Meditation for Sunday, 11 April 2021 Easter 2
By Revd George Mwaura
Doubt if you will
God whose light shines in the darkness, and who gave Thomas what he asked for,
give us what we need-that we too may come to believe in the risen Christ.
He was a normal human being with multiple dimensions. I do not know anyone with a single dimension.
The truth is, we are all a medley of love, anger, joy, sadness, faith, doubt and much more.
And, as a human being, he was a person of many qualities, feelings, thoughts, and expressions.
One time, Jesus proposed to go to Bethany in Judea because his friend, Lazarus, had died.
Some of his friends tried to persuade Jesus not to go.
After all, recently, folks in that part of the country had tried to stone him.
But Jesus was resolute, and so our man-of-many-dimensions stood up and said,
‘Let us go there as well, that we may die with him.’
Here was a true friend in the face of danger.
On another occasion, Jesus was teaching his disciples about his impending death.
This same true friend was confused and was seeking to understand the teaching.
Of all those present, he was the one to interrupt and ask boldly,
‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’
He wanted desperately to understand, because he wanted to follow.
This true friend was also an honest seeker.
Throughout the first thirteen chapters of the book of Acts, we find his name among those who gathered in fellowship and prayer.
He was among those gifted with the Holy Spirit and sent to preach the gospel among the gentiles.
Christian legend has it that he died in India as a missionary.
Who have I been referencing? Yes, Thomas: true friend, questioner, disciple, and doubter.
And it is that last label that has stuck.
Mention the name Thomas even to the unchurched and you will hear, ‘Ah yes, doubting Thomas’.
We have already noted that Thomas, like any of us, was more than one-dimensional;
he was more than any one label can describe.
Why, then, of all his good qualities, has he been painted with one word?
Perhaps it is because Christians have been led to believe that doubt is wrong and evil.
Somewhere along the way we have been taught that a radical dichotomy exists between faith and doubt.
Faith is good and doubt is bad. Faith builds up and doubt destroys. Faith nurtures and doubt stifles.
Maybe it is time, then, to ask if there can be any meaningful faith, where no doubt has preceded it.
Can we really know the joy that comes from knowing God’s presence
without first knowing God’s absence?
The question is not whether doubt is good or bad.
The question is whether faith can take root in anything else than doubt.
We need to stop avoiding our doubts by flogging Thomas’s memory.
The truth is, Thomas is us, and perhaps his story tells us more about faith than it does about doubt.
Let us revisit the story for a moment.
Thomas was absent from the gathering of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them.
We can only guess where he was and what he was doing.
But it is a safe guess to say he was off somewhere grieving.
He had been captured by this vision of a new kingdom Jesus talked about.
He had seen the miracles of healing;
he had witnessed changed hearts and lives and had taken an active role in the shaping of the dream.
But in a cruel twist of fate, the dream had been killed on a cross.
Despair? Yes! Grief? Certainly. Doubt? Probably.
So, perhaps he was out somewhere wandering in the countryside
trying to make sense of the tragedy at Golgotha which had violently shaken him.
There were doubts, for sure, but they were honest doubts. What happened to the dream?
How can this kingdom of peace come from the darkness of this Friday afternoon?
Is it any wonder, then, that when he finally brought himself to return to his friends,
he was totally unprepared for their excitement?
‘Hey, Thomas, guess what? We have seen the Lord!’ They shouted
and Thomas, in his moment of darkness, could only respond,
‘Guys, guys, not now; and unless I see in his hands the prints of the nails
and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
Is it any wonder?
Who wants to be set-up twice for disappointment and hurt?
Who wants to get their hopes up again only to have them destroyed by the reality of a cruel world?
After all, once bitten… twice shy!
Eight days later, Thomas was about to climb out of his valley of despair and grief
when Jesus came to his followers again with his greeting: ‘Peace be with you!’
And then, he turned to Thomas and gave him his chance to touch the wounds.
Let us pause there for a moment.
Can you try and picture that scene?
Thomas, in that moment of reborn hope and rekindled faith,
responded with the highest confession we find in John’s gospel: ‘My Lord and my God!’
The highest confession in John’s gospel sprang from the deepest despair.
It is quite clear here that Thomas is not the bad guy, a rogue, or a scoundrel, no, no!
Thomas is you and me.
Out of the reality of doubt, the possibility for faith is born. And here we need a word of caution.
Even the faith that is forged by despair and born anew in the resurrection is not immune to doubt.
We will always live with the paradox of faith and doubt as two sides of the same coin.
And the reason for this is obvious.
Resurrection faith does not come to us like a package from the postal service.
We can never possess it, because faith is not a thing; faith is an experience.
Like Thomas, when our experience of God begins to wane,
we long for proof to help with the encroaching doubts.
We want hard evidence, something we can cling to.
Yet, faith always comes as a challenge, as venture, as a risk,
and so it cannot ever be totally captured for all times and all places in one moment.
Even God, and our feeble attempts to understand him, eludes us
because every time we try to point to where he is, he moves on.
So, really, the decision to believe is one that entails risk.
We are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
We are those who live our lives in times of doubt and faith,
and it is there that we learn what it means to walk with our God.
The issue for us is, therefore, not one of avoiding our doubts as if that will cure us of them.
Nope, out of the struggle with honest doubt, a faith can be reborn, and new life can begin flourish.