This text comes up every year in the Lectionary the week after Easter. Last year, I said that doubt was the wrong word to interpret Thomas’ faith. Doubt should be interpreted as unbelieving.
We can be as unbelieving as Thomas at times in our own faith journey. We believe in Jesus though we have not seen him or touched him. We have not put our finger in His nail pierced hands or put our hand in the wound in His side. Yet, we believe that He is Lord and God. No matter how strong how faith is, at times, we all struggle to believe.
Mary Magdalene had first gone to the tomb and found it empty. She ran to tell the others. They didn’t believe her, so this unbelieving behavior was not unique to Thomas. Simon Peter and another Disciple ran to the grave to verify her story. I wonder what Simon Peter and the Disciples told the others when they returned from the empty tomb.
As Mary Magdalene stood by the tomb weeping, Jesus appeared to her. That’s where the story leaves us in wonder for a moment. The story doesn’t tell us what Mary did after Jesus appeared to her. I suppose she told the others. I wonder what they thought.
Sometime after Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ followers decided to lock themselves in for fear of the Jews. I wonder what caused them to be afraid. While they were locked in, Jesus appeared to them. I wonder how He physically got into the room if the door was locked. Perhaps, He knocked and He said, “It’s me Jesus.”
Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared to them. I wonder where he was. I wonder if he wasn’t as fearful as the others were so he didn’t lock himself in.
Thomas tells the others. I will not believe “unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side.” I wonder if the Disciples tried to talk him into believing. I wonder if the story was just so unbelievable that Thomas perhaps didn’t doubt them, but they wanted to see for himself.
A whole week later, though the doors were locked again, Jesus appeared to them again. I wonder what Jesus was doing in that week between appearances. I wonder who else He appeared to.
When Jesus appeared, Jesus told Thomas to see His hands and touch His side. I wonder how Jesus knew what Thomas had told the Disciples. I wonder if Thomas actually touched Jesus’ side.
I wonder if I would have believed, if you would have believed, if the Disciples had told us that they saw the resurrected Jesus. I wonder if we would have asked to see Jesus for ourselves. Jesus said those who have not seen yet believe are blessed. So, we are blessed, I think.
Most of us probably believe that the Bible is stories of things that happened in history long ago. We have trouble believing that these things could happen again or we have trouble believing when we hear that they have happened. We have trouble connecting these stories to the stories of our lives.
I think that is because we don’t wonder enough. One of my friends reminded me recently of the power of wonder. Wondering is giving ourselves permission to ask questions about how God is so good and how God does such good things. It is wondering what how Good our life is and wondering what life would have been like had we not given God control of our lives.
I think wondering is a healthy spiritual practice. It allows us to stand in awe of God’s glory. We revel in the power of the Spirit. It opens our minds to the imagination of God. It gives us the space for our faith to open up to new possibilities. Like any good spiritual practice, it is an opportunity for us to grow closer to God. Wondering prohibits us from quickly dismissing something as unbelievable, therefore not true, and requires us to question if it is possibly true.
Thomas was a wonderer. He often asked questions. In Jesus’ ministry, he interrupted Jesus to ask questions (John 14: 5). He questioned why Jesus would want to go to Jerusalem when some were plotting to kill Him (John 11: 7 – 16). He wondered because he wanted to understand.
We teach children to wonder. It strengthens their minds. It spurs their imagination. As we grow older, we lose that sense of wonder.
There is a children’s church program called Worship ‘n Wonder that is quite popular. I won’t ask us to do it, because it is really costly. Central to its story-telling is the value of wonder. Each week, a story from Scriptures is told through visual aids, like wooden figures and felt backgrounds. After the story is told, the children are given the opportunity to wonder. They get to ask questions about the story. No question is wrong. No question is right. And, no question is answered. The children learn through their wondering.
I recently read an article about participatory preaching. The author, David Lose, suggests that congregations best learn when they participate in the learning. One of his suggestions is to print the Scriptures for the next week or month in the newsletter. We already do that. Another suggestion is to allow us, from time to time, to participate in the sermon, much like Worship ‘n Wonder for the children.
I offered you many of my wonderings as I told the story earlier in the sermon. Now, I’d like you to do some wondering. I’d like you to ask some questions. There are no silly questions. All of our questions are valid.
I’m not going to answer any questions this morning. I’m going to take some notes. I may choose a couple that will be topics of sermons in the coming weeks or months. Who knows, God may even give you an answer just for asking the question.
So, ask away…You can ask about your favorite Bible story. You can ask what the Bible says about something. You can ask about Jesus, the Spirit, God. Anything related to your faith.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions now, you can ask your question on an index card and place it in the offering plate or e-mail the office or call me.