(Don't read this if you're coming to Trinity, Milton in the morning!!!)
Thomas, the disciple, the one they called “the Twin”—though we never know who his twin was—is like the two sides of your hand.
He is forever known for his refusal to “believe”—he is forever to be called “the Doubter”. And yet, on the other hand—or on the back of the same hand—it is Thomas who, out of the confusion and fear of the Easter event, finally speaks the ringing words of faith and belief: MY LORD AND MY GOD!
And remember the other disciples were in hiding the first time Jesus came into their room, but Thomas was out in the city, unafraid.
And remember how in John 11, when Jesus told the disciples that he was going to Lazarus’s grave, it was Thomas who said, “Let us go with him, so we cam die with him.”
So which is he then—“doubting Thomas” or “believing Thomas”?
Or maybe he was both—and both at the same time. Doubt and faith are often in a torturous dance, spinning and twirling, not sure who is leading.
One of my earliest memories is of green, green grass and a soft warm breeze blowing on my face as I squinted from the sun. I am in a yard somewhere and my mother and father are there too, though I don’t remember what they were doing. I am very young—walking, but not terribly good at it; talking a little, but not much. And my parents are doing whatever they are doing and I am sitting in the grass, feeling it with my hands, smelling its greenness and richness. And the sun is warm against my skin when suddenly, into this ordinary but very pleasant memory, comes fear and danger.
Another man enters the yard and moves toward my father and my father moves toward him and they practically collide with each other and are struggling with each other and fall onto the ground and I am terrified and crying with that soundless wail of children truly frightened. But my mother picks me up and comforts me and she is laughing and now I see my father and the man, lying in the grass, are laughing too—and what seemed so much like a fight, a wrestling match, something violent had been a too-exuberant embrace between my father and his brother who had been away for a long time….
Struggle and dancing; something violent and an embrace—two sides of the same hand, the palm and the back—just like faith and doubt. And, in our tradition, among our tribe, just like death and life.
We also learn some interesting things about the resurrected Jesus in today’s gospel.
He can enter a room without coming through a door.
But he is not a ‘spirit’, he is corporal, in fact he still has the wounds that killed him on his body and invites Thomas to touch them.
And he breathes. In his first visit he ‘breathed’ on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe it? Or do you doubt?
Two sides of the same hand.
But remember this and remember it always, Jesus doesn’t hold Thomas’ doubt against him.
‘Doubt’ is not a bad thing to God—it is only the other side of the hand from ‘belief’.
Carl Sagan was giving a lecture about the solar system when a woman stood up to say, “Dr. Sagan, the earth isn’t floating in space, it’s resting on the back of a giant turtle.”
Sagan paused a minute and said, “and what is that turtle resting on?”
“Another Turtle,” the woman said.
“And what is that turtle resting on?” Sagan asked.
“Don’t fool with me,” she said, “it’s turtles all the way down.
Sagan was dealing in facts and the woman was dealing with ‘interpretation’.
In the end, it is interpretation…INTERPRETATION…all the way down.
And “interpretation” isn’t a bad thing.
It is the other side of the hand from Fact.
Remember this and remember it ALWAYS—God loves both sides of our hands. God loves us just as we are.
Doubt and belief.
Hugging and Fighting.
Interpretation and Fact.
God loves us.
God loves us.
We are loved by God….