Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Easter 2, Common Lectionary Year A
John 20: 19-31
Â©2014 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Do you remember last Sunday? Some of you were travelling, celebrating Easter out of town with family, friends, perhaps in other churches. Those of you who were here, squishing in to find place in the full pews, had the wonderful Easter bread, the epic â€œGloriaâ€ from the choir, the transformation of a bare cross with eggs into this riotous declaration of the empty tomb, the spontaneous applause at the end of the worship, all to herald this greatest mystery ofÂ our faith: that Jesus, Christ, crucified, is risen. That we, having heard Mary Magdaleneâ€™s breathless â€œ I have seen him! He is Risen!â€ are now to pick up where Christ and his disciples left off and get on with â€œliving the Risen Lifeâ€ â€“ whatever that means!
So, God be thanked for Thomas. Thomas,Â Â so-called â€œthe twin,â€ our twin methinks, Thomas the doubter, the pragmatist, the empiricist. Thanks be to God he comes into the story, and into the life of the Church, a week late, and asks â€œWhat just happened??!!â€
Who knows why Thomas wasnâ€™t huddled and hidden with all the other fearful doubting disciples that Easter evening (Funny that, isnâ€™t it? Thomas gets the bad rap for doubting, but the rest of them â€“ as Jennifer had us notice â€“ arenâ€™t exactly top of the confident, bold believer charts, now are they?)
But for whatever reasonâ€¦. and I think the Gospeller John has a reasonâ€¦ Thomas missed this encounter with the risen, scarred Jesus. He didnâ€™t hear the unmistakable â€œPeace be with you,â€ didnâ€™t see the hands and feet and scarred pierced side. And he wasnâ€™t prepared to believe on the basis of hearsay.
And we bless him for it, some of usâ€¦ because he, twin to our doubting, gives voice to what many of us almost darenâ€™t think, or feel, let alone utterâ€¦. that this Easter, this Resurrection, this Risen Life is all a bit too far beyond the reasonable, natural order of things. â€¦ This â€œRisen Lordâ€ is for many, too mystical, too weird, too magical, too medieval, too mythical, mysterious, just tooâ€¦.much.
Now, letâ€™s not forget that Thomas has a history with Jesus, he was one of the twelve. He had followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. Slept on the roadside with him, listened to his teachings, witnessed his healing ministry, wept with the sisters over the death of Lazarus, and seemed to know better than most that the price Jesus might pay for his life in God was dying for it. He said so, way back in Johnâ€™s 11th chapter.
So letâ€™s not mistake Thomasâ€™ doubting for cynicism; nor is his doubt mere bone-headed pragmatism; or God â€“forbid – sulky pique at missing the action.
Neither should we mistake his doubt for spinelessness â€“ his doubt is in fact bold and courageous. And neither is it fear, itâ€™s reasonable doubt, doubt worthy of Jesusâ€™ undivided attention as weâ€™ll see.
Thomasâ€™ doubt twins the doubts of the faithful in every generation; the reasonable doubts, the human attempts so many of us make to solve the mystery of faith with the muscles of the mind. It canâ€™t be done. Though God knows, many have tried.
But not John the Gospeller. What happens next is not an answer to reasonable doubt, but a journey beyond it. Â John has carefully set this scene up as interactive readerâ€™s theatre. He gives us all a place in the drama of Easter, through the man John calls The Twin â€“ our twin. Thomas is us.
Thomas walks in on Easter late,Â misses the show, just as we do. Thomas has seen nothing, just as we have not. Thomas is expected to rely â€“at first- on the testimony of others, andÂ he doesnâ€™t â€“ just like many of us. In Thomasâ€™ words we hear echoes of our own Â â€œIâ€™d believe if I could see, and touch, and hear.â€
And then we are given a week. An entire weekâ€¦. time God can take to create universes from unformed chaos. Time, eternity, contracted to a span of days and nights of reasonable doubt, aching with the reality of lossâ€¦..
â€¦.broken, finally with a peaceful intrusion – Â â€œPeace, be with you. In the name of God, grace and peace be with you.â€
Then comes Jesusâ€™ invitationâ€¦â€¦ to Thomas, and us, his twins, â€œSee, look, reach, touch, donâ€™t doubtâ€¦ believe.â€
No recriminations, no explanations, no science, no justifications, no mind muscles working the answer through, just the heart of God, breaking through locked doors of fear and reasonable doubt, with an invitation to enter that space beyond reason, a space of the heart, where the mystery life from death is finally seen, heard, touched.
How do we see,Â look, reach out, touch,Â hear, smell resurrection break into our own bound and unseeing doubts?
John said it took â€˜many signsâ€™, too many to write down in his book, his gospel,â€™ which means weÂ get to get to write our own ending.
Where have we seen Godâ€™s loving power at work to conquer the forces of defeat, despair, death, with Godâ€™s indomitable signs of Risen life?
Do we see Easter, Resurrection, Risen Life in the green bud? in the daffodil spearing still frozen ground with a trumpet of gold? Do we see Easter, Resurrection, Risen Life -Â now weâ€™ve been given the invitation, in the laughter that erupts unbidden in the days following a death, as lifeâ€™s memories take root, creating a new living relationship beyond the grave with the one we loved and lost? Or in the return of giggling silliness after sickness in a four year old?Â – or a 54 or a 84 yr old? Do we dare to see Easter in the daily miracle of healing, or in the nurse and surgeonâ€™s skill? I see Easter, Resurrection, Risen Life in the unquenchable thirst for human dignity, for self-determination that causes people to take to the streets to protest injustice, government violence. I see Easter in the quiet unsung work of fair trade practices that give a living wage. I see Resurrection in the groundswell of support given to victims of natural disaster and human tragedy. Where have you seen, touched, felt Resurrection? Â All of these signs of Risen Life, invite us, as did Jesus to our Twin, Thomas, to the place, beyond â€˜reasonableâ€™ doubt, to the birthplace of faith, mystery, and hope, and our own rising to newness of Risen life.
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!