I doubt it!

Apr. 23, 2017

Acts 2.14a, 22-32; 1 Pt. 1.3-9; Jn 20.19-31

I am a child of the 1960's...I confess to lying in bed after my mom had called, "Lights out!" And there in the dark I'd tune my little AM radio to the local top 40 station. The radio and the songs helped me feel connected to something important with masterpieces like "Who wrote the book of love," or "Do wah ditty ditty," or the Lovin' Spoonful's mellow song which questioned, "Did you ever have to make up your mind?"

Well..."Did you ever have to make up your mind?...And say yes to one and let the other one ride". It's a question about what we'll choose and what we'll block out of our lives. One is embraced, and the other removed! As the song lyrics say, "It's not often easy, it's not often kind, did you ever have to make up your mind?" The answer is, of course, "YES!" especially when it comes to what we will love and what we will bring into our lives... who will be our companions, or friends, or how we'll spend our time and money...you name it.

We have to finally decide.

One of the big problems with making up our minds...is just that, that as we have to pick up on one and leave the other behind, and we experience what is known as "buyer's remorse". It's that nagging question, "Shouldn't I've taken the other one instead?" At the core of this uncomfortable experience is doubt. There's really not any way around it...doubt just plops down in the middle of everything!

That brings me to the gospel for today. And for the record, I think it's a bit unfair to label our patron saint Thomas as "doubting Thomas". I don't see him as a doubter so much as a skeptic. Skepticism is a way to search for truth involving the examination of evidence and reasoning. In many ways, Thomas is the patron saint of today's science and learning.

In the NT there are several words that are used to describe "doubting" and none of them really describes a person who is just being an honest skeptic. Απορεω sees doubt as "being without a way"...in other words, "You just can't get there from here!" Διαπορεω is another...which means to be utterly perplexed, not knowing what to do, so doing nothing! Another word for doubt is δισταζω which means to "stand in two places," that is, not knowing which way to go. The NT uses this word to describe people who don't have enough faith to step one direction or another. So, which word does our Lord use when he addresses the "doubt" in Thomas? Actually, he doesn't use any of these words to admonish Thomas...but rather the Lord says to Thomas, "Do not be απιστοσ," that is, "Do not be faithless and unreliable!" The essence of the issue is trusting in the Lord's faithfulness. Thomas is challenged to trust that the one standing before him is his Lord. Faith comes down to this: a relationship. And we just like Thomas can either stand in that relationship and trust it or not.

I suppose that most of us have difficulty believing and trusting the promises we get from businesses, professionals, experts, and government because of disappointments. Do you feel confident when someone says, "Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help?" Or how many young people today don't marry because they have no faith in the institution of marriage? Even truth in advertising is hard to get. I'm reminded of the woman who went to a farmers' market and the produce was advertised as "100% organic". Doubtful, the shopper asked the farmer, "Come on now, these veggies are too pretty, didn't you actually spray pesticides on them?" The farmer said, "No, ma'am, if you want the pesticides, you're gonna' have to spray 'em on there yourself." We've just become used to deception and fake news.

It's enough to make a skeptic out of even the most trusting people. But there's a difference with the claims of faith. Faith in anything is trust that is built on a relationship...if we had a refrigerator that only worked most of the time, we'd probably replace it. If you started to drive to Bay St Louis, and there was only a 95% chance that your car will get you there and back...you'd probably be thinking about trading it. Likewise, Jesus had a relationship with his disciples. They actually saw him cure the blind, lame, and people afflicted with mental illness. They'd witnessed him feed huge crowds with just a few fishes and loaves. They'd seen him raise Lazarus from the dead...but, when he was crucified, they thought somehow the message about the kingdom was obliterated! They were left with nothing...but Jesus rose from the dead and his post-Easter appearances reaffirmed that relationship with the Lord and their faith in the message about the Kingdom. That's the meaning of Easter.

So, we have to finally decide. Will we trust the Lord and let the other ones ride? That decision really down to the relationship we've built with the risen Lord. When we meet the Lord in daily prayer, and in our study and thinking, and when we see Christ in our friends or in those in great need...we likewise are overwhelmed with the realization, "He is risen indeed!" and like blessed Thomas to say, "My Lord and my God." Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church

Diamondhead, MS