Father Dave’s Sermon for Easter 2

Easter #2…Series C

Saint Andrew’s EC (4-2&3-2016)

Text: John 20:19-31

Title: Doubt…the “Ants in the Pants” of Faith!!

 

The Gospel for this second Sunday of Easter concerns the relationship between doubt and faith. One of my favorite contemporary theologians is a Presbyterian minister named Frederick Buechner.  In hs book, Wishful Thinking (published in 1973) he addresses the relationship between doubt and faith when he writes: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is NOT a God, if you don’t have any DOUB about your faith, you are either kidding yourself or asleep.  Doubt is the “ANTS-IN –THE-PANTS of Faith…Doubt is what keeps Faith alive and awake and moving…Doubt is what keeps faith alive and awake and moving

 

Each year, on the Second Sunday of Easter (traditional called “Low Sunday” or “Shotgun Sunday” because you could fire a shot gun in the sanctuary of many churches and not hit a living soul) we hear the story of Saint Thomas’ encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ on that first Second Sunday of Easter more than 2000 years ago. Saint Thomas (AKA…the Twin  or Doubting Thomas) is the patron Saint of Doubters down thru the centuries…

 

The Evangelist John tells us that Thomas was absent…he “missed the meeting”…Thomas was not in the Upper Room on that Easter evening when Jesus made his first post-Resurrection appearance.  And when he returned later in the evening and his brother Apostle’s told him, “WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD” Thomas was incredulous…he wasn’t buying it…not for a minute and he wasn’t shy about saying so. Now, I am obviously paraphrasing the Biblical text here, but I can imagine Thomas saying something like: “Don’t give me some line about an empty tomb and a living Jesus…not after what the Romans did to him on Friday afternoon…No, unless I see the mark of the nails and unless I place my fingers in the mark of the nails and unless I place my hands in his wounded side, I’m sorry, but I will never believe…NEVER”. But then, a week later (on the first Second Sunday of Easter) Jesus returns and this time Thomas is present and …and Jesus shows Thomas his wounds and invites him to investigate…to explore…to probe the wounds in his hands and feet and side…Jesus invites Thomas to do exactly what Thomas said he would have to do in order to believe.  But now, it is no longer necessary…the sight of His wounds and the sound of His voice are now more than enough evidence to convince Thomas that Jesus is alive…that he has been raised from the dead (just like he said he would), and, in that incredible moment, Thomas doubts are transformed into Easter Faith…Miracle of Miracle…DOUBTING THOMAS IS A BELIEVER!!

 

What a remarkable thing when you think about it …what an amazing and mysterious thing to comprehend…the enormous power of the resurrection defeats the darkness of death and restores life to the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth…but the wounds in his hands and feet and in his side remain.  And it is the sight of those wounds…that makes it possible for Thomas (and the other Apostles)  to believe.  It is the wounds in the body of the Risen Christ…which provides the connection between the events of Good Friday and the events of Easter Sunday (events which must never, ever be disconnected or separated).  It is the wounds in the body of the Risen Christ… that connect the Jesus of history (the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine with his disciples more than 2000 years ago)  with the Christ of Faith…your faith and my faith and the faith of millions of believers down thru the centuries…

 

There is a simple but supremely significant spiritual truth embedded in this story about Doubting Thomas wonderful story of Thomas: Doubt is NOT the opposite of Faith…it is not the enemy of faith…Doubt is an element of faith.  We may not like to admit it,  but we all have a little of Doubting Thomas in each of us…we are all a mixture…a combination of both Doubt and Faith. We are all like the father in Mark chapter 9 who brought his epileptic son to Jesus for healing, and Jesus said, “All things are possible for those who believe”, and in verse 24, this fearless father confessed, “I believe…help my unbelief”.  Doubt is not the opposite of faith…it is an element of faith, and we are all like Thomas…doubting believers…believing doubters!

 

Most Biblical scholars (not all, but most) agree that the end of the Gospel of John is verse 31 of chapter 20…most agree that chapter 21 was a kind of Epilogue…a postscript to the Gospel which was added later (perhaps written by a disciple of the original evangelist).  And if that is true (if the fourth Gospel actually ends at verse 31 of chapter 20, and I believe that it is true) then that means that Jesus’ final word in the final Gospel written  are words of profound  blessing…and these words and this blessing has our names written on them.  Jesus says (in verse 29 of chapter 20) : “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet, believe”…blessed are those countless millions of believing-doubters down thru the centuries who see, not with their eyes, but  with their ears…blessed are you, who hear the words of the Gospel and take them to heart and believe! And even though Jesus says that the greater blessing is for those who can believe without seeing…I wonder how many here this evening/morning, if you had the opportunity, would trade places with Doubting Thomas and the other 10 Apostles…I would (and in a heartbeat)…I can’t imagine what I wouldn’t be willing to give (or give up) to  have the chance(even for a brief moment)  to see His face and to hear His voice and to touch His ruined hands…

 

Amen…

 

 

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