I have been told more than once that the parsonage and the church are the highest geographical points in Clinton County. I don’t know if that is actually true or not, but it seems right. This thought keep going through my head on Thursday evening as I cowered in the basement of the parsonage with Ellen on my lap. I thought “it is a bad time to be the highest point in Clinton County” as the tornado seemed to make it’s path towards us. And so I did what I do, I prayed. I sat in the corner of the basement and prayed. I prayed for Ellen and myself, I prayed for the church building, and I prayed for all of you. I also prayed that I wouldn’t be interviewed on television just to be one of those women that says “I threw my body on top of my baby and I wasn’t gonna let no tornado take her!” And as much as I try and figure out Mother Nature, I can’t explain why the tornado did what it did and why the parsonage is still standing as well as this church.
After the storm cleared out, I walked outside to take a peripheral view of the church. I wanted to make sure we didn’t have any major branches down or windows out. Just as I was about to finish my walk around, Kenny Eggers pulled around and asked how we fared. I told him I had been through a tornado a time or two (true story) but this one came a little too close to home. I told him that we had been in the basement for about 40 minutes or so. And Kenny, without missing a beat said “Don’t you have any faith??” And I got a good little chuckle out of his question. But, of course, it gnawed on me for the rest of the night. I had been thinking about this Gospel text all week and now Kenny (not doing it on purpose, I suppose) had kind of called me out for being my own type of doubting Thomas.
Being born and raised in Kansas City, storms are no big deal to me. Much like many of you, when there is a tornado warning, we don’t go to the basement, we go outside. I think becoming a mother has made me a little more cautious. As soon as the alarms sounded, I gathered up some toys, books, and snacks and Ellen and I headed to the basement. I didn’t doubt that God would protect us, I just didn’t know what that was going to look like. But, was I a Doubting Thomas nonetheless?
I have said this before, and I stand by my belief, that I think poor Thomas gets a bad rap here. Because if we’re really honest with ourselves, we would probably ask the same questions that Thomas asks. I often like to think that if we were alive at the time of the resurrection that we might go along with Thomas to see the risen Lord as well. But, if confronted about our faith, we might blame Thomas. “Oh no, Lord! I believed! I just came along so Thomas wouldn’t be lonely.” Thomas is a great scapegoat.
I also think that there is a big difference in being faithful and being stupid. Sorry to use the word “stupid” it’s just that sometimes the Spirit calls me to tell it like it is. Faithful was me, going to the basement and praying. Stupid would have been me, staying in my living room, and saying “God will protect me.” It also made me think of those folks who may belong to a certain religious sect that refuse medical interventions because they believe that God will save them. “No chemo, for me doc, I’m going to pray the cancer away. I’m not going to put anything into my 401K because if God wants me to be rich, I’ll be rich.” I am sure you all might know or have heard of people like this. Let us not equate faith with stupidity.
Thomas was no dummy. I think he was just asking for what all the disciples wanted: proof. As we hear earlier in our Gospel text for today, when Jesus comes among the disciples (behind locked doors) the first thing he does is show them his hands and his side as if to say “I am who I say I am.” And I said, I don’t want to equate faith and stupidity. Faith and doubt, however, is a different story. We should not think of doubt as the absence of faith. Rather, doubt is probably one of the main components of faith. If we were people of 100% faith, 100% of the time, we might gather on only 2 Sunday’s a year: Christmas and Easter. But, here we are. The week after Easter, even! And I know that you’re not here because you doubt that Jesus did rise. But, perhaps you’re here because you doubt other things in your life.
Maybe you’re doubting your current employment. Maybe you’re doubting the state of your marriage. Maybe you’re doubting friendships you have or once had. Maybe you’re doubting the your health (I can relate to this one). Maybe you live your life day after day doubting, yet faith is the one thread that keeps you coming back week after week. Perhaps you doubt that you have been forgiven. Maybe you doubt that grace will ever find you. Maybe in the dark recesses of your mind, you have allowed yourself to doubt what will happen to you upon your death. Doubt is a very powerful thing, brothers and sisters. But, so is faith.
Faith is what has brought you back here. Even though we know the tomb is empty, we want to see it again and be reminded of such amazing love. Faith is what calls you to open your Bible and read to see what answers lie within its thin pages. Doubt would never drive you to your Bible. Faith is what causes you to pause and pray; and even if that prayer is “God, I doubt this is going to work” or “I doubt you are listening to me” it is faith that has opened you up to the idea that prayer actually works. Faith is what encourages you to ask the big questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” Or “why does cancer, gun violence, and hunger exist in our world?” When we get into conversations like that it’s not because our faith is weak. It’s not because we all doubt the work of God through Jesus Christ. When we wade into murky waters asking those faith filled and doubt filled questions, its because our faith is so strong that we want to see where Christ is moving in those places.
When we talk about cancer, we do so knowing that our God doesn’t demand or wish that people suffer. When we talk about gun violence, it’s not because we doubt that God cares but because we know that God’s peace will eventually reign. When we lament hunger, it’s not that we doubt God’s provision, but look for ways to share what God has given us faithfully so that we may share with others. Doubt, brothers and sisters, is not a lack of faith but a strengthening of your faith.
So, if you need to put your fingers in the holes of his hands, feet, or sides to believe, then go ahead. If you need to take another look inside that empty tomb to believe that he was risen like he said he would be, then go ahead. If you need to taste and see to believe that you are forgiven, loved, and set free, then by all means, If you show up here week after week after week, I know that you are not filled with doubt but with such immense faith that you desire to hear the good news over and over and over again. And in the struggle in finding the balance between faith and doubt, I wish you the same thing that Christ did with his disciples: peace.