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Do you believe? - Sermon, 4/19/20
April 19, 2020, 10:07 AM

No; you’re not having flashbacks to last year.  We hear the story of Doubting Thomas on the second Sunday of the Easter season every year.  Every year!  How can there possibly be anything interesting left to say about Doubting Thomas?  I admit that I struggled to find a message for this morning until I stood in the kitchen at our house.  Ann-Marie was loading the dishwasher with the newest round of dirty dishes and I was, well, supervising the process.

As I stood there, I noticed a little magnet on the side of the refrigerator.  Now, this magnet has probably been on the fridge for more than ten years.  I have probably seen this silly magnet a million times, but this week was the first time I really noticed it.  The magnet shows a green-skinned alien with the words, “Do you believe?” around the edge.

The green-skinned alien has a speech bubble coming out of its mouth that says, “I believe.”  As silly as this might sound, this silly little magnet made me think about what we believe and why we believe it. 

If you’re a green-skinned alien, it is easy to believe in green-skinned aliens.  No mental leap is needed.  No crazy reasoning.  All you need to do is look in the mirror to see that you do, in fact, exist.  It would be silly for a green-skinned alien to doubt the existence of green-skinned aliens.

So why can it be hard to believe in Jesus?  And it can be hard – at least for me, on some days – to believe in Jesus.  Because believing in Jesus is not just a matter of believing that there was some dude walking around Jerusalem 2000 years ago.  Believing in Jesus requires me to believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine – something hard enough to explain and something even harder to believe.  Believing in Jesus requires me to believe that Jesus is God-with-us, Emmanuel, God-with-skin.  Believing in Jesus requires me to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. 

This is a tall order – to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  There is nothing I can see in today’s world that makes belief in Jesus seem any easier.  It’s not as though we can look around us and see many people who have risen from the dead.  Dying is a regular part of human experience, but rising?  Not so much.

It is easy for me to identify with Thomas, the disciple best known for his statements of doubt.  Thomas is not present with the other disciples when they locked themselves away in a hidden room when Jesus appears.  When Thomas hears about Christ’s appearance, he does not believe the ones who tell him. 

Thomas gives an ultimatum to the other disciples, saying, “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.”  But what is it that Thomas doesn’t believe?  Is Thomas struggling to accept that Jesus appeared among the disciples?  Is he struggling to believe in the resurrection itself? 

The statement Thomas makes forever dooms him to the title, “Doubting Thomas.”  What I never really thought about before is that Thomas – even in his doubt – does not remove leave the disciples.  There is still something in Thomas, however small, that believes.  Why else would he be with the disciples the next week when Jesus appears again?

Maybe “Doubting Thomas” is not the best name for this particular disciple.  Maybe he could instead be called “Human Thomas?”  Or “Normal Thomas?”  Thomas’s reaction seems human to me, especially as someone who has never met anyone risen from the dead.  But, even though Thomas doubts, he does not abandon his faith or his community. 

We hear in today’s lesson that Thomas is also called “The Twin.”  Each of us, at some point in our lives, could probably be a twin of Thomas.  Thomas, in his doubt, is deeply human.  I wouldn’t mind being Thomas’ twin – he doubts but never abandons his faith.  He sticks around with other believers – never abandoning the little community of Christ’s followers.

I wouldn’t mind being Thomas’ twin, especially because his deeply human doubt is erased by a visit from the Risen Christ.  Thomas, even Doubting Thomas, is given the blessed opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ.  Thomas’ honest doubt is washed away when he recognizes Jesus and greets the Risen Christ by proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!”

I pray that my doubt will someday be pushed away – even if it’s not until the day that I, too, encounter the Risen Christ.  And I pray that I, too, will confidently proclaim Christ, “My Lord and my God!”

And I pray the same for all of us.  Amen.

 
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