door. Watching them interact with one another.
I saw how they care for and love the people who walk through their doors. They don’t judge them. They just try and help them as best they can.
It is my prayer, that we, and all the churches, can do the same.
Just before his arrest, Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for the church.
The final words of the prayer are found in John 17:25-26.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus’ own prayer is that he will be with us. Jesus wants to be with us. He wants to fill us with hope and love and, most importantly, himself.
May Jesus wipe away our doubts and fill its place in our lives with love. The love of Christ who rose from the dead to show us the way God, our Father, in heaven.