Homily: Faithful Doubt

Our Gospel story today begins on that first Easter Sunday night. The frightened disciples were holed up behind a locked door, barricaded against the authorities.

So, gathered in fear and confusion, they locked the doors and waited. And suddenly there He was, in their midst. And His first words were “Peace be with you.” No fear. No scolding for their failure. No turmoil. No doubt. Peace. Those words Christians have said to one another ever since, perhaps without thinking: Peace be with you.

Once again this week we hear about “the vision thing”: the importance of “seeing” in John’s Gospel. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb last Sunday and “saw” that the stone had been removed; then Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb and “saw” the linen wrappings lying there; they went in and “saw and believed.” When Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, she said “I have seen the Lord.”

Now, in the evening of the same day, the disciples see Jesus, in his body, wounds and all. And we have the story of Thomas, who arrives afterward and misses everything, very reasonably says he won’t believe until he sees for himself the mark of the nails on Jesus’ hands. He even wants to put his own finger in the mark of the nails and to feel the reality of the resurrection for himself. But once Thomas “sees” and even touches the wounds of Jesus, he believes, too.

For centuries, these stories have been passed down from generation to generation, coming alive for each one in their own time. And so, ironically, after all this talk in the Gospel of John about seeing and believing, our generation is asked to “hear and believe.”

And yet, an even greater irony is that in every generation our eyes, in ways both marvelous and wonderful, do see the risen Jesus alive in this world. On not just one morning but every morning of our lives, in every “little” death that leads to new life, every experience of healing and grace, of forgiveness and new hope. In relationships repaired and renewed, churches are brought back from the brink of failing to new and vibrant ministry, health is restored after suffering and illness, delight again in life after long grief…the experience of resurrection and new life, in moments and ways both large and small, all point to the One who gives us life and promises life eternal, the One who raised Jesus up on the third day and recreates us, day after day.

We see, and we believe. Resurrection isn’t something that happened a long time ago, something that we simply commemorate each Easter. In our day-to-day lives in ministry, we put our hands on the wounds of this broken world, but we also witness to the hope that sustains us: we will rise again, and everything is going to be all right in the end.

William Sloane Coffin, a great prophet and preacher, one Holy Week said: “The primary religious task these days is to try to think straight…You can’t think straight with a heart full of fear, because fear seeks safety, not truth. If your heart’s a stone, you can’t have decent thoughts – either about personal relationships or about international ones. A heart full of love, on the other hand, has a freeing effect on the mind.”

Those disciples cowered in fear behind locked doors when good news was waiting for them outside. Good news came to them anyway, even in their fear. They were seeking safety, and the truth came instead. Is it fear that makes us hide from the suffering of the world? Perhaps that’s a mystery of the heart, so easily turned to stone, so easily turned away from the pain of others.

Whenever we’re afraid and hiding out, all locked up, God comes to us in the midst of our fear and says, “Peace be with you.” Whatever doubts churn consciences, whatever pain and worry bind us up, whatever walls we have put up or doors we have locked securely, God comes to us and says, “Peace be with you.” Whatever hunger and need we feel deep in our souls, God calls us to the table, feeds us well, and sends us out into the world to be justice and peace, salt and light, hope for the world. We can do it, if we keep our eyes open, our minds limber, and our hearts soft and willing to love. As God sent Jesus, God sends us, today.

(Kathryn Matthews Huey)

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