Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Second Sunday in Easter
It’s Easter Tuesday, and we’re all still tired. No matter how glorious our Holy Week and Easter worship has been, it takes a lot out of us. Nonetheless, unless you’re farsighted enough to schedule vacation for the week after Easter, ministry – and sermon writing – go on. Equally certain is that on the Second Sunday of Easter, those of us following the Revised Common Lectionary will encounter Thomas, the disciple who not only doubts, but who has the chutzpah to say so, and to demand some physical, tangible evidence.
We tire, I think, of preaching “Doubting Thomas” because the story is so well-known, and so widely used (and misused.) If we dare to admit it, though, many of us – preachers and congregations alike – can easily identify with Thomas and his demands. “Just show us! Prove it is so! ” Our challenge, therefore, is to present Thomas in a way that we can see him not as a just a doubter, but as one who dare to voice his doubts, and to confront his own disbelief. Seeing Thomas’ skepticism as something positive, acknowledging and facing our own skepticism can actually help us move forward on our faith journeys.
David Lose has suggested that we make room for doubt; I’m wondering if this isn’t a stance we might adopt and embrace in many ways as we work to be “church” in an ever more secular world. We in the Episcopal Church like to say that we welcome questions and embrace a spectrum of beliefs, but in reality we are no better than anyone else in acknowledging and facing our doubts when they interfere with our getting on with the ministry we are called to. And we are likely worse than many others when our doubts raise questions, no matter how valid, about “the way we’ve always done it.” Other traditions may be plagued with similar sentiments. So what if we took “Doubting Thomas” as an opportunity to preach on facing our doubts and questions and letting go of our fears so that we might welcome whatever the future brings for us, trusting that Christ HAS risen, and that in God all things are possible?
When it comes to considering how we live together as communities of faith, the reading from Acts provides provocative material, and another tack for this week’s preaching. What does it mean for community members to hold all things in common, and to use those resources to meet the needs of the world? In our highly individualistic culture, this is a truly radical idea, one that historically hasn’t worked out very well when it’s been tried. Does it have any relevance for us in today’s world, even in the church? Or is it an ideal too far removed from reality for us to take it seriously?
Do you know where your sermon is headed? Is some piece of the readings speaking to you in a fresh way? Or are you too tied to think about it now? This week, perhaps more than usual, may we draw on one another for inspiration and support. Join the conversation and let us know how you’re doing!