1 John 1:1–2:2
Can anyone here use a bit of extra cash? Because it just so happens that I had a dream last night, and in my dream one of my ancestors travelled through time and space (and learned English apparently) to tell me the winning lottery numbers for this week’s draw. Anyone want in?
Well, today’s your lucky day, because I also happened to have gotten an email from some overseas bank, and apparently some guy had an account with them that has gone dormant for long enough that they need to close it and give the millions and millions of dollars in it to a beneficiary. Apparently, I can be that beneficiary after I fill out some forms with personal and sensitive information. Anyone interested?
Ok, last chance, but have you ever wanted to work from home and make like 4-5 thousand a week? Well, according to this ad I saw on the internet, you could do just that! What do you think?
By now, I would think your eyes have rolled so far back into your head that you look like the living undead. Of course, you know all of these opportunities are too good to be true… or at least, they’re too obviously fake to be true. Such scams are getting so prevalent now that they have become so laughable and they get the “auto-delete” out of our inboxes. And when we hear of people actually falling for these things? Man alive. We’re like, that still happens?
Our vast experience and knowledge mixed in with an ounce of common sense tells us what is believable and what isn’t. I mean, if it were that possible to get rich quick, then everyone would do it. But the tried and true way of becoming financially stable is through hard work, seized opportunity, and hopefully a healthy sized inheritance or a large insurance settlement. Everything else is probably a scam. That is what we’ve come to know and believe to be true. This is our paradigm of life, the way we see the world, how things just work.
Well, this is what our experience and knowledge and a bit of common sense tells us, at least. They tell us what is probable and what isn’t. They tell us what is worth our time and what is a waste of it. They tell us what to believe… and what to doubt.
This is what probably the very famous “Doubting Thomas” was going through. And if you remember from me talking about this disciple in the past, Thomas gets a really bad rap by being called that. I mean, they don’t call Peter, “Denying Peter” nor do they call James, “dad-abandoning James”, nor do they call Judas, “Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus”. Oh wait, maybe they do. Anyway, the point is that Thomas doubted, yes, but so did everyone else. So would anyone else, disciple or not. Honestly speaking, if you told me that you saw the actual real live Elvis walking around on the streets and you believe it is him in the flesh? Then you better believe I’ll unfriend you on Facebook.
This whole resurrection thing goes against everything we know, everything we’ve experienced, everything we quite frankly believe, but yet somehow we are supposed to proclaim Jesus is risen? We are somehow supposed to just take the word of our friends that they saw the Lord alive after we know without a doubt that he died? We are somehow supposed to put aside our pre-set paradigms, our time-honoured and proven knowledge, our well-founded doubts and just believe? That just doesn’t sound easy. Or possible, for that matter.
Because it isn’t, right? It isn’t easy for us to let go of what we already believe, to trust what we already doubt, to forget about all the experience and history that teaches us otherwise, and then put our faith in something that doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t easy because it goes against our grain, against our formulated ideas of what makes sense and what doesn’t, against the very fibres of our beings, and we can’t bring ourselves not to doubt. Maybe not even just doubt, but we tend to scoff, brush off, and roll our eyes too.
So we would react much like Thomas did. We would act out of our already set view of the world that those who have died, have died. They don’t appear in upper rooms behind locked doors. They don’t move giant rocks and abandon their tombs. And they most certainly won’t show up to all our friends and exclude us.
Perhaps we too, would say “unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe”, because really, that would be proof enough. More so, than even say… seeing, as it seems these days we have to experience something tangible in order to change our minds about what we already believe.
I remember when I was a kid in elementary school, my classmates would find out that I went to church every weekend. Because basically none of them went to church, they would scoff and be like, “why do you go? Why do you believe? Unless Jesus appeared right here in front of me and talked to me, I wouldn’t believe.” And if I’m honest, that bugged me. It bugged me that they would narrow down the requirement of proof to something that is so unlikely. My testimony wasn’t good enough. The testimony of generations of believers wasn’t good enough. The fact that we can see evidence of a God in and through all of life, love, and relationship wasn’t good enough.
But now that I think about it, I guess I can’t blame them either. The way the world was in those days, and even in the way it has increasingly gone until now, it is harder and harder to see God in anything other than the raves and rants of a deranged preacher. It is harder to recognise God’s grace and mercy in anything as we’ve been taught to feel entitled and deserving of everything we have. It is harder to see God’s hand and work in our relationships because really, so many relationships fail and break. It is hard to believe, it is hard to trust, it is hard to have faith.
So again, like Thomas, like my friends in school, like so many people around the world, we say that unless we see God right in freaking front of us, we won’t believe. We can’t believe. Our own pre-set beliefs won’t jive with this anyway, unless we can tangibly experience this God in a way that we can understand.
But that is the problem right there. It depends on our understanding, and with most people that I’ve met, their understanding is pretty settled. In that we know what we know and that pretty much settles it. Everything else just isn’t good enough because we know better. Everything else then gets interpreted through that lens, and it becomes really hard to ever change that lens. We become dependent on the tried and true and never want to veer away from what is, in our minds, possible or even probable.
You know, there isn’t really anything wrong with this though. There isn’t anything wrong with having beliefs and living your life based on those beliefs. That is just what we do as humans. But I can see a problem coming when our minds are stopped from ever being broadened. When we get to the point where we couldn’t ever see past our own paradigms and beliefs is where our doubts squash our faith and confidence in God’s providence and promise. When we are so set in our pre-set in our limited understanding of the world, of relationship, of what is possible with God, then we essentially shoot ourselves in the proverbial feet and hinder ourselves from growing, from embracing God’s mercy, and seeing the resurrected Christ living right in freaking front of us in each other, in our community, and throughout the world.
See, Christ wasn’t resurrected to earth a couple thousand years ago just for a week or two before he peaced out up into heaven. No, Christ resurrected to live with us, in the here and now, made apparent in all areas in life.
We see the resurrected Christ in stories of reconciliation and peace with ourselves and others. We see the resurrected Christ in the forming and growth and mending of relationship and community. We see the resurrected Christ in the survivors of the Parksville shooting, going against the grain of society and pushing for positive change, acting out of the courage and boldness of faith.
Now, I’m not saying that the resurrected Christ living among us means that we should respond to every email promising us money. I’m not saying that we should believe everything that anyone tells us regardless of how outlandish it could be. I’m not even saying that we must take leap of faith after leap of faith because God will definitely catch us. But I am saying that sometimes we need to loosen our grip on our reality and open our eyes to what could be. Sometimes we need to take our guard down a little and believe that just because it has never been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it should never be done a certain way. Sometimes, we have to trust that change and new things could be good, and that maybe… just maybe… God is with us in the midst of that change breathing upon us the Spirit and promising unto us peace.
As Thomas needed to experience the wounds of Christ before he could believe, so do we experience the wounds of Christ in our lives, in the brokenness of the world, in the uncertainty of our futures, in the heartache and suffering of loss, and it is in those wounds that we can see the risen and living Christ in our midst, that we may declare “my Lord and my God!” and embrace all God’s love, grace, and mercy.
As we continue in this season of Easter, this season of resurrection and recognition of Christ living among us, this season of living in the Spirit of community and relationship, may we increase in our faith that we might see more clearly the very presence of God through Christ by the power of the Spirit flowing through the wounds of this world, bringing healing, reconciliation, and peace, now and forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.