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Doubt or Longing – either way, have Faith

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

thomas030307_01Peace be with you!

When I was a teenager, I spent a couple of years in an all-girls Catholic High School. The sisters used to warn us to behave because the “wrongs” we did wouldn’t just send us to hell, but we would be branded for life with a mark on our permanent record.

There was nothing more threatening, more anxiety-laden than this phantom mark of our reputation. My friends and I still tease each other about the potential descriptions of our character. We can playfully imagine how the sisters may have branded us.

Thomas’s permanent record has been marred by this one event behind closed doors. One event that I believe is a mischaracterization of who Thomas is and who he was to Jesus.

Thomas didn’t want anything that everyone else didn’t all ready have. In fact, Thomas was devout and courageous. I believe there is nothing Thomas wouldn’t have done for Jesus. Including laying his life down for him.

Would you lay down your life down for Jesus today?

What would you do for your teacher?

In John 11, Jesus is called to the bedside of Lazarus in Bethany. This journey would have been gravely dangerous, as there were mobs who wanted to stone Jesus. The frightened disciples try to talk Jesus out of going to Lazarus, but Jesus assures them to have faith and then, it is Thomas who is outspoken and willing to lay down his life for his teacher, saying, “Let us also go so that we may die with Him.” Thomas may not have understood but he certainly was willing. He didn’t know if they would live or die, but he had faith in his teacher, so he was willing to go.

We ought to be celebrating his willingness, to walk in the dark, take courage and follow Jesus.

Dear people of Christ, the enemy of Faith is not doubt – the enemy of Faith is unbelief. Thomas may not have understood, he may have questioned whether they would live or die, but he kept walking, he kept walking forward, he kept walking toward, he kept following Jesus. That’s faith in the midst of doubt. That’s belief.

When I was a teenager, I went to bed on a Sunday evening and I had a dream of a woman with fiery red hair and quick Irish wit. She spoke in many places, rooms and retreats and people would follow her from near and far just to catch a glimpse and hear a word. What a dream!

When I rose the following morning, the sun was out and seemed like a fine day to skip school and walk with God awhile. The presence of my dream sat upon on my shoulder, with a whisper –  Follow me, Follow me.

I didn’t understand, and I didn’t know where I was going, but by the afternoon I found myself in the Basement of Calvary Episcopal Church. Prayerful and quiet, the voice from my dream spoke more loudly, and I raised my chin, opened my eyes and there she sat. Quick wit, fiery red hair, her name was Maureen.

A new day was dawning.

I Instantly became her shadow, her youngest and most devout disciple. Wherever Maureen went, wherever she spoke and taught, wherever and whenever she shared her experience strength and hope, I was there. I didn’t always get it, I didn’t always understand, but I had faith and I believed.

On Sunday mornings we would meet at St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church and it was a really big church. Maureen sat in the 2nd row.

She said, “If you want to hear God, you sit up front.” Now I didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t hear God from anywhere else in the building, and I thought, gee I’d be way more comfortable blending in back there.

I didn’t really know if I would hear God better or not, but I had faith in my teacher. So on Sunday morning, I’d get up early, meet Maureen and sit in the 2nd row. And by golly, I think I heard God.

In John 14, Jesus is explaining the way to God. He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may also be. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” And Thomas responds to Jesus, “ Lord we do not know where we are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Thomas didn’t always understand Jesus, but he loved and believed in his teacher. He dared to be forthright and honest about his not knowing. And in his reasonable not knowing he STILL had the faith to follow.

Alfred Tennyson says, there lives more Faith in Honest doubt than in all the creeds.

I have a great deal of compassion for Thomas. I can feel, empathise with his grief and longing for his teacher.

You see, I had the blessed opportunity to spend a good three and a half years following and learning from Maureen. She was only in her 50’s when she died suddenly. Those of us who were her disciples, who followed her instantly found our lives together changed. We took comfort in each other only for a while, but the breath of God had been upon us, and we would pick up our Love, our lessons and experiences and begin to disperse separately in our ways.

I can remember those early days soon after, wrestling with the loss of her, grieving, searching for answers and longing for her presence, her voice, her laugh and wit. Longing for the long talks, the rides, the speaking engagements and the masses of people, the crowds that gathered to hear, speak and teach. I can remember asking her after such an engagement, “Do you feel like a celebrity?” She looked at me sternly and said, “There but for the Grace of God go I. “ I was young and foolish. I didn’t quite understand, but I kept hanging around Maureen. After her death, there was an ending, an ending for all of us, and life would be very different moving forward with a New Beginning, our life after Maureen.

