You Can Change Your Habits!

I ran across this story as I was working on this homily and want to share it with you:

“A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.

“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”

With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.

The moral of the story is:

“Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.” [1]

Our lives today are essentially the sum of our habits.

  • How in shape or out of shape are we? A result of our habits.
  • How happy or unhappy are we? A result of our habits.

What we repeatedly do (i.e. what we spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person we are, the things we believe, and the personality that we portray.

We all have gotten ourselves into ruts of behavior (or habits) that we don’t even think about . . . we just do. Take a minute and think about something that you do ‘because you have always done it that way’.

We need to look at why we established the habits in the first place. Habits generally get established because we get something in return for the behavior. We need to ask ourselves what kind of reward do we get when from the habit? Is the reward good or bad? Do we really want to keep the habit?

Habits are hard to break. . . anyone who has tried to stop smoking will tell you that. And there are other habits just as destructive to our health and well-being. But deep-seeded, habitual habits are hard to break.

Have you ever thought that you could climb out of that rut and change? It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to make massive changes in our lives. But, we all know that it is not easy to change a habit (ask anyone who has tried to stop smoking). Habits are so ingrained in us that we often don’t even know they are habits. And to change a habit is not easy, and can’t be changed in on fell-swoop. They have to be changed one little piece at a time.

Mark Twain once said:

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

So how do we break a habit?

First, we have to acknowledge that we have the habit. We can’t change something that we can’t or won’t name. After we admit we have that habit, we need to determine why we started the habit in the first place – did we start biting our nails as a child because we were afraid? Did we start cracking our knuckles to irritate the girls in our schoolroom? Whatever habit we want to change, we must first name it and figure out why we do it.

Secondly, we need to write it down – take a piece of paper and write ‘I will stop. . . . “ whatever the habit is and put it on the refrigerator, or bathroom mirror, or in your wallet, or anywhere you will see it many times during the day. This will remind you the desire to break the habit. Don’t’ say ‘I will try to stop. . .’ – be positive – we can break a habit if we really want to and are willing to expend the energy.

Another trick is to put a rubber band around your wrist, and every time you do the habit, snap the rubber band. Trust me. it won’t take long to remember to stop the habit. Or if you are a smoker, switch to Life Savers or gum when you feel the need to put that cigarette in your mouth. We only have so much room for habits, so replace that destructive habit with a good habit.

The last thing we need to do is forgive ourselves if we fall back into that habit. Habits are not changed overnight; some of them take months, even years to break. Be ready to forgive yourself when you don’t slip back into the old habit – changing is not easy! And EVERYONE has habits they would like to break.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Be kind to yourself. . . remember that God loves each and every one of us and we should love ourselves. Habits are not unsurmountable! We can overcome them!
 
 
[1]      Charles Swindoll, Dallas Seminary Daily Devotional, 2-7-05; http://www.preaching.com/newsletter/
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 25 Jun 2017

 

Who is God?

The last couple of weeks I have been talking about following Jesus and that the Holy Spirit has been sent to help us do that. But one of the things that is often overlooked, is

‘just exactly who is God’.

As I was preparing for this homily, I was thinking that we hear about Jesus and have a pretty good understanding of who He was and what his life, suffering and resurrection mean for us. And although the Holy Spirit is a bit of a mystery, we can accept that the Holy Spirit was breathed upon us to help us follow the teachings of Jesus. But it suddenly dawned on me that we never talk about who God is – probably the most important person – the creator of us all and everything that lives and breathes.

Little children often ask that question, ‘who is God?’, but by the time we reach adulthood, everyone assumes we know who God is – therefore no one talks about that. I think it is time for us to look at who we believe God to be and what God means to each one of us.

We hear in the story of creation in Genesis that the world and everything in it was created by God in only six days. Now, we don’t know what a ‘day’ was in the time before creation, but science has just proven that the earth is a little over 4.4 billion years old. So God, the creator, has been around for a very long time – since before the universe.

