The blog of a lutheran pastor, writer, and political animal.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Five Link 5: The Pew Report

         So, the latest Pew survey on religion came out.

         Douthat is pretty excited, in fact he wrote multiple articles about it.
         In the first he takes three categories he fleshed out in his book Bad Religion--Biblical, Spiritual, and Secular, and looks how those groups fair in the survey. He argues there are a lot fewer “Biblical” folk around, instead they’re bleeding into the Spiritual center, even if they identify as “Biblical.” So, even people who are claiming orthodoxy are doing so while not connecting to orthodox traditions. Similarly, they are evangelical, but not members of an evangelical denomination. So, a self-identified “biblical” population may not change much for reporting purposes, but the denominations connected to them may decline.
         In his second article he takes a slightly different route to say a similar thing. He points out that the Pew study is about identification, not practice. So, someone might go to church the same amount, but no longer identify as Christian. He then goes on to wonder if the whole thing just reflects the atypical maturation process of Millennials—that they’re not getting married so they’ve not boomeranged back to church in order to connect with a community to help them instill values and a sense of the transcendent in their children.
         In some ways, both these articles point to the polarization and atomization of modern America. On one hand, people today are strongly encouraged to pick a side, either atheist or fundamentalist—middle ground is discouraged. On the other hand, it points out non-practicing affiliation is a value for many Americans. 
One might wonder, if a war was called between the two factions, would anyone show up?

         Kevin Vallier of Bleeding HeartLibertarians has a different take away from this poll. He points out to his Atheist friends, who are gloating at the demise of Christianity, that the kind of Christianity that is disappearing is the reasonable kind. Their shadow-self, the Fundamentalists, are going strong. He mourns the disappearance of the reasonable mainline-middle-man (he describes such a person as a father figure) who could bridge the gap between a fundamentalist mother and atheist son.

         Then there is Clint.
         He sees the Pew Report as a product of masochistic mainliners. We, he claims, have a deep seed of self-loathing within us, and therefore these reports (or at least how they are read) are shaped to cater to that impulse. The very categories different denominations are put in are categories only mainliners would use. In short, there is a much richer religious story in America than this report would show, so we should pull our heads out of our belly buttons and take a look around.

         My own take is as it has been for a while; mainline decline has to do with the 3D’s, Demographics, Decentralization, and Disestablishment. Sometime this summer I'll be preaching on this subject, so wait with bated breath!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon: “Lord, may we be weird together.”

          In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, we have 2 forms of the Lord’s Prayer. In Mark we get a very truncated bit about forgiveness… In John’s Gospel, we get something structurally quite different—imagine for example, if we prayed today’s Gospel lesson every week… woe to the Sunday School and Confirmation Kids who would memorize that Lord’s Prayer.

          But perhaps we could shore things up, summarize this prayer spoke by our Lord:
          “LORD, You have chosen us, we are Yours and You have given us to Your Son.
          We dwell, we abide, with Him who is Word of God.
          You have revealed Him to us, He who comes from You.
          May we faithfully live in this relationship—may we live weirdly for the sake of Your will.
          Leave us not alone O’LORD, but give to us companions upon this journey with You.
          Or to summarize more starkly “Lord, may we be weird together.”

          Let us pray:
          “Lord, may we be weird together.”

          Jesus prays that his sanctity might sanctify us. To sanctify means—to make or recognize a thing or a person as Holy.
          To quote one commentator, “Holy things and people are the same as normal things and people, but kind of different. “Kind of different from normal" sounds like a definition of "weird" to me.”
          Jesus’ followers—we Christians—are a little weird… we live in a different reality.
-        We’re a little weird because we’re people who’ve been chosen by God—we’re people who’ve grasped that God has knelt down and grasped us—grasped up our life and called us by name, and chose us to be freed from all that would oppress us.
We’re a people struck with the question, “What should I do now that I don’t have to do anything.”
We’re a people promised life eternal, and therefore our life is forever changed—our way of being forever altered.
-        We’re a little weird because we’re people who abide—people who are steeped—in God’s Word, Jesus Christ the Lover of our Soul.
We are people too, whom Christ steeps in.
That relationship shapes who and what we are—God’s Word within our hearts and upon our lips, a relationship with God.
-        We’re a little weird because we’re people grappling with Jesus’ origin—that he’s from God and is God.
What does it mean that the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen:
-Stood upon particular ground in Galilee?
-Told particular stories that still work upon our psyche to this day?
-Spent time with the least of these and sinners?
-Sent us forth and Died that we might live?

