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April 23, 2017, 12:00 AM

Keep Up the Good Work Part 1

by Sandy Bach

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:19-29)

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Or so the saying goes. If that deal is too good to be true, check the fine print. Very likely, there’s a "gotcha" in there somewhere.

Christ is risen from the grave. Christ is alive. It’s way too good to be true. We need more than one witness to testify to his resurrection. And we get them: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter, the Beloved Disciple…

We also have Thomas. In fact, we need Thomas. Thomas is us. Sometimes Thomas was courageous, sometimes confused, and today, he doubts. Yet, these are the things that brought him to believing.

We need Thomas to point the way through courage and confusion and especially doubt.

Remember when Jesus left Judea because the people wanted to stone him? His good friend Lazarus died, so he announced his intention to go to Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem. His disciples tried to hold him back. When they were unsuccessful, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16b NRSV)

He was a mix of courage and foolish. Unwilling to leave Jesus’ side, he voluntarily accompanied Jesus into potential danger.

My mother demonstrated courage the day she decided to stay in a Sunday school class despite the fact that her teacher behaved like a jerk.

They were studying a book by a progressive theologian, Marcus Borg. In his book he stated that in his extensive reading and study, he disagreed with the concept of the virgin birth among other things. The teacher presented the material as matter of obvious fact and anyone who questioned it was obviously ignorant.

I explained to Mom that this was one person’s opinion; that the Greek word for virgin meant “young woman.” I left it up to her to come to her own conclusion.

A few weeks later we talked about her class some more. “Why don’t you find another class?” I asked her.

“Because, despite the fact that teacher is doing a lousy job, I’m engaged with some of the concepts the author offers.”

“Do you agree with him?”

“No, not necessarily. But he’s helping me understand what I do believe.”

A courageous moment could be a foolish decision, but it’s an opportunity for incite to see, “my Lord and my God."

Bible reading is confusing. That’s probably why there is such a low Biblical literacy rate. Does Genesis have one long creation story or two shorter ones? What’s the deal with God telling Abraham to sacrifice his only son?  Is the Bible a factual, scientific document or a series of stories that seek to reveal God to us?

When I finally engaged with the Bible I discovered a lot of things that disturbed me. The more I studied, the more I changed.  My views on life changed; my politics changed.   And it scared me.  Every time I learned something new or viewed a beloved scripture in a new way I was afraid I’d lose my faith.

It would have been easier to give up. It would have been less faith shattering; less unnerving; less courageous; less confusing. But, I learned to embrace and look forward to new ideas and new concepts in interpretation. I learned that doubting is good; that skepticism is good. It led me to moments of fresh incite where I fell to my knees saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Courage. Confusion. Doubt. They are who Thomas was and we need him to point us in the right direction.

Thomas is often referred to as, “Doubting Thomas.” When you read this text you see that Jesus appeared two times. Once without Thomas present and once with him present. Both times he displayed his wounds. Both times he said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus didn’t chastise.  Our brains are wired to be skeptical without proof. We can’t help it. In fact, we need it for survival.

So, for us to believe, we need the witness of Thomas and the disciples. They saw the wounds; they saw the risen Jesus. They report it to us so that we can believe without seeing.

That’s the “Way of Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus, we find ourselves moving through the messiness of courage and confusion and doubting and believing. We can’t really help it. It’s a part of who we are. It’s our faith journey. We need courage to move forward when we’re in doubt and confusion. We need doubt and confusion to deepen our faith. When our faith deepens, God comes closer and we have those oh so awesome moments of incite.

That's when we fall to our knees, saying, “My Lord and my God.”

And we fall in love with the Master, again.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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