God is known by many different names; sometimes God is called ‘Lord’ – not in a political sense, but as a sign of ultimate respect.

Wikipedia defines ‘God’ as ‘the Supreme Being’, the principal object of faith and worship,’ all knowing’ (omniscient); ‘being every present everywhere’ (omnipresent); ‘having unlimited power’ (omnipotent) – after all, you would have to be pretty powerful to take nothing and make the world out of it – and ‘all-loving’ (omnibenevolent).

But, God has no gender. I have a bag that says ‘God is not a boy’s name’, which often causes a stir at some religious functions. But I believe, and theologians agree, that God is not a man, nor is God a woman as we often hear in feminist theology. The Bible says God is a spirit (John 4:24)—without physical form (not in a human body as we are). And, contrary to all the pictures we see of God, He is not a white man! God has no color, He is a spirit, formless – we normally see pictures of God as a white man because people needed something they could see. The picture we often see of God is an old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud in the sky; the most famous of these depictions is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican – most everyone has seen this fresco and associated God with that depiction.

And in love (1 John 4:16), God created us in His image as we read in Genesis 1:27:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

What we do hear repeatedly in Scripture, and need to remember, is that we are all children of God, the same God, no matter what God is called. And we are all beloved children of God (1 John 3:2).

But that still doesn’t answer “Who is God?”

Let’s look at what the Bible says:

When Moses asked God who he was, God answered:

“I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14)

And later in Revelation 22:13:

“I am the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end”

In most faith traditions, God is the ultimate, the Supreme Being, the creator and sustainer of all living things, one to be worshipped.

Some of the things that we hear in the Bible about God is that he is:

just (Acts 17:31),

loving (Ephesians 2:4-5),

truthful (John 14:6), and

holy (1 John 1:5).

God shows compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3), mercy (Romans 9:15), and grace (Romans 5:17) to all his people. And although God may judge our behavior (Psalm 5:5), He always offers forgiveness (Psalm 130:4) – again and again as we stray from the right path.

God is a loving God. He cares about us; and always loves us, no matter what. And He sent Jesus down to help us learn how to live right. And by grace, even when we make mistakes, we are always forgiven. We know from the scriptures, that Jesus brought us eternal life, through his crucifixion and resurrection.

God is the ultimate Being in existence, perfect in power, love, and character. Since God wanted to share His love with others, He created people – us – spiritual creatures who can relate to Him. Because God is love, He wants us to love Him and love other people (Matthew 22:37-40).

That is the God that we know, who knows us and loves us, and the one we worship.

Let us pray:

Dear God, creator of our world and all that is in it, please grant us forgiveness when we don’t follow Jesus’ teachings, help us to remember that you created all people and we are commanded to love them as Jesus loved us. Help us to preserve your creation and live in love with all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
 
 

     Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 18 June 2017

Receive the Holy Spirit

Easter is over, but Jesus has not yet ascended to be with God. But the disciples know that He will be leaving them soon; He had told them that and they were afraid. He had been their teacher and guide; now he would not be there to tell them what to do.

And just as happened after the crucifixion, the disciples were locked inside a room, afraid of the Jews and even their own shadows. But we hear in the gospel of John:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

First, Jesus reassured the disciples saying:

“Peace be with you” (John 20:19)

He wanted them to know that everything was going to be alright; they were to go about teaching, preaching, and healing as He had taught them. We know from other passages in the Bible, that the disciples were not sure they could do what He has instructed them to do (Matthew 17:16-19). They did not believe they had the power. Then He blew on them and gave them, and us, the greatest gift of all: the Holy Spirit.

But what is the ‘Holy Spirit’? The Holy Spirit is, an energy, a power, that little voice we sometimes hear in our head when we are troubled or questioning what we should be doing. It has to be experienced, acknowledged, and kindled from within us like a holy fire. It is a guiding light, leading us in the way we should go to follow the teachings of Jesus. It is a spiritual light – not one we can actually see, but one that lives within us. . . we can feel it, but not see it. Saint Paul tells us

that God’s Holy Spirit is a mark of God’s ownership of us.” (Ephesians 4:30)

Each one of us belong to God; we are one of His beloved children. And to help us through life, through Jesus, we have received the ‘Holy Spirit’.