          Yes, we’re weird because we’re chosen by God, abide in his Word, Jesus, and know that Jesus is from God.

          And I don’t want to sentimentalize this weirdness—Stonings, beatings, persecution and hardship were the consequence of this weirdness for the Early Church who proclaimed Christ as Lord.
          Weirdness weighed heavily on the Saintly Desert Mothers and Fathers, living as hermits out in the wilderness with nothing but Jackals and Jesus as their companions.
          It’s weird to claim “In Christ There Is No East or West, in Him no North or South” in a world riven with Civil and World Wars.
          Weird to claim “The Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God” in the Jim Crow South, or an Apartheid state, or anywhere fellowship between people is denied.

Sanctity—Weirdness, can wear a person down.
It can turn you inward.
It can weary the soul,
malform it,
 or silo us off,
leaving us alone in our weirdness.

          And that’s why we cry not only “Lord, may we be weird,” but, “Lord, may we be weird together.”
          That’s why we are Church, not for buildings or programs, but that we weird ones,
we holy ones,
we sinner/saints struggling to be faithful in the World as it is,
might bear with one another. So that it’s not me and Jesus, but us and Jesus!
          And think of the witness of that.
          When Jon, the owner of Flannagan’s pub, saw us there together at Pub Theology last Tuesday, it was clear he thought, “What it God’s name brings a group of people like this together.” And that is our answer, “God’s name.”
          Think of the witness our strange fellowship…
          What brings together Jesus’ disciples—A Tax Collector, a gaggle of fishermen, a political assassin, a religious radical, and two hot tempered brothers.
          They’re united only in following Jesus
—in going out together two by two supporting one another
—defending each other’s weirdness from a world seeking sameness.
Feeding one another’s soul,
keeping us looking outside ourselves,
giving one another rest,
and reminding each other we’re never alone.

          “Lord, may we be weird together.”
          We chosen ones, we abiding ones, we knowing ones. We in the world, but not of it. We bound together, in Jesus.
          We pray, “Lord, may we be weird together.”


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sermon: Command and Comfort

1.   Christ is special
2.   We’re brought into that specialness
3.   We’re commanded to share and cultivate it
4.   It’s God acting
5.   We’re called to impossible tasks
6.   They are impossible but for the grace of God
7.   Go forth, trusting this to be true

1.      Sisters and brothers, Jesus is the Son of God and our Lord, Savior, and Friend.

2.      We know him to be the Beloved of God, and it is in him we have come to love and trust God.
It is through him we have found freedom from the twin terrors of death and sin. In him we find comfort and consolation in our darkest hours, and it is he who we call upon to celebrate in times of joy. Truly we can ask him to forgive, save, and sustain us, for he has already done so for us.

3.      In our worship—with the water of Baptism, the Word of God, and the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion.
         Gathered together in fellowship—connected to one another deeply enough that we bear one another’s burdens—taking each other seriously enough, that we need to confess and forgive one another sometimes… familiar enough with one another that we also share our joys and give thanks to God together…
         We are sent out of this building and into the whole of our lives, to bring all that we have received from Christ out into the world.

4.      Yes, it is in practicing these things here that we share and cultivate the Goodness of God found in Jesus… but ultimately we can do all this only because Christ has promised to show up in these things—in community, baptism, confession, scripture, words of thanks, the holy meal, and service of others.
Yes, these are ours because they were first his.

5.      And they are now ours—
They were given to us so we might be little Christs to the world—and not some hypothetical world, but the world we live in.
A world of wars declared and undeclared, to which we are called to be peacemakers.
A world of vast and varied divisions—political divisions, ethnic divisions, religious divisions, racial divisions—and we are called to be repairers of the breach.
A world of great need, sold on scarcity—and we are called into it with open hands and hearts.
         I don’t think you hear what I’m saying—
In a world of ISIS, Putin, and ongoing wars in the middle east—we are to declare peace.
In a world of scorched earth Partisan Political Bomb Throwers and whole cities—dear Baltimore—and countries clenching, worried about the next eruption to quake and further rend the garment of our national life—we are to be bridge builders and listeners and lovers of enemies.
In a world that ignores the needs of the neediest, and at the same time stokes the wants, the frivolous, the wasteful—we are to model together what enough looks like, and ensure all have their daily bread.

