BY ASSOCIATE PASTOR BRIAN JACK - MILFORD FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH
For many congregations following a lectionary (appointed readings for a given Sunday), the assigned readings for the Sunday following Easter are from John 20:19-31. It's a fitting passage to follow Easter Sunday. The Easter message is powerful and full of hope but, as the days after the celebration drift on, it's easy for doubt to drift into the picture again.
Fittingly John's gospel immediately gives us the story of Thomas, burdened with doubt following the resurrection account from others. Perhaps just like your Easter morning, although there are people all around proclaiming "He is Risen!" you still wonder if he really has (see John 20:25).
When Jesus later finds Thomas locked away with the other disciples in hiding, he comes and sets Thomas free of his doubt. Jesus brings faith by speaking, "Do not doubt, but be undoubting," and at Jesus' word the doubt is removed and Thomas proclaims Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"
"Good for Thomas!" you say dear reader, "but what about me?" Much as you want to believe, perhaps you find yourself saying desperately, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). You are not able to make the move from unbelief … to belief. You can't do it! Doubt me?
Let's for a moment exchange the word belief for trust. Can you cause yourself to trust or not trust someone? Imagine I’m standing on a ladder with a bucket of ice cold water, and I ask you to come stand underneath it. Do you trust that I won't turn it on your head? Imagine I've done exactly that! Now I ask to repeat the experiment, do you still trust me? So, are you really in charge of who you trust or does trust come from experience and encounter, from outside of ourselves?
The same goes for our faith, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Until Christ takes action to overcome our doubt, our disbelief, we’re stuck with our doubts, with our lack of trust. There’s nothing we can do to cause that change to come about, we have to be changed by something/someone outside of ourselves.
So, where is hope for doubters like you and me? When Christians gather for worship, you can hear once again in preaching a word from outside of us that shapes the faith inside us. The breaking of Thomas' doubt comes in Jesus speaking to him, "Do not doubt, but believe" (John 20:27). Faith, the overcoming of doubt, happens when Jesus Christ is preached for you, to you. The one who has conquered the world (John 16:33) has conquered your doubt along with it!
Without a doubt, doubt will be with us this whole life long. Scripture gives evidence that doubt is a part of the faith story. A part of it that Jesus Christ can and does overcome for us again and again and again. The good news? You are not saddled with your doubt forever, and God willing you will continue to have several public ministers in this community who will declare the good news again and again and again. Leaders who will speak a word from Christ, for us who get locked up in our fears and doubts (John 20:19, 26) “in the name of Jesus Christ, your doubts are forgiven, be believing!”