We experience the Holy Spirit at various times in our lives – often when we are troubled or depressed or at the lowest points in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that comes and shows us what is real, not what we suppose or imagine, but what is ‘real’ in the situation we are in. The Holy Spirit is very important because it comforts and guides us so we can get through dark nights of doubt and despair. Although we may not identify it, the Holy Spirit comes into the lives of each one of us. Jesus promised he would send up an advocate, and the Holy Spirit is that reassuring force.

The Holy Spirit is there to remind us that God has told us He will never desert us. In the depths of the darkness or despair, never doubt or forget that. Remember that the resurrection of Jesus is real; Jesus said He would

go and prepare a place for each of us” (John 14:2-3)

and He has. When our time comes, we will join Jesus in eternal life.

If we just listen, we can be led by the Holy Spirit to do the things God has planned for us. It can be a guide, a counselor, advising us how to follow Jesus. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit will comfort us when we’re hurting, saying.

I will not leave you as orphans,” (John 14:18),

promising that the

the Spirit will bring us peace” (John 14:27).

But the Holy Spirit can’t do all the work for us. We are still responsible for doing our part—asking the Holy Spirit to show us the truth and teach us how to live. All we have to do is let the Holy Spirit enter our lives. Just listen to that small voice to follow the teachings of Jesus and have eternal life.

Let us pray:

Spirit of the Mighty, Gentle One, come upon me, anoint me.

I see the oppressed. I name them; I hold them close. Make my life into good news for them.

I see the brokenhearted. I name them; I hold them close. Give me gentle grace to bind up their hearts.

I see the imprisoned. I name them; I hold them close. Give me true words and deeds to release them.

I see the ruined cities. I name them; I hold them close. Make me a part of their building up.

Spirit of God, be upon me. I see my own ruins, my chains. Hold me close and set me free, that I may be your good news for others.[1]

Amen
 
 
[1]      Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, ‘Spirit, be upon me’, Unfolding Light
 

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 4 June 2017

Memorial Day 2017

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, a day of remembrance. Memorial Day began to honor and celebrate Union Soldiers who died serving their country during the Civil War. After the end of World War I, Memorial Day was extended to include all American men and women who died serving their country in any military action or war.

On Memorial Day people often read a poem honoring fallen veterans or look up their family history and honor those in their family who have served our country. Many people go to the cemeteries and put American flags on veteran’s graves, that’s why it was known as Decoration Day for a while.

It is important for us to honor our veterans. Service in the military changes your life; men and women give the best years of their lives to our country. Some give the ultimate sacrifice but all sacrifice whether in peace or times of war. Never forget those who made that sacrifice for us and our freedom. Today is a day to remember men and women who died while serving their country. Statistics say that over 37,000,000 men and women have served our country since its existence with over 640,000 men and women giving up their lives for you and me.

On this special holiday, if you are or have served in our armed forces please stand. We thank you for your service.

If you have a spouse/partner/parent who served, please stand. You may not have served, but ‘those serve who also stand and wait’. Let us recognize these people and thank them for their service, loyalty and patriotism.

And yet even with a national holiday, we are still a forgetful people. The phrase ‘out of sight out of mind’ applies to us most of the time. But right now, we have over 2,266,883 men and women serving in some branch of military service, including reserves. Over 6,000 have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq; 44,266 have been wounded. War is not a pleasant thing, and most people would like to forget.

But we cannot and must not forget those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. . . for each one of us.

The meaning of this day has been lost… it is more than an excuse to fire up the grill, have a picnic, get together with family. Though we forget, take it for granted and perhaps treat the day lightly, the sacrifices of the men and women who have fallen have provided us with many things. Let me point out only three of those things.