6.      Lord help us, this is impossible… yet it is what we practice in this building, it is what we receive from our Lord—it is what has been done for us already in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
Has not, from Christ’s side an unquenchable river of life filled every emptiness we have offered him—made scarcity into plenty.
Has not all become one in Christ—have we not been clothed with him, and so there is no Jew or Gentile, Slave or Free, Male or Female—have not all divisions ceased?
Has not the mighty war machine that was the Roman Empire come crashing down, the cross of a common Galilean rending it’s gears and calling it’s people to practice war no more?

7.      Christ calls us to be his hands in the world as it is—our lives as they are.
Surely he is with us in this and with us here, in this very moment.
Here as we practice in our work and in our worship, practice becoming who we are and remembering whose we are.
We are Christ’s. We are his and He is ours. He is our Lord, Savior, and Friend.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sermon: Love one another

    One of my favorite riffs I do with the Confirmation Students is comparing the three johns—The Gospel of John, the Revelation of John, and the Letters of John.
         In the first, particular points are emphasized by affirming, as we read today, “I am.” “I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd, the true vine.”
         In the book of Revelation particular points are emphasized with bizarre and more importantly, memorable, images—for example: Christ is the light that lights the city of God, and is a multi-horned, multi-eyed slain lamb that is also a lion, and there is found by the water of life a tree with leaves that heal the nations.

         And then there is the letters of John. It makes its points through repetition.
It makes its point through staccato snarled sentences squished together and snagging up against the soul of the reader.
It repeats points again and again with slightly different jabs and punches until it knocks out its audience.
If you haven’t heard me yet, I’ll say it a fourth time, it wears you down with repetition going at you again and again with a wrestler’s prowess, holding onto you heavily and hoping to grapple and grab onto the listener’s whole person and pull you down to the mat.
         Today, if you prune, separate out, and poke at, the messy message found in the 4th chapter of the 1st letter of John—you come up with this fairly straightforward message:
Love one another.
Love one another, because it reveals God.
Love one another, because it connects us to God.
Love one another, because of Christ’s love.
Love one another, because God first loved us.


         Love one another. Agape, in the Greek.
Agape one another.
         Love one another in an active way—This isn’t sentiment or internal stuff, it’s loving action—it’s the kind of love you can do whether or not you like the other person.
         Love one another in a sacrificial way—love like Christ loved us, all the way. Love while running on empty, love out of your weakness, love so it overflows.
         Love one another in a way motivated by God—there are other compasses that can point us to active sacrificial love, but the one that motivates us Christians has both it’s essence and origins in the God revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

         Love one another, because it reveals God.
         When we love in active, sacrificial, Godly ways, we often have aha! Moments. Moments when we glimpse God.
         There is a long tradition of Christian saints having aha! moments—moments of glimpsing God while loving in an Agape kind of way.
         It is said Francis of Assisi knelt down and kissed a leper, and he realized he had in fact kissed Christ.
         Similarly, the mythical St. Christopher took a small child upon his back in order to ferry him across a deep river—and half way through he recognized this child to be Jesus, and his strength gave out and he was pressed down into the water and rose up a Baptized man.
         Or think of Luther, who had an Aha! moment that continues to shape how Lutherans talk about the connection between God and societal roles…
While changing his son’s diapers—Luther realized that act of service was just as holy—served God by serving neighbor—just as holy as his entire time in the monastery.
         Or think about the hard but needed task of listening to sisters and brothers with whom we disagree—in doing so we might see the face of God—after all, upon the cross Christ seemed ungodly too—just as those holding opposite opinions to us so often do.
         Yes, we glimpse God when we love one another.

         Love one another, because it connects us to God.
         When we love one another that aha! moment can become something more—it is not a one-time event
—it’s like birth—it takes a while.
It’s motherly embrace—that doesn’t just happen once
It’s becoming family.
It’s knowing from experience, knowing it in your bones and in your soul.
It’s abiding—that is living, dwelling, being in it. Moving into the presence of God.

         Think about it, practicing love and becoming connected to the One Who Loves.
         Think about anything you’ve practiced.
         Not every moment on the baseball field is home runs and Gatorade on your head—it’s callouses, blisters, and sore muscles, time taken out of your day, and commitment…
and yet in doing that you become something else,
you become part of something else
and it is glorious.
         So too, loving one another shapes us, sticks with us, becomes part of us, we become part of it, we’re being reborn.
         Yes, we are changed and connected to God by loving one another.

