Let’s Doubt Our Doubts And Trust Our Faith
March 30, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
John 20: 19-31
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord."
But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
Our topic and our title for today is “Let’s Doubt Our Doubts, and Trust Our Faith.” One of the neat things about being 56 years old, which I am, is that one has had the privilege of living long enough to observe a lot of one’s own mistakes. One has had the privilege of living long enough to see a lot of areas where one was wrong. One has had the privilege of living long enough to be able to smile at all the things one doubted so intensely and all the things one feared so fiercely that have never come to pass. It’s a joy. Mark Twain once said, “I have lived through many, many terrible things, some of which actually happened.” What I’d like us to do today is to think about this idea. Let’s doubt our doubts, and trust our faith.
Now I’m not telling you that you ought to be incautious or unvigilant. No. I think the folks here know a lot about being cautious and vigilant. This is a community of brilliant people. We’ve all been burned a little bit, and it can make us anywhere from cautious to hypervigilant. I speak from experience. I’m not asking you to let go of that. I’m also not asking you to let go of your intellectual curiosity, not at all.
But I’m asking us to let go a little bit of our propensity to doubt, our propensity to fear, our propensity to be hypervigilant. As you go through this coming week, I’m inviting you to join me. I’m inviting us to partner in this, to be a little less doubtful and a little more faithful, a little less apprehensive and a little more expectant.
When I was much younger, I was convinced of my doubts and about all the things that would go wrong. And in so many ways, I have been proved blissfully wrong about those doubts. Ministers tend to assume things. Have you ever heard the funny story about the minister who had a congregation member we’ll call Bubba? Bubba came to his pastor and said, “Pastor, will you pray for my hearing?”
The pastor says, “I sure will.” The pastor rolls up his sleeves, puts his hands on Bubba’s ears, and he prays and prays and prays intensely for Bubba. After ten minutes of praying, he wiped his brow and said, “Okay, Bubba, how’s your hearing?”
Bubba says, “Well, I don’t know. My hearing isn’t till Tuesday.”
Making assumptions isn’t always the right thing to do.
But for this week, for as many days as you and I can manage, can we fill ourselves with the sneaking suspicion that something may go right? Let’s fill ourselves with hope instead of doubt? Let’s look at how it’s done in the scripture.
The Lord was crucified on Friday, but on Sunday morning He rose. Mary went to the tomb, and there was much confusion until that sacred moment – you remember that moment – when Mary heard her own name, and she was the first one transformed by the power of the resurrection. But the disciples were still confused. They gathered together in their room, except for one, and his name was Thomas.
Now, if I were to ask you to describe the different disciples that were in that room – Peter, John, Andrew, James – I wonder how you’d describe them. There’d probably be many different descriptions. But if I were to ask you what word you associate with Thomas, I bet it would be unanimous. Let’s give it a try. What word do you associate with Thomas? On the count of three…1, 2, 3 [and the entire congregation says “Doubting”].
Thomas was the doubter. But I like Thomas. He was more than just a doubter. He was heartfelt. He was so heartbroken by the taking of the Lord that he couldn’t bear to come to church. He couldn’t bear to be with his family of faith. He went out by the rocks and was crying. He went out by the rocks and was heartbroken with grief. He couldn’t bear to face the family.
But when the church met, in the upper room, when the disciples got together, Jesus stood among them! He looked at them, and He said, “Hi. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” The scripture tells us that they rejoiced exceedingly. They must have been bouncing off the walls, my friends, as they realized who it was and what had happened. The world would never be the same! B.C. would change into A.D. from that moment on.
But Thomas wasn’t there, and when Thomas got back, the disciples said, “Thomas! Jesus has been here. We’ve seen the Lord!”
And Thomas said, “Oh, no, I don’t buy it. I don’t think so.”
“But we have, Thomas.”
He said, “Look, unless I touch the nail prints – and remember how He got stabbed in the side with the spear?—unless I touch the place where the spear went in, I’m not going to believe it. Okay?” And they were speechless.
Well, next Sunday came around. They were together. And Thomas decided to be in church that day. And Jesus stood among them, right through the locked door. He said, “Peace be with you.” And then He said, “Thomas, come here, man. Thomas, touch the nail prints. Come on, Thomas, here’s my side. Okay?”
And Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” He was overwhelmed with joy and spiritual fulfillment.
And then Jesus said, “You know what, Thomas? This is for a special purpose. You’ve seen. You’ve believed. That’s good. Blessed are all those people, everywhere throughout time, who have not seen and yet will believe.” And that’s you and me, my friends. Jesus was talking about us.
Jesus’s challenge through the Gospel today is that we doubt our doubts a little bit, and we trust our faith. I wish faith were a verb. Faith is a noun. We have so many doubts that we’ve made doubt into both a noun and verb, haven’t we? That’s why we can say ‘doubt our doubts.’ The action word for faith, I believe, is trust.
So I’m inviting you to take a little turn to the right, a little turn toward the Lord, a little turn away from your doubts, and doubt those doubts a little bit. How shall we do it? How shall we trust our faith? First of all, won’t you trust your faith in this, that you are good? You are good! You are worthy! You are loveable! God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son. You know what that means? God created you – He created the world, and that means you – so loveable that He could never let you go. God loves people more than anything. He loved them so that He’d rather die than let them go. God loves people more than anything.
You are loveable. Have faith in that, won’t you? And second, have faith that there is more in store. My mother had a wonderful saying. She seemed to say it whenever things were going badly, whenever there seemed to be a lack or not enough money or whatever. She’d say, “Anthony, remember this – God has so much more in store than what He’s given away.” “Don’t go to Niagara Falls with a tin cup,” she said. And it’s true. Have faith in the idea that there is more in store. Have faith when you’re down; have faith when you’re depressed; have faith when there doesn’t seem to be a way out. God has a way through.
Have faith that you are loveable. Have faith that there is more in store. And take a little turn toward the Lord. Take a little turn away from your doubts. Take a little turn away from the statement that “I can’t do this” or “This will never work out okay”. Take a little turn away from that, won’t you? Take a little turn toward the Lord, a turn that says, “I’m going to trust the One who has blessed me thus far.” For He said, “You are happy because you have seen the proof. Happier are those who haven’t seen, and yet believe.”
Thomas went to church that second Sunday. Thomas stayed with the family. And his little turn toward the Lord was rewarded big-time. And so will yours. Keep the faith, my friends. Trust your faith. Doubt your doubts a little this week, and turn toward faith in the Lord, and remarkable things will happen for you, and divine forces will come to your aid, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski