Monday, April 9, 2007

Don't beat up on Thomas John 20:19-31 Easter 2C

For as long as there's been a church there's been a struggle with Thomas. Some bad mouth him as 'doubting Thomas'. Other's indentify with him in their own doubts and faith. Still others type caste him as the first modern man, the one who demanded proof for everything he heard.

A few years back Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise brought the phrase, "show me the money." to life on screen and we are still living in that same kind of culture. We still value evidence more than words. Rhetoric has a bad reputation these days. The church is not alone in receiving criticism for using words that have no substance. The challenge as people is to remember what we can show.

What sign can we offer? Even in Paul's day the world wanted to see something to prove our faith. What Paul wrote in First Corinthians still applies today. You can swap out different names for the groups but the argument is the same.

The message about the cross doesn't make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God's power at work. 19As God says in the Scriptures,

"I will destroy the wisdom

of all who claim

to be wise.

I will confuse those

who think they know

so much."

20What happened to those wise people? What happened to those experts in the Scriptures? What happened to the ones who think they have all the answers? Didn't God show that the wisdom of this world is foolish? 21God was wise and decided not to let the people of this world use their wisdom to learn about him.

Instead, God chose to save only those who believe the foolish message we preach. 22Jews ask for miracles, and Greeks want something that sounds wise. 23But we preach that Christ was nailed to a cross. Most Jews have problems with this, and most Gentiles think it is foolish. 24Our message is God's power and wisdom for the Jews and the Greeks that he has chosen. 25Even when God is foolish, he is wiser than everyone else, and even when God is weak, he is stronger than everyone else. (First Corinthians 1:18-25 CEV)

So what can we do to show our faith? Love. What we in the church can show is love. Love for God and love for all our neighbors. It is the most powerful kind of witnessing that can be done today. Maybe people will reject a carefully crafted speech about God's love; but it's hard for someone in need to turn aside the love and compassion shown by believers who serve in Jesus' name.

So what should we do with Thomas?
1) Don't beat him up anymore. He was a close follower of Jesus and yet he didn't believe what Jesus' close followers told him. So what. There's little new about disbelief among the disciples. In Luke the women who went to the tomb told Jesus' followers that they'd seen an empty tomb and the men didn't believe, Luke 24:11. They thought the reports of the resurrection were an idle tale.

2) Take occasion to admit your own doubts and to watch Jesus come for Thomas and you with open arms. Whatever has been said about Thomas be thankful for the love of God who came back in Jesus with arms open. Jesus was ready to welcome one who doubted like Thomas and one who denied like Peter. Jesus return with scarred hands outstretched proving his love all the more. He didn't leap out of the tomb ready to settle a score from the cross saying, "Boy am I pissed." He came with arms outstretched revealing his scars and his new life for many to see.

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