         Love one another, because of Christ’s love.
         Christ’s command to love one another, is told while he demonstrates that very thing. He kneels and holds onto his disciples feet, washing the dirt and the dust from those feet, as he says, “Love one another.”
         Those feet trampling along, following after him to worried parents, outcast women, blind men, and faithful Centurions—serving with feet and hands—loving in a sacrificial way, following his Father’s calling upon his life.
         Loving to the end—loving with arms outstretched upon the cross, outstretched for you and for me.
         Loving too beyond the end—opening the tomb so that he might abide with us, bearing and birthing us out into the world, meeting us in our acts of service—that we might entertain him unaware that we do those things.
         Yes, Jesus loves us so deeply and we can show that love by loving one another.

         Love one another, because God first loved us.
         It’s reasonable to fear loving one another in an Agape way.
         There’s a lot to lose, potentially—it’s risky.
         The tension between emotion and action might be too much
—the hard ongoing outpouring of love drains you and does nothing to the recalcitrant heart of the beloved, they never love back
—and you grow bitter.
         The sacrifices might be too much
—you give and give and never see the results of your labor. You plant and another reaps.
         Perhaps even the actions become ends in and of themselves, the compass is lost, the north star of God is obscured.

         But beloved, it’s worth the risk!
         It’s worth loosing too much love, because the loving has already been done.
         God first loved us, and so we respond by loving our neighbor in need and loving our sisters and brothers in Christ.
         God acted first, God loved first.
         The entirety of the Acts of the Apostles could be read as God acting first and the Church catching up.
God acted first,
God welcomed first,
God loved first.
Pentecost fire showed God’s love for Gentiles—then the early Christians had to spend time and treasure on them.
         They made the Gentiles table servers, but God acted first and made them powerful preachers of the Gospel.
         And as we see today in Acts, God is already acting with this rich and powerful Ethiopian Eunuch before Phillip can do a thing—Phillip has to catch up and love.

         And that’s the story—God loved us when yet sinners and oppressed, sending his son.
         God loved us when we clung to an unjust society, by sending the prophets.
         God loved us when we blamed each other for our sufferings, by sending the wise ones who wrote the book of Job and Ecclesiastes and short-circuited that attitude.
         God loved us when we were in slavery and crying out with deepest need, by bringing us through the sea and on to freedom.
         God loved us before we even existed, calling forth over the deep, Spirit calling all things, seen and unseen, into being, that they might be loved.
         Yes, God first loved us, let us love one another.

Love one another, because it reveals God and connects us to God.
Love one another, because God, in Christ Jesus, first loved us.
Love one another.



Friday, May 01, 2015

3 Links

1. Watch the full video of the charges against the 6 officers and the description of Freddie Gray's death.
2. Ta-Nehisi Coates addresses violence in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University.
3. My sermon about the Blue Black divide from back in December.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Acts Sermon

Acts Sermon

         There was a time in the 70’s and early 80’s, or so I’ve been told, when preachers decided that the sermons in the book of Acts were examples of the Earliest Christian preaching. Then, they added, that time period in the book of Acts was a period of enormous church growth…
So, they concluded, if modern preachers were to use those sermons as a model for their preaching, they would have the same kind of success.
         There are a few flaws in this theory—two that come to mind right off the bat are that:
1.   It’s a lot easier to double Christianity when there are only 12 or so members.
2.   Most of the preachers of these sermons in Acts—the Apostles and Paul, were martyred (that is killed for the faith) which is, I would venture to guess, hardly the kind of success those 1970’s preachers were looking for.

         Nonetheless, these sermons in the book of Acts, do pack a certain punch—they’re worth mimicking every now and again.
         In today’s case, we read of Peter assuring the people the miracle performed before them, when he healed a bent over beggar—he makes clear that the healing isn’t his doing, but instead is from God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The same God found in Jesus, who is the righteous and living one—the one promised to us to save us from our sin—and therefore we ought to turn to him and be saved.

Let us pray.

         Perhaps what Peter is getting at today could be summed up by the ELCA’s tag line—God’s Work, Our Hands
that we recognize none of this—none of what our church, or synod, or congregation does, is from us—ultimately our hands are empty, our work is not our own—they are from God.