Liberty

Of the many things the deaths of our soldiers provide us, liberty is the greatest. Those freedoms don’t come freely, but at a great cost. These brave people fought to give us the greatest country on earth. They fought and some died to ensure that we could have the freedom to speak our minds, to travel where we wish, to vote for representative government. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Security

Every night we go to bed in the safety of my own dwelling, whatever that is, while wars are fought on foreign soil. Our autos will not be blown up, we’re not going to face bombers on the way to work, no missiles flying overhead, no chaos in the streets. We have lost our stomach for war – but let that war rage on the streets of this nation, in our neighborhoods, on this home front…let the bombing and shooting and kidnapping and beheading take place in this land and we’ll be reminded of the safety and security we enjoy. . . all because some men and women chose to serve to make us more secure.

Peace

Because we have liberty and security, we live in a time of peace. There may be dissension between special interests in the country, but we still are at peace. We are a nation so at peace we are oblivious to the terror and turmoil most people in the world face on a daily basis. We can sleep at night in peace, we can have our coffee here at In The Garden in peace – we need to thank a solider for that. It is because they have given their lives we enjoy the peaceful lives we do, lives no one else on earth has like we do in America.

This Memorial Day, we should not only honor those who gave everything in service to our country, but continue to share their stories and give voice to the heroes who can no longer speak for themselves. I think the best way we can honor the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom is to live lives worthy of their sacrifice. There are many other things we enjoy at the expense of the lives of our soldiers, so today we want to honor their courage, their valor, their sacrifice by simply saying “Thank You” for what they have given to us.

Let us pray:

We pray today for those who have suffered and sacrificed in service to their country.

We honor the sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who have died, and for their loved ones, who still suffer.

We pray for those who are injured, especially those poorly cared for.

We pray for those whose who are injured in heart or mind or soul.

We pray for those whose spirits died when they were forced to witness or commit horrible things.

We pray for homeless veterans, for addicts and suicides and vets haunted by PTSD, for they too are casualties of our way of war.

We pray for those who have served who are lonely, who are sad, who are guilty or ashamed.

We pray for those who are proud but unappreciated.

We pray for healing for all those who bear the wounds we choose others to suffer and to inflict.

And we pray for those of other nations, too.

God bless all who have suffered and sacrificed: may they know healing, grace, and deep peace.

Amen.

 

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 28 May 2017

And Jesus Said, “I Tell You The Truth”

(John 14:1-14)

Every time Jesus wanted us to listen to what He had to say, He would say

truly I tell you“

or

verily I say unto you“

or

I tell you the truth”

All of Jesus’ parables use one of these phrases, as well as many of His teachings. He wants us to ‘get it’ – that what He was saying is important to us and to our salvation.

And Jesus performed all kinds of marvelous deeds: changing water into wine, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, making the lame walk again, driving out demons, feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes, restoring the ear of the servant that Peter cut off, -things that we don’t see every day – things that people found hard to or couldn’t believe. But Bible tells us that these miracles are true -that Jesus did these things – and reminds us that He also said “I tell you the truth”.

In this day and age, we have a hard time finding someone who will tell us the truth. Events are sensationalized, we hear lots of ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative facts’, and some people just outright lie and expect us to believe them. It is very hard or almost impossible to know what is true anymore.

But there is one person who we can always believe – who speaks the truth to us, no matter what – and that is Jesus. “I tell you the truth” was, in fact, the essence of Jesus’ mission and ministry.

I tell you the truth,” Jesus says in today’s text,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

He said this to the disciples on the last night He shared a meal with them – the time we call ‘The Last Supper’. Can you think of anything more reassuring? More hopeful? More promising?

In spite of the betrayal by Judas and denial three times by Peter that would come in that evening, and the trial Jesus would be facing, he reassured this band of followers, saying

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

And He says the same thing to us!

