Wednesday, August 30th John 20:24-25

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” John 20:24-25

Thomas didn’t believe it. Speaking for every single one of us who have ever found ourselves on the doubting side of faith, he said he wouldn’t believe it until he saw it. Until he touched the wounds. Until he saw Jesus for himself. He wasn’t going to believe.

I’m glad that John included this story in his gospel. I’m glad that Matthew also mentions, in the final passage where Jesus sent his disciples out to make new ones, that some gathered there doubted as well.

They wouldn’t have had to include either story. Neither changes the story. Had both passages been omitted, no one would have noticed. But they are there. They were there when written and they are there still today. One wonders how many scribes through the years were tempted to just drop those three words (but some doubted) from Matthew 28:17.

I suppose there might be people who assume that the church consists of “people who believe” and everyone else who is not connected to a Christian community consists of “people who doubt.” I frequently ride by a small country church called “Believers Baptist Church” and every time I pass by I wonder at that name. But my guess is that most people realize that faith and doubt are more of a living tension than two separate realities.

Lutherans understand what this doubt is all about. We expect that we will doubt; we can hardly imagine the alternative. Doubt about God’s goodness, doubt about God’s presence, doubt about God’s will, doubt about God period – all of this is to be expected in those of us who have been born into sin, into this radical separation from God that we join as one cell becomes two.

Ours isn’t a doubt generated by the Copernican Revolution, the Great Enlightenment, the rise of the modern science method or the various documentaries of the History or Discovery channels. It is instead a doubt as old as the first creation story and as recent as the last two year old who defiantly told her father, “I can do it by myself!”

We call it sin, pride, the “self curved in upon itself.” We might not like it, might not even wanting it, but our liking or wanting doesn’t seem to matter. Doubt just is. Doubt is to be expected.

Faith is the real miracle. Lutherans understand that too. Faith is a gift birthed in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a mind game but an inner transformation worked through the power of God’s love proclaimed into our rebellious ears.

So it is that the Church is born in that upper room where Jesus meets his disciples and later meets Thomas. The Church is born when Jesus includes those who doubt among those to whom he grants the Great Commission. The Church – the gathering of people around the proclamation of the saving grace of God expressed in the written and preached Word, poured out in the water of Baptism, drawn into our bodies in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, celebrated within a company of strangers.

A company of strangers who doubt and who believe; who sometimes doubt their faith and sometimes doubt their doubts. A company of strangers sharing a journey through life, still following the One who called them his own.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, yes we believe, help our unbelief. Soften our hearts toward those whose hearts seem hardened. Give us faith to follow when we can’t see the way ourselves. Continue to feed us and lead us, that we might stay the course. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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