Sermons



Rev. Rosemary Webb
23rd April 2017
It is Good to Doubt

I couldn’t believe it. I had just got back from the school on Tuesday and the radio was saying that Theresa May had said she was going to make a news statement in Downing Street in fifteen minutes. The BBC were obviously surprised, they had no idea what it could be about. I thought to myself surely no one has gone to war, and then we heard there was going to be a surprise general election.

My reaction was I don’t believe it, another election. It wasn’t April 1st so it couldn’t be a joke! But I still find it hard to believe.

If I couldn’t believe that, something that is really such a minor event, can I be surprised at Thomas’ disbelief?

I think I am right in saying that I have preached on this passage every years since I was ordained, and every time I read it I feel it is such an important passage, for it shows that disbelief isn’t wrong. Whether people believe in Easter or not they seem to have heard of doubting Thomas, somehow he has become notorious, someone to be sneered at, but is he?

In fact surely Thomas was right to question, he hadn’t been there when Jesus appeared to the other disciples. Lets face it he had never heard the resurrection story, it is a miracle nearly beyond comprehension. I know that Jesus had said he would come again, but hearing it said is different from suddenly finding out they have actually seen Christ. It was a miracle beyond belief.

One of my nine year old grandsons was taught the Creation story last year at his school in Hong Kong and he told me this by beginning with the sentence ‘the Church lies’. When I asked him what he meant he went on to say that everyone knows that there were stars and dinosaurs more than two days before there were people. When he questioned it at school he was told that everything in the Bible is true. Yes everything in the Bible is based on truth but I believe early man was trying to explain how they understood creation by using six eras of time, I don’t believe they meant something different happened every 24 hours. We tried explaining this to him, but he is stubborn and is keeping to his view of things at the present.

So I believe Thomas was right to doubt, for what is faith if we do not ask what something means, what is faith if we do not think about it. The older I get the more convinced I become that it is through questioning and discussing that faith can grow. If we cannot deal with our own doubts and questions how can we confidently deal with the questions put to us by others?

Surely true faith is when we are willing to embrace the doubts, ask the questions, and face the answers. Faith is believing in something which is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, but when we have become confident enough to accept the mystery. Faith is not having all the answers but it is, I believe, having that constant inner feeling of God’s presence in our lives.

Faith takes work, because it can put us in uncomfortable places and ask us tough questions. There is nothing cut-and -dried about the Christian faith. It cannot be reduced to a set of rules, where everything fits, where everything makes sense the first time we read it, where all we have to do is connect the dots

It isn’t like a set of rules which have to be learned and then you have the answer, which is what the Pharisees wanted. They wanted to be able to explain everything, to make all life so that it could be answered by a set of rules, and if you said didn’t fit within that set of rules, then you could be accused of blasphemy. And of course, because of this attitude they couldn’t see Jesus in their midst, couldn’t accept his message. Jesus didn’t fit in with their rules.

God comes to us at times and in places where we least expect it, showing, I believe, that logic has nothing to do with our being to explain it. At times faith asks us to look outside the box, to have the courage to believe what many in society regard as ridiculous, and most importantly faith asks that we have the courage to say so. To be like Thomas, to have the courage to doubt what we are being told. For our faith may, indeed does, at times ask us to believe something which scientists are determined to prove wrong.

The difference between faith and science is that faith begins, not with a set of rules, but with a meeting with God, and then through that encounter we let God into our lives, to have the faith to believe. We cannot touch God, but we can have the faith to let him touch us, not just with a physical feeling of letting the Holy Spirit into our souls and bodies. Through faith God will change doubt into faith, he will and does fill us with the knowledge of his overpowering love, a love which makes all things possible.

The stone that shut the tomb couldn’t restrain Jesus, he had conquered death and was going to show the world. The disciples hid behind the closed door because they were afraid of the Jews, but that also couldn’t restrain him, and when Jesus joined them they rejoiced, he hadn’t left them he was still here.

At times we can be like the disciples, we stay behind closed doors, but God is calling us out of our comfort zones, to show what true faith means, to help others see the true glory of the resurrection. It probably seemed to the disciples that Thomas would never believe, but he did, and at times we may feel that we can never help spread the Gospel but we can. For when we speak about our faith we never know what seeds we are sowing, for just as Jesus wouldn’t remain in the tomb, or let a door keep him out, he is calling us to work with him and open the door of people’s hearts and make the seemingly impossible happen.

Wherever we are, Jesus is here to love and strengthen us. He is here now to help us discover that we are a living part of the Resurrection story, part of the continuing Easter story. We are the body of Christ here on earth now, let us go out and proclaim the Good News.

 
 
John 20: 19-31