The theme of our Easter journey together has been about challenge. On Palm Sunday we were challenged to acknowledge the darkness within as we became the crowd and shouted to crucify Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, we were challenged, along with Peter, to allow Christ to wash our feet in order to allow Christ to love us so we can love others. On Good Friday, we were challenged to understand the power and authority that emanates from the cross, how God has chosen to rule creation with the cross as God’s throne. And then finally on Easter Day, we are challenged to “go” and proclaim the resurrection as the beginning of our story, not the end.
Today we are challenged by Thomas, often referred to as doubting Thomas. As I have said in the past, Thomas has gotten a bad rap. Had any of the other Apostles not been in the upper room when Jesus appeared to them on Easter night, they too would have responded in the same way Thomas did. I doubt there was anyone back then who would have or could have believed the tale the disciples had for Thomas.
I wonder the same for us today. How many of us deep down truly trust in the resurrection? How many of us expect to experience the risen Christ on the road to Albany in the same way the two disciples did on the road to Emmaus. Or, as Paul did on the road to Damascus? This is what we are actually being asked to believe, to even expect! I suspect believing in the resurrection is the first of many road blocks placed along our journeys with Christ. It is the first article of faith which pushes us to let go of the ration and to open ourselves to what many consider irrational and impossible as we are asked to trust in something as possible that is impossible.
This is where faith begins. To have faith in something or to believe in something is about trusting in something with the heart and not the head. Because faith is not about knowing with the head, it is about trusting with the heart.
In this morning’s Gospel, Thomas did not trust in what his fellow apostles told him. His brain would not let him go there. Like you and me, he needed to see and to touch the risen Christ in order to understand, in order to know and to believe in what God could do.
For us today, the greatest challenge we face, trusting in the Resurrection, is believing in the next step, that with God, all things are possible, that God has provided in abundance for our needs, that all of creation continues on track towards the promised reign of God. Can we even trust, that through the resurrection, the chains of evil that once held us back from God have been destroyed. Do we believe we are now free to vanquish all evil, and all darkness from the earth, without seeing it, touching it or feeling it?
I ask these questions today, not to make us feel inadequate about our faith, but to help us better understand what Thomas was thinking and feeling,and to acknowledge the part of Thomas that resides in all of us. I also ask these questions to demonstrate how our lack of trust holds back the reign of God for which we so long for.
The story of Thomas is not just about you and me and our relationship with God. It is about how the doubt we hold inside us also affects how we perceive the world. For doubt ultimately fuels our fears and keeps us from trusting in what God can do and perhaps even what we can do as the Body of Christ.
I hear this every day in the news. We can pick just about any hot topic and see how good, Godly people can and do stand in the way of fixing the very thing they fear. This week, two news stories stick out for me.
The first has to do with the State of Georgia. Their governor signed a bill allowing citizen to carry guns in most public places. The law has been dubbed the “Guns for all law.” Once the law takes effect, adults will be allowed to carry weapons in bars, schools, churches, restaurants etc. It is a step the Georgia legislature and governor claim will assure the safety of all people.
All of us want to be safe, all of us want to protect our right to bear arms. I am not sure a law predicated on our fear of the other is about trusting in God and believing in the resurrection. In a time when the deaths of twenty-six school children is still fresh in our memories and the stand your ground laws continue to create controversy in the courts, it would seem God intends another way. If only we would look at and trust in the countries where gun violence has all but been eliminated. Perhaps then a solution will be found.
The second story came on Friday. Friday was the anniversary of a building collapse in Bangladesh. Several garment workers were killed. Garment workers who sewed the clothes many of us buy through J. C. Penney’s, Wal Mart, Target and other major clothing chains. Since the building’s collapse, there has been a cry from the international community demanding retailers to insist on safe and humane working conditions for the people who produce their clothing. To date, most major American companies have refused to sign the international charter. In Bangladesh, where laws now require a minimum wage and a minimum standard for working conditions, the new laws have been largely ignored and workers who ask for the law’s adherence are fired while others are threatened with factory shut downs due to the rising costs such demands require.
We all want to be paid fairly, and we believe others should be paid fairly and that no one should be afraid to go to work each day due to safety concerns. And, it is true, costs to the consumer would go up, approximately 3 % which would bring demand down. But if we are a people who believe from the tomb new life has burst forth, shouldn’t we also trust that a new economic equilibrium would develop. A new life will burst forth in which anyone who worked full-time would be able to afford adequate housing, food and medical care. A new life, where no one who worked full-time would have to collect food stamps or other forms of welfare as is the case for many low-wage workers today? Is that not what we as a people who are tied to justice called to trust in?
The answers to fixing either of these issues requires a paradigmatic shift in how we understand and interact with the world. For even the slightest change to take place, we, as a people of God, will have to endure the difficulties and discomfort transition requires. However, as a people who trust in resurrection, part of our journey is to wait with the disciples in the upper room from Good Friday to Easter Morning and wonder what will come next. Because even though they were not sure what would come next, together, they believed there was something that could happen and that was worth waiting and looking for. For them,it was the resurrection, for us it is the reign of God. A reign that can only be experienced by waiting by the tomb and trusting that resurrection will come.