We, like those disciples, have our doubts, weak resolve and often wander off the correct path. Jesus told the truth about the cruelty of people to others, the hatred that tears us apart, the shortcomings that bind us together more than any ties of nationalities, ethnicity, or politics ever could. But once again, Jesus reassures us:

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

Jesus’ “I tell you the truth“ revealed more about God, about that love and forgiveness that is offered to us; the ‘truth’ about God’s plan for salvation for each and every one of us. When Jesus told the ‘truth’ about God, it was never quite what we expected.

For those convinced they were righteous and blessed by their piety and goodness, Jesus warned,

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).

For those who put their faith in human efforts, in the power of the sword and political might, Jesus announced before the great Temple Herod had completed,

“I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).

For those proud of their rigid oppressive religion, Jesus reminded them that there would be no grown-ups in heaven:

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

For those who said God could only work in certain ways and through certain people, Jesus told the ‘truth’ about a God who could work

wherever,

whenever,

and with whomever

God wants us!

Each and every one of us!

No matter what!

Jesus came to tell the ‘truth’, and this truth both surprises and sets us free – free for God to take us to places that we’ve never been before and couldn’t get to without God.

All we have to do is follow the teachings of Jesus.

Praise be to God!

 

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 14 May 2017

 

 

 

An Unexamined Belief Is Not Worth Having

John 20:19-31

Today’s gospel reading is one of the best-known Eastertide gospels – that of “Doubting Thomas”. We almost never hear the name of this disciple without the label of “Doubting”. Most people, no matter how non-religious, have heard about “Doubting Thomas”.

You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. He is just a name in a list of the disciples (Mark 3:18, Matthew 10:3, Luke 6:15), a faceless man among the twelve. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. Bishop John Shelby Spong in his book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, that the writer of John created Thomas as a metaphor with a unique personality of “doubting”. His story has entered the vocabulary of the world and is even used in common conversation. People who doubt or question the status quo are called “Doubting Thomas”.[1]

Jesus admonished Thomas:

“Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27)

Jesus told Thomas to believe and accept His resurrection as true – to have “faith”.

What then is this “faith” we are supposed to have? Faith is a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. It is, from a religious standpoint, a strong belief in God or certain doctrines based on spiritual apprehension, rather than proof. Jesus goes on to tell Thomas

“blessed are those who believe and have not seen”. (John 20:29)

In fact, not only Christians, but all human beings, really, live every day by faith.

  • We go to sleep assuming by faith that we will wake up.
  • We kiss our loved ones goodbye, having faith that we will see them again.
  • We drive to the grocery store with the faith that we will return home safely with our groceries.
  • We plant our gardens in the fall with faith that they will blossom in the spring.

And most crucially, we live every day knowing at some point that we will die, and that somehow it will be alright. But we cannot prove that, nor can we understand what really happens. These are all elements of “having faith”.

But does faith mean we do not doubt?

No, surely faith does not preclude doubt. Most people, if they are honest with themselves, will admit that they are troubled from time to time with doubts about what they they’ve been taught is true. Even the Saint Mother Teresa wrote of her doubts in her diaries, saying:

“[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, – Listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak “

Even this holy woman had doubts, yet her faith was strong.

Doubt is defined as: ‘a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction; a hesitancy to believe; not being certain about something, especially about how good or true it is.’

The writer, Frederick Buechner, put it this way, “If you don’t have doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants-in-the-pants of faith; they keep faith alive and moving.”[2] Doubt is one of God’s most effective tools for producing mighty men and women of faith.

I submit to you that being a “Doubting Thomas” and questioning life, especially its major events or problems, is not a bad thing. We should do it. When we ask ourselves difficult questions, we get answers that can deepen our faith and provide us with the tools we need to move to a more purposeful life and a closer relationship with God.

Indeed, we can learn a valuable lesson from Thomas: We must doubt and then move beyond doubt to faith. It is all right to doubt, but we must move beyond doubt.