         Yes, over 6 millions Americans who are suffering and in need are touched by the ELCA’s service arm, be they immigrants escaping persecution and being resettled, or a family looking to adopt, or just folk with too much hunger and not enough pay check—yes 6 million people a year—the equivalent of the ELCA serving the entire state of Massachusetts.
         Yes, we recently helped plant a congregation in rural China—no small feat.
         Yes, we are decimating the disease of Malaria in 13 countries.
         But, no, it’s not us who do these things
—these amazing life giving, miraculous things
no it is God.
         Yes, our own Bishop, Bishop Tracie Bartholomew recently shared a pulpit with Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Donato in Bayonne, an unprecedented act of ecumenical hospitality—a Roman Catholic Bishop inviting a female Protestant Bishop to share in proclamation of the Gospel.
         Yes, the New Jersey Synod has called my colleague and cousin Beau Nelson to serve as chaplain to the homeless folk in Trenton.
         Yes, the Red Cross recently had 166 people still displaced from Sandy in need of help, and Lutheran Disaster Relief responded, “Don’t worry, we got this.”
         But, no it wasn’t we who had it—it never is—always it’s God who’s got this!

         Or I think of the ongoing embarrassing thing that keeps happening to me at Synod Council Meetings—the meeting is going along, they’re talking about innovative stuff in the Synod, and next thing I know they’re talking about me and about St. Stephen.
--Look there is a Pub Theology in South Plainfield, they gush, and there I am cleaning wax out of my ear, or looking at cat videos on my cell phone.
--Or they start saying, “Pastor Chris must be a managerial genius the way 5 congregations,
from 3 different towns—Edison, Plainfield, and South Plainfield, in a state where people take boarders between towns very seriously,
congregations, even of different racial and ethnic backgrounds,
are finding ways to work together and strengthen one another’s ministry. Good on you Pastor Chris”
         And I just kinda perk up like a cow that leaned against an electric fence.
         I didn’t do any of that.
         Any good thing, and good fruit, in this place—that’s God’s doing.
         Yes, good things are afoot among God’s people in South Plainfield and New Jersey and all across this nation and this world—with bare hands outstretched and a befuddled and joyful look all we can do is look up and say, this is God’s doing… always God’s doing.

         We admit, just as our forbearers of the faith did, that all good things come from God.
         The disciples were betrayers, deniers, and distrustful—yet God made them bold proclaimers of the Gospel.
         Augustine was a wayward son of the Church and Francis of Assisi was a spoiled rich kid—yet upon one God built our minds and the other our hearts.
         Luther’s detractors called him a drunken little monk, and so he was—yet God poured from his pen and formed from his temper, a rediscovery of grace that stoking the engine of a great reform.
         Yes, the God of the Disciples, the God of the Church Fathers, and the God of the Reformers, reveals the goodness of the one whom we call Lord, Jesus Christ.
         Jesus, the righteous one, rejected, the author of life, killed.
Jesus Christ, Righteousness returned
if there is anything you regret in your life,
any time you’ve missed the mark or fallen short of any goal
—know this:
 the goal has been obtained,
the mark made,
the regret held, honored, and healed.
Jesus Christ, Life revived—that deep and dreaded whisper that ends our days, that holds us all in it’s grasp, Death
—does so no longer,
the grave’s weight and death’s sting, have no power over us
—Christ has shattered them so that we might live in fullness, dying with him and rising with him.

         I pray that all that we do—serving 6 million, swapping pulpits in impossible ways, partnerships across towns and Gospel-exploration in pubs—that it all point’s to this promise of Resurrection and Righteousness.
         Resurrection and Righteousness,
the message to us from God found in the Old and New Testament,
the message passed on from Pentecost to the present day,
the message I preach from this pulpit every Sunday
the message of every part of the worship service
the message of our lives the moment we step out of these church doors.

         You have resurrection and righteousness through Christ.
         Turn to him.
         Clutch the font.
         Remember your Baptism into his death and life.
         Clothe yourself in the one who makes us whole and alive.
         Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen and Alleluia!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

“Doubting Thomas” Monologue Sermon

          I can already hear your snickering.
          Yeah, especially you there in the back.
          I can hear you whispering “Look, the doubter.
Look, Doubting Thomas.”
          It’s really not fair. 
          You don’t name any of the other disciples that way.
          You don’t say “Look, Abandoning Peter.”
          You don’t even say “Look, Betraying Judas.”
          For that matter, why can’t you call me “Twin Thomas”—that’s what the gospels call me…
 Or you could even call me “Brave Thomas”
After all, when all the other disciples were whining:
 “Oh, if we go back to Judea we’ll get stoned to death… poor us.”
I said, “Well, then we’ll go to Judea and die with Jesus.”
          Or you could call me Inquisitive Thomas—after all, there was that one time when Jesus told us that he was going someplace—and he claimed we already knew where that was (Truth be told, Jesus really gives us too much credit sometimes)
Everyone else just nodded solemnly like they knew what he was talking about
—Not me though, I actually wanted to make sure I knew what this was all about
—I chose to ask the dumb question that no one else wanted to ask, “Where are you talking about?”
          But noooo…
I’m stuck with that name
I’m stuck as Doubting Thomas.

