Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday's sermon

Sunday's Gospel was about 'doubting Thomas'. I love, love, love Thomas. I thought I'd share my sermon, as best I remember what I said with you.

This is a tribute to Thomas and to 'doubt'....

Easter II- John 20.19-31

What I want to do today is deconstruct what we think about Thomas.

But this is such a rich lesson, there are a few things I want to mention first.

The 10 (minus Judas and Thomas) are in a locked room and Jesus is suddenly with them.

This tells us something fascinating about the Resurrected Body--it can pass through walls! Pretty cool, huh?

English is a wondrous language, but it sometimes is not a good language for translation. What the gospel tells us is that Jesus says to his disciples, "Peace be with you."

What he actually said was probably in Hebrew, "Shalom".

"Peace" in English, usually means the absence of conflict. "No conflict", we are at peace. "Conflict", no peace.

Shalom is much more inclusive and broader than that. Shalom is the totality of things in balance and together.

Shalom includes conflict and peace and brings them into accord. Shalom is completeness, all things included, nothing left out--and everything in balance. Whole.

Then Jesus breaths on the disciples. What an intimate thing--to feel someone's breath on your face. There is nothing so vital as feeling another's breath--a lover, a child, a grandchild.

And breathing is the essence of being. Stop breathing and you die. Breath is essence.

So Jesus gives them his essence and tells them the Spirit is theirs.

Now to Thomas.

In the other Gospels, we learn Thomas' name but he has no voice.

In John, Thomas gets all the good lines.

In Chapter 11, when Jesus decides to go to Judea and raise Lazarus, all the disciples know he will be in danger from the Jewish Authorities there.

Thomas says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Thomas is ready to go 'all the way', with Jesus. Thomas is without fear.

And later, in what we call 'the farewell discourse', Jesus tells the disciples he is going to prepare a place for them and they know "the way" he is going.

It's Thomas who gives voice to all their thoughts when he says: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Thomas isn't afraid to ask the hard questions. He is a seeker after truth.

Then, in today's lesson, Thomas comes back and will not accept the word of the others that they had 'seen the Lord'.

You know what Thomas is called--'doubting Thomas'. He gets a bad rap. He's just from Missouri--he wants to be 'shown' for himself.

This is just me talking--but I think 'belief' and 'doubt' are on the same spectrum. No 'doubt' 'belief'.

What most people mean when they ask if you 'believe' is 'do you KNOW for sure'. If you 'know for sure', you don't need to 'believe'.

"Belief" is about what we can't 'know for sure'. Belief is about mystery and what is unseen and unknowable.

And besides, the others were hiding behind locked doors. Where was Thomas? He was out and about. He wasn't afraid. He was taking the lay of the land and hearing what people were saying.

Now, here's the crux of the matter: John's gospel is not like the other three and has a totally different purpose.

Matthew, Mark and Luke are about Jesus' teachings and Jesus' 'doings'. John is about Jesus' IDENTITY. About his 'being'.

Remember how John begins? We all know it: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS GOD."

John's Gospel is about Jesus 'being' God. All Jesus teaches in John point to 'who he is'. And the 'signs' he does point to 'who he is'.

It's all about IDENTITY.

And when Jesus shows up again a week later and Thomas is there (and I don't even want to imagine what it was like for that week: the ten full of Joy and Thomas not convinced!) it is Thomas who completes the circle of John's gospel.

When he sees Jesus, Thomas says, "My Lord and my GOD!"

Thomas is the only one in the whole Gospel who truly understands Jesus' IDENTITY.

God bless him.

And God bless each of us in our 'doubts' and our 'questions'.

Just me talking again: I think the questions are more important than the answers any day.

The questions lead us deeper into the reality and the 'truth' of belief. Not 'knowledge' but 'truth'--that's where our questions lead us.

We should all be proud to be doubters like our brother Thomas.


Jim Bradley

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.