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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 2, Year B
Reaffirmations of Baptism
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 8, 2018

John 20:19-31

‘The Belief of Thomas’

Today’s gospel invites us to consider doubts and deep questions – our struggles to believe in Jesus as the embodiment of God’s love. It’s not really such a controversial topic. Of course, doubt and faith work together. There is no pure faith devoid of questions or the need of discernment. We should be wary of any such “faith”. Likewise, a persistent disbelief or cynicism is tedious – closed-minded, closed-hearted. “Don’t persist in your unbelief,” says Jesus, “but believe!” (v. 27).

It is one of the fourth gospel’s delightful paradoxes that its climactic statement of faith should be drawn out of doubt/disbelief and, if we recall earlier statements of Thomas, a pronounced tendency to the negative (11:16; 14:5). Thomas the Twin says/prays: “My Saviour and my God!” God be with you …

So, we can consider doubt in concert with faith. Coming-to-believe as a matter of sense and sensitivity, interpretation, “paschal testimonies”, again and again. “In concert” entails practice and performance, engagement with tradition, at a certain place and time. “In concert” also means with others (as illustrated by Thomas reuniting with the other disciples).

Metaphysical doubts, I think, are among the least interesting. Speculation as to the nature of a risen body, as to the moment or magic of resurrection/ascension. These are literal-minded questions in which to get stuck. The fourth gospel calls such speculation an insistence on signs, a demand for miracle as magic. In contrast, Jesus invites us to consider the meaning or Spirit of the sign.

A Spirit of grace, defying the limits of space and time, life and death. A Spirit of bodily existence, bodily resurrection. A Spirit who raises Jesus of Nazareth (a crucified Christ) to new life – the One who unites scattered disciples, the One who empowers frightened/despondent believers.

And there are deeper questions, more pertinent doubts.

Is there really a “divine” power in non-retaliation? Power in forgiveness? Power in peace?

Is there a reason to give my all – to someone, to a cause or project, to my God?

Is there value in trying, again and again? What if the fruits of my efforts wither and fall?

Doubts about my capacity to discern goodness in myself and in others ... our collective sense of what’s right, fair, beautiful …

Doubts about trust, motivation, inspiration …

Doubts about emotional maturity ...

Doubts about my ability to learn, grow, heal, recover, love, grieve, think, make, communicate, pray, listen, look, touch, hold, nurture, remember, wait, promise, keep a promise, read, run, plan, stop, rest, start again ...

Doubts about humanity’s “light”, wisdom, resolve ...

What to do with these doubts?

Express them? Resist them? Repress them? Obsess about them? Live with them? How? Allow them, in their own ways, to lead us into faith? Ever to lead us again into faith?

Today’s gospel teaches that Jesus comes to us in our fears and responds to our doubts that we might have the faith to take the next step.

Then Jesus says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The beatitude asserts that believers of later generations are in no less advantageous a position than the original witnesses. “There is even a hint of a greater blessedness accruing to [us] because a deeper, more creative faith is going to be drawn from [our] hearts” (Brendan Byrne).

In what ways are you led by doubts and questions into faith?Amen.