          Doubting Thomas. All because of that one incident.
          He’d died for crying out loud!
--we’d all seen it. Our Lord, hung out there like a criminal.
          And then, later, Mary told us he’d risen from the dead.
          We didn’t believe her. None of us, not one!
We ALL doubted her.
          That’s why the other disciples locked themselves in the upper room. They didn’t trust that if Jesus could come to Mary he could come to all of us
—yet I get the bad wrap as “Doubting Thomas.” …
My point is this, we all doubted.
          I at least went outside
—I wasn’t afraid to die
—I didn’t lock myself in that room out of fear
—I figured if they killed me, for knowing Jesus, then so be it…
          (sigh) Yet I’m the doubter
          I wasn’t in the room the first time.
          So I missed out.
          Next time I saw them
—the other disciples
—they  were…
          They told me about being breathed on, how that changed everything for them.
          That seemed kind of strange to me, honestly… being breathed on by a dead guy…think of the halitosis…
But I couldn’t knock it. It gave them peace
—it changed them from frightened fishermen hiding-out, to bold preachers front and center.
          I was jealous of that—maybe that would be a better name for me “Jealous Thomas” I’d cop to that.
I was jealous of their new status—their new boldness.
          I mean, I was the bold one, after all.
          But not after seeing them.
I felt like the person who misread the worship time for Easter and got to church in time to pick up a Lilly and go back home… without even hearing the good news.
I felt like I’d missed Easter.
          And I couldn’t believe them
—I couldn’t believe they’d seen him.
I couldn’t believe the transformation that had overcome them.
I couldn’t believe…
(hmmm)     Well, if I’m really honest… I couldn’t believe I’d missed it.
I missed Jesus coming back.
I missed this peace they all felt.
          I felt left out.
          I was jealous of them.
          I went so far as to cut myself off from the community by not trusting their words…
          And I want to be clear, it was their words I doubted—not himnever him. Never God and never Jesus…
just missing his return, missing out on what they all had …that changing moment… I missed it.

          And it didn’t help that they were so excited about that forgiving and retaining sins thing.
In fact, they tried it out on me. I think they were meaning it well—but…
 it felt like they believed doubt was a sin.
          Do you know what it feels like to have your brothers and sisters whisper, and even say aloud, that you are a sinner because you doubt? A sinner because you weren’t there in that room.
A sinner because you missed out.
A sinner because they were all certain… and your uncertainty makes them feel uncomfortable.

1        They were changed, and I missed it / they were gung-ho and I was still in the depths of mourning.
2        It made me pull away from them, even though they were trying their best to continue to be my brothers.
3        They went so far as to call me a sinner for missing that moment… for doubting.
For being “Doubting Thomas!”

          And because of all that I blew up—I said something I didn’t really mean.
I said I would only believe if I squished my fingers around in his wounds.
          Pretty gross if you stop and think about it—macabre even…
but I was in despair.
While everyone else had experienced resurrection… I was still in despair.
Not doubting… but despairing. Despairing Thomas / not Doubting Thomas.

          Somehow, I toughed it out. I came back—despite all that, I showed up in that room, with them, the next week.
          There … with them… a voice came from behind me, and said:
“Peace be with you.”
          And he took that gross challenge I’d thrown at my brothers,
and at God,
the challenge of “poking my fingers in his wounds,” and made it a redeemable moment
—a place from which I could believe…
a place beyond my despair.
          And I shouted out, “My Lord and my God.”
          That’s where things get complicated. Most people think what Jesus said to me next was a rebuke… that Jesus too called me a sinner for not being with them… with the other disciples—for being “a Doubting Thomas.”
          But it wasn’t a rebuke. He just asked me a rhetorical question, “Have you believed because you have seen?”
          Then he looked passed me, through that room, and out into eternity
—to future generations… to all of you…
and blessed them, saying, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
          It wasn’t a rebuke, it was a blessing for all those Christians who came after us… He was promising them
promising you
—his love and faithfulness,
his resurrection,
his peace,
his forgiveness,
his gospel, for them
for you.
          It wasn’t about me
—about my doubting
but about his blessing, that conquered the grave,
and conquered our despair and division,
and continues to bring life to this day
—to this very moment.
If I’m “Doubting Thomas” … You all are “Blessed Disciples”
You all are “Blessed Christians”
You are “Blessed Children of God!” A+A