Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for May 1, 2011 - Trusting the Vision

I just love Thomas. I am generally drawn to those characters in the Gospel who are most human anyway, and Thomas is a good example of one who blurts his thoughts right out there.

Unfortunately, for many people he is known for only one thing: being a "doubter." Doubting Thomas. Poor guy; he has been the victim of type casting for centuries. Henry Winkler could play Shakespeare, but will always be remembered as Fonzie, and Thomas will always be remembered as the one who doubted.

Actually, Thomas was just honest and wholehearted. Whatever he did, he did and said without restraint. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, the rest of the disciples said "Don't go back to Gallilee; they want to kill you!" Thomas said, "Well, let's go with him and die with him." In John's account of the Last Supper, Jesus speaks a long discourse about going to prepare a place for us. Thomas is the one who says, "Lord we don't know where you are going, so how can we find the way?"

Thomas wanted to know; he wanted to get it right.

In this story, the disciples were in panic mode. They were hiding, not knowing what was coming next. Why was Thomas not there? Perhaps, as would be typical, he had ventured out to find out "the rest of the story." He had heard with the rest that the tomb was empty; maybe he needed to find out for himself. It is also likely that he didn't believe Peter. Why would he? Peter, who had denied even knowing Jesus, who had denied him when the going got tough.

Or, perhaps, he recognized the practical needs of a band of people in hiding, and had been brave enough to go to the market for bread and milk! Who knows?

Imagine his frustration when he got back and heard that the disciples had "seen the Lord." That the Christ had appeared to them and wished them Peace. That he was not angry at their desertion, but instead spoke of forgiveness, and that he breathed them into discipleship.

Thomas must have been kicking himself.... needing his own reassurance, wanting his own experience of the Risen One.

And so, he fretted. He questioned. He demanded to see for himself.

The result? He received the reassurance and presence he needed.

That group of followers were the prototype disciples; first off the assembly line, if you will. When we read these stories, we read them with the perspective of history, knowing what happens later. They did not have that. They had no "script" of the Gospels, only their personal experiences and stories, and had no idea how to proceed. In its own way, that might have been a very good thing.

Fortunately - or not - we have the written stories to refer to; we have centuries of history to guide us in what might -or might not- make a good disciple.

Perhaps it would be productive to try and look through Thomas' eyes, admit that we are needing guidance about how to live a Godly life in this world. After all, our world is vastly different than the one Thomas lived in.The challenges are no more difficult, but are certainly different. I think it is worthwhile now and then to admit that we haven't a clue, that we need to hear "Peace..." in the chaos and want our own experience of the Divine, our own reassurance.

I believe it is an act of faith to say, "I don't know.... show me!" and let that be our prayer.