The disciples sat grieving and in fear, in a locked room, having lost their teacher to a Violent and Traumatic death. Their teacher who brought them the gifts of Love and Grace, and Forgiveness and Mercy. Their teacher who provided them with a prophetic voice on what was going to be.

Now they were facing a new road ahead, this new Journey without their teacher, but with his spirit in mind.

I can imagine the depth of their longing. From this day forth nothing would ever be the same, not for any one of them.

But Again I say to you, Thomas, didn’t ask for anything, that everyone else didn’t all ready have.

When the women came back from the Tomb and told the disciples Jesus rose from the dead and was alive. Not one male disciple believed them. Not one, yet, the reputation of “doubter” is not attributed to any one of them. There is no doubting Peter, or Andrew, James or John, Phillip or Bartholomew, not any one of them despite them shrugging off the women. Then Jesus appears to them, breaths on them and they believe.

Who never doubted never half believed, where doubt their truth is – ‘is her shadow.

Philip James Bailey

But where’s Thomas?

He’s not there, and I don’t believe for a single second that he is out buying oranges. He and the disciples are wanted men, but Thomas was never the one to sit around hiding. This is the same disciple who was willing to lay his life down for Jesus.

Jesus appears to the women, and Thomas is Grieving… Where are you, Jesus?  Jesus showed himself to the disciples…. Thomas is searching… Where are you, Jesus?

Thomas longing, embedded with grief, and loss hallowed chaos that distracts from the “here and now” – that burning desire to understand.

Where are you, Jesus?

Can you feel Thomas? Can you hear him say…

My heart is broken, and I am longing for your presence, I reach out my hand to touch you, I keep walking forward, but I cannot feel you, I cannot hear you or smell your essence – I know I am walking toward you where are you?` Jesus, Jesus, and a week later Jesus appears to Thomas in front of the disciples.

“Peace be with you.” 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.”

That is how it is written as Jesus spoke to all the apostles.

When I read I read this scripture I get a very vivid picture in my mind, and it looks something like this:

Stunned by his appearance, wanting sure this was not an appreciable, we put our fingers in the wounds of Jesus and I saw all the wars in the nations, ice caps melting, people of color dying in the streets, lifeless fish floating in the sea, babies torn from their mothers, children dying in classrooms, hunger and famine throughout the world, refugees hiding in fear, trees falling in the forests, and all the creatures of this earth needlessly suffering, all mothers of the land weeping and money, power, greed and all the idyllic monsters that have stolen the attention of the masses. Saddened at the wounds of God, we took a breath….

And withdrew our fingers from the wounds of our Savior – What have we done?

We then lifted our eyes to meet Jesus, and this light appeared brighter than anything we have ever seen, the heavens opened up, and all the wounds of the earth were no more. A new day was born.

Alleluia Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.

Life rarely ever goes as planned. Often, Life will take us in a completely different direction to the path we intended to travel, but no matter what happens HAVE FAITH – Have Faith that in the end, it will work out.

Faith is believing in your dream when no one else does. Faith is sitting in the storm of your life and still being able to close your eyes and feel the sun. Still being able to see and know the better days are coming, despite the chaos, and storms and injustice and hurt all around you, that’s Faith!

Sometimes only you can see it. Have Faith- No matter how long it will take to get there. You will get there. Faith is taking the First step even when you can’t see the whole journey. Trusting the rest of the path will reveal itself in time, trusting in Jesus, trusting in God!

Keep moving forward. That’s what Thomas did. Keep moving forward.

Faith dear family is not a road without trouble or despair; it is not a road without question, Faith is a belief held in the presence of doubt, rather than an idea that removes all doubt.

Take the first step and keep moving.

You must have Faith these struggles will pass. Believe the Risen Christ is here. Here Now.

We can learn from Thomas. We can learn that even though we don’t know where our journey may lead, it is enough that our Lord makes the journey with us.

And in those times when our faith needs the reinforcement of tangible reality, and we are questioning, in the dark night of our soul, through the depth of our sorrow and wonder, where are you, God? —- it is good to know that our Lord does not meet our doubts with chastisement, but with a manifestation of grace, Love and mercy.

And when the chaos of our grief disappears, we will see that whom we were looking for, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is right here with us.

Peace!

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