Can We Trust God?
Second Sunday of Easter - South Gloucester United Church
Acts 4:32-35 John 20:19-31 The Rev. Dr. George Hermanson
This text could be a very modern situation. The difference is we are in time of video and smart phones where we record the action. Of course it is always a point of view, seen from the perspective of the person holding the phone. It is not the whole picture of what has happened. We are also in a time of questions of trust. Do we trust the information, do we trust institutions, do we trust the witness of others? In a post modern question of what is truth?
Except for the modern tools it was a question for those who gathered. Most likely in Galilee the disciples gathered and they asked what is next? Like us.
They were there waiting for things to settle down. They were in hiding and asking now what? Then they have an experience of Jesus and he says “peace be with you.” Then he reminds them they are now going to be sent out to live the way of compassion. They were sent back into the world full of danger and joy. They were asked to return to the world that had crucified Jesus. They had to leave a safe space.
Into the story comes Thomas. It seems he had missed the other experiences his friends had. They have told him of their experience and he responds “show me”. He wants what they had.
Thomas’ simple statement; “Show me” echoes down the ages and compels us to examine the basis of our faith, just as he examined his. We hear it in the phrase, "Show me the money." He has been criticized as the doubter, the one whose faith was not sufficient to the task of believing in the resurrection. However, to call Thomas a doubter is to miss the point of the story.
I find in Thomas a person of modern sensibilities and one who can serve as a model for our own questions of faith. It is more a question of trust. What is it that we can trust? Without trust it is hard to act. He wanted more than their words. He did not trust their witness.
We live in a world based on trust. Often we don’t think about that. Living in community demands cooperation, and that means mutual trust. This is essentially a religious question. For it is a question of moral leadership.
Thomas is our connecting point. For we are like him. We stand with Thomas. We are the community of John's time, a minority in our hostile culture. We are the church that is reforming and struggling with how it will be the church."Show me the money," is the expression when we express skepticism about the truth of someone's statement. Where we really do not have trust in the witness. Before we commit ourselves to something, we want to know whether it will work thus worth the energy or commitment.
William James writes about first hand and second hand faith. While important, second hand faith does not give us the energy for action. It is first hand faith that builds trust and energy for the flourishing of life.
We share the same issues with Thomas. He wanted first hand faith. Like him, we don't want second hand faith. Faith statements are questioned. Just because it has been handed down through history does mean we feel them in our hearts. They are someone else’s idea. It is not good enough for the flourishing of life. Thomas did not want blind faith, for that is too easily misused. Blind faith does not encourage us to probe the surface reality we experience. Blind faith allows to cruise through life without really living its joy and danger. Blind faith appeals to our prejudices or ideology or the way things are without questioning.
Thomas wanted the experience of deeper vision or sight. We see this in the play on the words seeing, touch, thrust. He wanted to access the inner workings of reality. Like Thomas we, too, want a real experience of God. Like Thomas, we want to access that experience of God, the experience we need to change our perception about what is real.
"After eight days," the text notes, Christ appeared to Thomas. References from the Old Testament encourage us to consider the divine blessing and commissioning that occur on the eighth day. The eighth day is the fulfillment of priestly ordination, the day for dedication of the firstborn, a day to mark in circumcision the covenant relationship, a day of gratitude and offering. Could it be that Thomas will be marked on this eighth day and commissioned for service? Think of the tradition ofThomas as the founder of the church in India.
When Thomas has his closed-door encounter with the raised Christ, unbelief isn't the issue. Perception is. He applied critical faith.
Critical faith is based on trust in God. It is first hand faith. It is to have faith that God is working toward beauty and the good, and will not turn aside from this task. God is dependable. Critical faith knows we can deepen our faith by asking critical questions of our tradition and inherited belief statements. Critical faith knows that all life is lived in faith. We know this by the language we use. We speak of optics or the lenses; templates; models; patterns; metaphors; and myths. These images remind us truth is always seen through images and thus must be tested.
We do that in living by what we practice, by living in new ways, thinking new thoughts, imaging new reality. This is critical faith. We can test the truth of God by the walk of faith. We can test the truth of our faith by how we live.
If we truly believe that Jesus preached an inclusive kingdom where God loved all of creation then that will concretely change the way we live. The experience of Risen Lord brings a new, second creation to those whose animating spirit has been blocked, thwarted, or disillusioned. We are in wonder so we live with wonder.
God is here, in present reality and when we let that guide us, God will become even more present in our living. God is related to all that now is, touches all living in this moment. God is not only related to all the past and present, God holds the future open so it can be created. Resurrection is the statement that God is faithful to us and God has chosen us.
To begin here is to see a Mystery of love so deep and compelling that we cannot escape it, even when we deny it. This mystery of Grace that affirms us and trusts our free human will. God is faithful and has chosen us. It is to know we are acceptable.
This is the ground of moral leadership, for we are called to be witnesses to God's grace so that when others look at us they can take courage. If we live that vision, we become a beacon to others. Now what? It is intentionally living the faith of an inclusive community