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    Apr 28, 2019

    The Good and Bad of Thomas

    The Good and Bad of Thomas

    Passage: John 20:19-31

    Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

    Series: Easter 2019

    Category: Easter

    Summary:

    Thomas has some great attributes of Episcopalians, but he should also bring us up short. Due to technical problems, the sermon was not recorded. The notes are found below.

    Detail:

    Here we are a week after Easter and yet still hearing more about the resurrection. Easter is a season that lasts for 50 days. So, Happy Easter to you. Every 2ndSunday of Easter, we hear the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples except for one, Thomas, on Easter Day. When Thomas returns to the hiding spot (we have no idea what he was doing), he doesn’t believe his friends tale about seeing Jesus. He wants to see the evidence for himself. I always say that Thomas is a good example of a discerning and healthy Episcopalian. He doesn’t accept things blindly; he enters the situation with skepticism. That is how we are taught to engage with ideas in our church and in our world post the Scientific Revolution. As an Episcopalian, I can tell you that if I was told that I had to believe everything that some church authority told me about faith, I would give up my membership. For a healthy skepticism, we can hold Thomas as an example.

     

    Where Thomas should bring us up short is that he shatters the bond of community by doubting the motives of his closest friends. Thomas spent years with the other disciples, he ate meals with them, he learned with them (under the direction of Jesus), he debated with them, he served with them, he loved them, and yet he questioned their motives and the veracity of their experience. It is a pretty strong statement to totally discount what 10 of your closest friends have seen.

     

    Two Sundays ago, Palm Sunday, Tiger Woods won the Masters. Some have said it was the greatest sport’s comeback of all time. That is arguable. On that Sunday afternoon, I watched the Masters and after Tiger’s win, I came to St. Patrick’s ready for our evening Middle School Classy session. When I got here, I ran into Adele and she asked me who had won the Masters and I told her, Tiger Woods. She said, “Unbelievable.” Yet, she trusted that I had told her the truth. She didn’t go to her computer to check the media, she trusted that what I said was correct even though it was unbelievable. In the same situation, would Thomas have required being there in person?

     

    Was the 1969 moon landing staged in a recording studio? Only a few people were actually there, millions of people saw it on television, did it really happen or was it staged?

     

    These might seem like crazy examples, but we are becoming much more skeptical of each other. We might ask questions about what party they belong to, or what kind of work they do, or what part of the town they live in. It is much easier to hold onto our set of views, then to have them challenged by someone else’s perception. So, we, like Thomas, put our foot down in the name of doubt, but what is really distrust, judging the motives of the messenger, or valuing the evidence that supports our established view.

     

    In the #metoo era, we are hearing experiences that can’t be proven in a court of law, but they are real. When someone makes a claim that rocks our view or challenges our friends or our group members, do we discount that testimony with doubt, distrust, questioning motives, and thinking the worst of them. Do we watch the accuser on the evening news and say, “I won’t believe unless I see it with my own eyes?”

     

    That is what Thomas did. He was unwilling to give his friends, his closest friends, the benefit of the doubt. And it was a week later, on the next 1stday of the week, in that same room when Jesus returned that Thomas’ doubt was put away.

     

    It is hard work to live in community. It is even harder work to rely on others. We like to define the terms of our life. We want others to bow to our world view, because that helps us believe that we have control. But being a believer of the resurrection, is about believing that there is value in every view. That we should approach experiences, every experience, with an open mind.

     

    Approaching our life in community with an acceptance, with a belief that everyone’s perspective is worthy of being believed, leads us to a community of trust and respect. It allows us to withstand the variety of opinions inherent in a diverse society.

     

    As Christians, we should enter a conversation with a spirit of abundance and not of scarcity knowing that there is room for more than one view at any table and that truth can manifest itself in a variety of ways depending on where one is standing.

     

    This lesson, the lesson of “Doubting” Thomas, is that when people share a different view, testify to something unbelievable, or just look at the world differently, we should receive it in love. We should want to know more, so that we can widen our view of the world around us.

     

    Because a world where each view is given value, is challenged in a dialogue of love, will be a world that will bring us closer to God’s vision. Resurrection is not only about accepting the goodness of God, it is about accepting the goodness of one another. Consider that this Easter season and don’t doubt, but believe.