Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Hour with Thomas

On the second Sunday in Easter, our church observed Bright Sunday (or Holy Humor Sunday)- extending our resurrection celebration. In addition to kazoos, jokes, and laughter, we had an interview with the apostle, Thomas.

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining me today on Theology in the Morning with…Pastor Julia! We’ll have a special food giveaway later this hour, but right now let’s meet our special guest. You may know him as the Eeyore of the disciples or the famous doubter, but let’s welcome… Thomas the Apostle!
Thank you so much for coming today. How do I address you? None of you apostles seemed to come with a last name.

Thomas is fine.

Thank you for that. Well, let’s get to it. I think the first question we’d all like an answer to is: Where were you when Jesus showed up that first time?

You know, Pastor Julia. If I’m willing to do the time and space travel it takes to come here and answer questions for you and these other fine folks today, I’d think you’d come up with a better first question. Everyone wants to know and what are you going to say if I tell you that it was my turn to empty the dirt pot (if I may be subtle)… or that I had gone out to get more bread or wine… or that it was just pretty rank in that room with 10 other scared men. Whatever I tell you is going to disappoint you, so all you need to know is that I wasn’t there. Can you live with that?

Wow! I must say, Thomas, I did not expect you to be so frank. I suppose…

It’s like this. I loved Jesus, still do. I mean, I see Him every day now, so can’t really complain. But three years of parables… that can make a man crazy. I wanted some plain talk and I don’t mind telling you that when he did get around to telling it like it was, it was hard to swallow. Since the resurrection, my goal is to tell the truth- straight up. No parables, no metaphors. Also, I don’t spend time on what doesn’t matter. Where I was doesn’t matter in this interview.

Well, thank you for your frankness. Moving on then, what did you think when the others told you that Jesus had been in the room with them?

Honestly, I thought they had all gone crazy together. We were so keyed up, scared, and jittery. It seemed possible that they had a group vision or something. What happened with Judas hit us all pretty hard. Not just because he had traveled with us and been a friend, we thought, but also because most of us understood that anyone of us could have easily done what he did. Maybe not in the same way or for the same reasons, but still… Anyway, when I came back and everyone was tripping over themselves to tell me about Jesus’ return. It was just too much. I’m sure you’ll want to list out the history of Thomas the doubter, but can anyone here tell me that you wouldn’t have said the same thing in the same circumstances?

I’m pretty sure I can’t say that I would have been different. So, what was it like when you did see Jesus?

What do you think it was like? I wanted to throw up and throw myself at his feet, all at the same time. Even after the crucifixion, even when we weren’t entirely sure what to believe about where his body was, we still knew the truth of what we had witnessed when we traveled with him. I still can hear Lazarus’ voice lifting out of that tomb. I can still see the stunned expression of blind men seeing for the first time, of people who walked, of people who heard and received a word of forgiveness. So, even when we as disciples didn’t know what to think… we had these powerful experiences to chew over with one another. Those experiences formed our understanding of Jesus and, in that upper room, none of us were willing to admit to thinking we might have been wrong, even though we all had that thought. And then he was there!

If I may interrupt, how did he come through that wall?

You may not interrupt. That’s not important to the story. However he did it, it was done! And there he was and I was terrified and thrilled and ashamed and gratified and… Even now, it’s too overwhelming to think. Suddenly, when he appeared, everything I knew came into place. The last rock in a wall. The opening move of a game. It was like the most powerful end and at the same time the most astounding beginning of any story, song, or even battle that you might see. Suddenly, I knew that this was my Rabbi, my teacher, and my God, THE God… right there. When he offered for me to touch him, I couldn’t dare. Moses only saw God’s backside and lived to tell about it. What would happen to lowly Thomas who asked for proof, got it, and then pressed his luck?

That’s such an amazing story, Thomas. We’re all curious about what you did next, but this is supposed to be a light-hearted Sunday. We’ve all been enjoying laughing and your story seems so heavy.

It’s not that heavy when you actually think about it. You don’t think there’s humor in it? Believe me, I laugh every time I consider that Jesus didn’t punish me for asking a question. He could have said, “Impudent wretch! Did you ever listen when I was talking?” But he was as kind and generous in resurrection as he ever been.
And, you, you dare to think that this is not a story of joy? What kind of interpreter of scripture are you? There are three gifts in that story and you get two of them. Jesus gives peace to all disciples, he gives proof to me, and he blesses those who won’t quite have the same experience I did. You get peace! AND a blessing! What more do you want?

Well, proof might be nice.

Proof! Ha! Proof is like the buzz of those kazoos that you were playing earlier. It’s great while it lasts, but then it grates on you. It takes your breath away and then leaves you empty of mystery. Proof gives you a tangible experience for a while, but it doesn’t allow for height and depth and breadth and range.
If you have proof, will you have peace? Will your questions end or will they increase? If you received proof, would you relinquish your blessing? The comfort of the Spirit? The experiences you have resurrection in communion and in community and in creation?

I don’t know, but doubting seems so…

What is doubt? It’s like proof, it comes and it goes. If you banish one question, another will arise. Your faith, God’s gift of faith to you, is not the absence of doubt. It’s action in spite of doubt. It’s moving forward, even while questioning. It’s closing a door, but knowing that Jesus just might come through the wall.  You’re learning as you go, just like I was. Just like Peter. Just like Andrew, James, John, and all the women who helped us along the way. But you have written accounts to help your faith. You have the promise and the presence of the Spirit. The resurrection has always been your reality.
And you have my story, my little story that you try to make big in all the wrong ways. What was I doing? How did he come through the wall? How about this?!? Jesus knew my questions, brought me the answer of his own body, did not strike me dead on the spot, and offered a blessing to everyone who doesn’t get what I got. How about that to make your Sunday bright? And your tomorrow? And the day after that?

Wow, Thomas, I don’t know how to thank you for coming in today. You’ve been an amazing guest. I’d like to talk to you more after the break about your life after the upper room, but first we have some messages from our sponsors. Folks, I just want to repeat something Thomas said: Your faith, God’s gift of faith to you, is not the absence of doubt. It’s action in spite of doubt. It’s moving forward, even while questioning. It’s closing a door, but knowing that Jesus just might come through the wall.


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