Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

Believing May We See

Readings: Acts 2:14a &22-32; Psalm; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

As Easter people we are called to faith in the Resurrection. But let’s face it! For many people it is a real stretch. As children we found it easy to believe in all sorts of things. We believed in Santa Claus, Tinker Bell, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny. But as we grew to adulthood we suspended such foolish ideas. We stopped believing in anything that could not be proven factually. And we became the poorer for it. So how do we reverse those feelings that only what can be proven can be believed? How do we come to faith in the Resurrection? How do we come to know God’s amazing grace?

Last week we read the eye witness accounts of Peter, John and Mary. We saw how each came to faith in his or her own way. John, the Beloved Disciple, saw and believed. He was ready. All it took was a little nudge. But he kept it to himself. Peter saw, but could not figure out just what it was he was witness to. He needed time to reflect. Mary recognized Jesus when he called her by name. She could hardly wait to tell everyone the good news. In each of these faith journeys we can see our own struggle, our own grappling with things we must see and comprehend with eyes of faith, with how we come to faith.

This week there are two further eye witness accounts. The story begins on the evening of the first day of the week. The disciples except for Thomas are gathered together behind locked doors. Confusion reigns. They have heard conflicting stories. No one knows quite what to believe. Then Jesus is there in the midst of them. “Peace be with you!” he says. It is a familiar invitation, his personal way of being present to them, of being in relationship with them. Then he commissions them, consecrating them to continue his mission. He breathes his life-giving Spirit into them.

Imagine their excitement! Like Mary as she heard her name, they can hardly wait to share their good news. When Thomas arrives they pounce on him. “We have seen the Lord!” And so they must have been taken off guard when Thomas responded with anger and vehemence, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Yet really, why would they be surprised? How could anyone be expected to blindly believe after all that has happened? They themselves would not have been able to, had they not seen Jesus with their own eyes. A short time ago, he would willingly have died with Jesus. But since that terrible event they had all been lying low. All that they had hoped for had come crashing down. And here his friends were trying to raise his hopes once more. How could he accept what they were saying only to have his hopes dashed? It was too much to ask. He felt betrayed, hurt. He could no longer risk hoping.

Many of us are like Thomas. We can no longer risk believing simply to have our hopes dashed. Perhaps we have been hurt by life. How can we go on hoping when we see the violence and destruction that goes on in our world? What kind of a God allows such things to continue? If there really is a God why doesn’t God simply stop terrible tragedies from happening? What kind of a God allows little children to go hungry? What kind of a God allows suffering? It isn’t that we do not believe in God; we wonder if God cares.

Or perhaps we feel let down by the Church. It has not always been the safe refuge that it should be. The place that should be the healer has often been the abuser. We go to church expecting to find a loving and caring community. Instead we find people bickering and arguing. We find cliques that won’t let us in. We cannot see Christ in those we meet. We come expecting to be affirmed and find no place for our talents. We feel unwelcome. It is no longer the church it used to be. There are new liturgies and new ways of doing things. We cannot cope with the changes that we see.

Or we may have been let down by our profession. It is not difficult to find people who are struggling to face the pressures which come with economic down sizing and high prices. We begin to feel out of control, useless. How can we keep the faith when nothing is going the way it should? Doesn’t being a Christian count for anything? What is the point of having faith if it does not help to solve the problems of everyday life?

The Thomas’s of the world will tell you straight out. “We believe in God. But we find it impossible to believe that God cares.” Yes! We have all met Thomas. We may meet him each time we look in the mirror. Like Thomas we need to see in order to believe. What can bring us to faith?

Aristotle said about faith, “That which is probable and impossible is better to believe than that which is possible and improbable.” It speaks to me about our resurrection faith, about our journey to faith, because somewhere along the line we have to come to terms with what we believe.

It may have something to do with the process that Thomas went through, for his story took a real turn. When he was confronted by the risen Lord, he saw. He no longer needed to be able to touch. In seeing, he could believe. Indeed, he makes one of the most transforming statements in the whole of Scripture. He declares, “My Lord and my God.” He recognizes the risen Saviour. He believes the impossible.

When we think of faith we think often in terms of seeing some miracle that allows us to really believe. “If only God would show me in some real and tangible way, then I would be certain.” We want certainty. We want to be one hundred percent sure. But that is the Thomas’ approach. He needed a miracle. But the real miracle is faith itself.

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling, "Jump! I will catch you."

"Daddy, I can't see you,” the little boy cried out.

His father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

There are miracles around us if we care to look. We are witnesses to the resurrection. It happens daily in our lives. Like the little boy on the roof we are afraid because we cannot see through our fears and doubts. We cry out, “God, I can’t see you.” God answers, “But I can see you, and that is all that matters.” That is when God is there ready to catch us. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.

It begins when we really believe, when we stop talking about God and start really depending on God’s sustaining grace and love. We may not feel anything very significant. We may not see miracles taking place before our eyes. But we will get to the place where we are in touch with divine power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. It is that power that will make a difference in our lives. Believing, may we see!

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