Jesus told Thomas that those

who believe even if they have not seen are blessed.” (John 29:29)

Certain Christian doctrines and biblical stories simply seem illogical and flawed. They confound all reason and go against much of what we now know for sure, through science and experience.

So, what if we find ourselves with serious doubts. What should we do?

  • We can accept that doubt is normal and healthy for human beings. All Christians, sometime during our lives, have doubts, questions and skepticisms. That is the way that God made us: to ask questions, to inquire, to think, to sort things out.
  • As I mentioned, doubts, questions and skepticism often lead to a greater faith. Centuries ago, Copernicus doubted that the earth was the center of the universe. Christians of his era were using and quoting the Bible to prove that the earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus doubted the validity of those peoples’ interpretation and his doubting of their interpretation of the Bible led him to a larger and deeper understanding of our place in the world and the wonders of God’s creation. Galileo took this further to his own excommunication from the church, but a strengthened faith in God. Doubt often leads to deeper faith.

So, when we doubt, we begin to examine our lives to determine what is true, what is right, what is good for us. That is the human process – it leads to a better understanding of ourselves, our world, and our relationship with eternity. And each one of us must travel that journey at their own pace and in their own time.

So, is there a real purpose for doubt in our Christian faith? ABSOLUTELY!

Doubt is what enables our faith to grow. Today’s gospel passage tells us this. In the beginning of the text Jesus has appeared to the disciples and they believed. They had to share it with others. Thomas was not in the room when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, and when he heard what happened, he did not believe what they were saying. Thomas had little faith in what the disciples were saying because it was, frankly, unbelievable, and he needed more proof. Jesus was dead – he had seen him brutally tortured and murdered, he saw his lifeless body buried in a tomb.

We don’t know why Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared. But surely, he was despairing – the one in whom he had put all his faith was dead. Yet, today we should be glad for his doubt, for we, like Thomas, did not see Jesus appear resurrected, and our doubt is much like his.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples a second time, however, Thomas was there and declared for all to hear,

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and place my finger where the nails where, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.“ (John 20:25)

Did Jesus chastise Thomas for his unbelief? No! He understood the reason for his doubts and said:

“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” (John 20:27)

And Thomas believed!

Doubting Thomas was very much like each of us, wanting to believe and still unsure that Jesus has actually risen. He wanted to see the scars and touch them to assure himself that it was really true – Jesus was alive and had overcome death. Just as Thomas doubted, we feel compelled in our doubts to see for ourselves. Just as Thomas wanted tangible proof, we, in our complex and cruel world, need to be reassured that what Jesus promised us is true – that life is eternal – that to live as He did, to follow His example of love, compassion, service, and forgiveness – this leads us to true life, here on earth and beyond – and that where He is eternally, there we will be also. Like Thomas, we all must seek, experience, meditate, and question until we come to understand, through confidence in the word of Jesus, that He is true, His promise is true, and we can believe in Him with all our hearts and minds.

I leave you with this poem, “Thomas, Undone”, by Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

The un-ease you feel is not doubt.
It is hunger to go deeper.
You are not done yet.

Learn from Thomas,
who, when Jesus planned to go to Bethany
where they had tried to stone him,
said, “Let us go die with him.”

You want to see the scar of your betrayal
and how love bears it.

You want to touch the wounds
and enter the heart of The One
Who Suffers for the World
and lives.

Now, more than before,
you are ready to come and die with him,
let love undo you and begin again.

Don’t belittle your restlessness.
Let it lead you.
Reach out.

Even now he is saying your name. [3]

Let us pray:

Almighty and ever living God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: grant us the faith to truly and deeply believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found doubting. Empower us to be carriers of that faith to others. Give us the ability to share it so others can know the grace of your salvation, your gracious gift of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
 
Christ with Saint Thomas, Andrea de Verrocchio, Orsanmichele, Florence (1467-1483)
[1]    John Shelby Spong, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, HarperOne, 2014
[2]    Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, (Harper One, 1973)
[3]   Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, “Thomas, Undone”, Unfolding Light

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 23 April 2017