Blogging Towards Sunday, April 19, 2009
Today’s scripture passage contains 2 scenes: The first with the disciples involves 3 events:1) Jesus says that we are sent into the world as God the Father sent him. 2) Jesus gives the Holy Spirit, breathing it upon them, like God breathed life into Adam and Eve (Genesis2:7) and 3) giving them the power to forgive sins, to participate in God’s saving action in the world.
The second scene is about Thomas, who we often call Thomas, “Doubting Thomas.” He seems to get a bum rap. He’s the one lone disciple who stubbornly (or maybe honestly) needed to see, touch and experience the risen Jesus to believe he was alive. We tend to think of doubting as not believing. Some theologians have said that maybe a better way to understand “doubt” is as fear: fear that our expectations won’t be met, fear that we’ll be forgotten, fear that our hope was misplaced. When Jesus appears to Thomas he doesn’t say “Get a life. Get over it. Believe!” Rather he says “peace” – wishing the strength, courage and spiritual centeredness to empower Thomas to move from fear to faith, hesitancy to action, observation to participation. He challenges Thomas to change, to move into a new way of being, & a new identity. Faith, freedom from fear, is the freedom to dare change, to dream of a new way of being freed from the shackles of our expectations, anticipations and frustrations. Yet freedom is often scarier than the familiar prisons we've become used to in our personal lives, lives as a community of faith and in our relational dynamics. We call Thomas the doubting one....yet maybe he was the most courageous; the one that most measured the cost that choosing faith - and new life in the resurrected Christ - would demand, entail and give.
As I reflected on this passage and its prophetic essence for the church community I serve this week I was reminded of a meaning-making quote from Walter Brueggemann in the book The Bible Makes Sense:
The Bible provides us with an alternative identity, an alternative way of understanding ourselves, an alternative way of relating to the world. It offers a radical and uncompromising challenge to our ordinary ways of understanding. It invites us to join in and to participate in the ongoing pilgrimage of those who live in the shattering of history, caring in ways that matter, secured by the covenanting God who is likewise on pilgrimage in history. This way of understanding our lives lets us be open to hurts (crucifixions) but also to healing surprises of new life (resurrections) that emerge in our common life. … Moreover, this way of understanding lets us embrace our own experience as important and the life of our brother and sister as part of our own. Most of all, it tells the story of this One who has committed his life to us, who promised in every hurting and rejoicing place in life to be there with us. (Matthew 28:20)