Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Year B Advent 3 Wed 2017 St Thomas

Year B Advent 3 Wed, 20 December 2017
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“St. Thomas”
John 20:24-29
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told
him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and
stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach
out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus
said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

I have come to love St. Thomas. I had a bad taste in my mouth from my childhood and
how he was always presented as a cautionary tale to a lack of faith. Hence the name
Doubting Thomas. But is he? Is he really?

Thomas shows in the Gospel of John his abundant faith in Jesus.

John 11
11After saying this, Jesus told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken
him.’ 12The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ 13Jesus, however, had
been speaking about Lazarus’ death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus
told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.
But let us go to him.’ 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that
we may die with him.’

That is not a statement of doubt, that is a statement of faith. And according to Church
Tradition, after Jesus’ Ascension he traveled the furthest, all the way to India, to proclaim
the message of the Resurrected Lord.

So what is up with Thomas? He expresses where he is, seeing a room full of wishful thinkers
or so it appears. And they did not have to have faith, they SAW Jesus. He was left out.
Maybe he had gone for Chinese take-out for everybody, we don’t know. But when the
opportunity arises, and Jesus appears again, he gets to see and experience the Risen Lord,
just like the other 10. And when he does, he does not take up Jesus on the offer to place
hand or fingers in wounds. He falls down in worship. Jesus meets his doubts, or his needs,
or his statements of who he is, however you choose to see it.

Doubt is a funny thing. Temperament has a lot to do with it. Some people see the world
Black and White, and some only see shades of grey. Some people readily believe, and some
need to see the accounting. God made us all fearfully and wonderfully, and if we see things it
is not faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not
seen,” Hebrews 11:1 reminds us. Some people need signs and wonders. God bless them. And
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

One of my favorite thoughts on faith is the line John Irving uses to open his book A Prayer for
Owen Meany. The line comes from Frederick Buechner: "Not the least of my problems is that I
can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious
experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal
himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would
be no room for me." [emphasis added]

Our doubts are an expression of our view on the world. Our faith is a response to our doubts.
Thomas could go to India, as foreign a world as he could have possibly imagined because of
the open expression of his doubts, and Jesus loving way of meeting him in those doubts
without judgement and inviting him to see another way.

Thomas’s meeting of the Risen Lord was was that self-authenticating religious experience,
and I think was a prime example of that phrase that rattles around my head when I think of
this place, “With Less of Me, there is more room for God and God’s Rule.” Thomas was
able to let that rational, proof-needing self step across the threshold of faith. Thanks be to
God. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock