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" It's OK to Doubt"
“ But he said to them, “ Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” ( John 20: 25)
We read that again and again on our Easter journey and we say, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! Why do you doubt? We all know him as doubting Thomas…….. and even some of us have been called doubting Thomas, when we cast the shadow doubt, or questioning on a new idea or plan that a friend, colleague, or family member might have… And Thomas has become for us a character whom we don’t want to be associated with. None of us wants to be called a Doubting Thomas because it’s perceived as being negative…You doubt?.... Where’s your faith?...... You don’t believe without actually touching or seeing?....... Where’s your faith?... Who wants to be called doubting Thomas? I will……. I’m willing to be Doubting Thomas…….. why? Because Thomas liked to ask questions……. and asking questions is good. So today I want to take a look at this “doubt” thing….and connect doubt to our willingness to simply ask questions, to challenge ourselves….. And so I say, doubt can be a good thing for us. It doesn’t always have to be bad or negative.
Jesus understood this. He was patient with Thomas’s doubting, Thomas’s questioning. Jesus understood how hard it was to believe in, much less understand the resurrection. This lens of doubt can be viewed as a lens to look at our faith, to ask questions that can push us to new learning, reflecting on our own faith journey’s and the life of our church. Where do we see Jesus among us in our living? That’s what Thomas was doing. He was just asking the question; Where is Jesus among us? To his friends he said: “You say he’s here, he’s here among us, I don’t see him, I need to see him, to touch him.”
I’m backing Thomas here. I don’t think we should question his faith. How many times have we needed to see, to touch a sign more tangible? Thomas is teaching us that it’s good to ask questions, it’s ok to doubt, but we need to be careful not to let the doubt completely take over our thought process to the point of constant negativity.
Let the doubt push us to new opportunities, new awareness, searching, new reflection on our spiritual awareness. Let’s explore some doubt scenarios that can yield positive results.
Let’s imagine I’m a musician, preparing for a concert. It’s my doubt in my own skills that pushes me to practice more, to spend more time with it. Hence, I become a better musician. Ask the question when faced with doubt. Seek the answer…Implement the answer… move forward. Now let’s look at this same analogy through our faith lenses. Have you ever doubted your own faith? Have you ever said: “Jesus, where are you? Where are you in all this? I’m scared, I’m lost, I’m confused…… Where are you? I’m doubting here…….. I’m doubting…….. I’m doubting…….. Then, something happens, Jesus is revealed, you are aware of his presence, things change, things happen, things are revealed to you that make you say Hey! Yes! I see you here with me Jesus….. I get it now!
Christians believe that human beings have the capacity to hear, see touch and feel God--- a genuine sensing of truth and beauty through which we know God and know God’s will. (Diana Butler Bass).
We call this discernment. It’s a practice of seeking for or listening for the truth. Discernment as a practice can be developed through participation in reflection, questions, prayer and community. Discernment serves as a kind of spiritual compass, helping us to negotiate the unfamiliar territory of our truest selves as we seek to find the meaning of God’s call. But it can be the doubt that leads to the questions that leads us to the discernment process. Discernment often takes the form of questions and it can be doubt that triggers these questions. As individuals we ask who am I? What does God want me to do with my life? How can I be true to both myself and to God?
As the South West Norfolk Pastoral Charge we can reflect on our purpose and identity. Do we have doubts? Questions? Sure we do. Where do we fit in?... How are we being called to participate in God’s mission? Are we living out that mission in our community and within the national church? How is the love of God in Jesus Christ practiced here? Are we a truly welcoming congregation? How is genuine transformation experienced in worship? Are we engaging together in lifelong learning? How is God changing the lives of both people in the virtual pews of Zoom Church those who aren’t with us on Sundays. What financial resources and spiritual resources does our congregation have? How do we critically and prayer-fully reflect on our stewardship of these resources that will sustain our Christian witness and ministries into the future? What kind of pastoral strategies and visioning would contribute to participating in God’s transformative mission in our world?
Questions, questions, questions……… I believe every one of these questions applies to us….. I also believe that we may struggle with some answers, and more importantly, we may doubt our abilities as we explore some of these questions. The challenge for us is that in our response to these very important questions that we leave room for doubt but only to allow that doubt to open us up, to help us to search harder for the answers we seek, to push us to a deeper search of ourselves and our relationship with God, to make us so aware of Jesus that we, like Thomas have our fingers on his scars… and proclaiming “ My Lord and my God!” Then in each search we have as we chase these questions….One at a time…and from now until Pentecost we are going to explore some of these questions, and God-willing, we may find our answers, and then for each question we answer…. We will also be able to respond to Jesus’ words spoken to Thomas: “Stop doubting and believe”….. In Christ’s Love…PT.
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