Jesus saves us, by getting us to forget about our fears and doubts and give up on hiding in our rooms. Jesus saves us from that life, and gives us one where we go out and make peace and forgive sins so that we may have life in his name and not be hiding in fear or letting our doubts stop us from living out what God calls us to be doing
Sunday of Easter; Year C
5.27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1.4-8; John 20.19-31
Renee Splichal Larson
peace to you from our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
A number of
years ago I started hearing rumblings of the doubts of a world icon: Mother
Theresa. She is a women I have always
greatly admired and even wondered what it might take for me to give up
everything and care for the poorest of the poor, who lay in the gutters of
streets dying, like the women in Mother Theresa’s order, The Sisters of
Theresa had always been perceived to have an incredible connection with God,
which fostered her, what seemed to be, unwavering faith. Only someone with a direct line to God could
endure such poverty and witness such suffering and death without throwing in
the towel…Or so the world thought.
Mother Theresa died in 1997, her confessors, for good or for ill, revealed to
the world how much doubt and darkness she experienced for much of her
life. In 1946, when she was 36 years
old, she heard the voice of God: “He called her to abandon
teaching and work instead in "the slums" of the city, dealing
directly with "the poorest of the poor" — the sick, the dying,
beggars and street children. "Come, Come, carry Me into the holes of the
poor," Jesus told her. "Come be My light." Time Magazine Article
It was the last she heard the voice of God or
felt Jesus’ presence in her life until she died. In 1979 she wrote to the Rev. Michael Van Der
Peet: Jesus has a very special love
for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and
do not see, listen and do not hear.
No one could have guessed or known the inner
turmoil and dark nights of the soul Mother Theresa experienced throughout her
life. She as a beacon of faith struggled
just as much or more than every other person to walk the earth, yet she loved
God with her whole heart and stayed faithful to God’s mission for her in caring
for the destitute and dying.
People who have doubt often get a bad rap or
create shock, especially and unfortunately when it comes to religion or
faith. People just could not believe
that Mother Theresa ever had doubts about God.
Somehow it seemed to threaten the faith of so many, and the work Mother
Theresa spent her life doing was somehow called into question by those who felt
they had to prove God didn’t exist.
In our Gospel reading today we hear of Thomas,
who is often unfairly given the nickname, Doubting Thomas. All the disciples, with the exception of one –
the beloved disciple, did not believe for themselves that Jesus rose from the
dead until they got to see him face to face.
This story has always been one of my
favorites for many reasons. It is
incredible to me how the followers of Jesus go from our reading today, where
they are hiding together behind locked doors, absolutely terrified of the Jews
in authority who advocated for Jesus’ murder, to our reading in Acts where they
are boldly standing before the very people they were hiding from weeks earlier
courageously declaring that God raised Jesus from the dead. What happens in between these two things is
their encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
Jesus first words to his terrified
followers are, “Peace be with you.” Jesus does not show up and say to
them: “Shame on you for abandoning me; for not believing me when I told you
what was going to happen; for living in fear locked up in this room; for not
believing Mary when she told you she saw me.”
doesn’t bring up the ways they have failed or came up short. He continues to love them and offers them
peace in the midst of their fear and asks them to believe. He then gives them a
job to do in spreading the peace and forgiveness he offers to a world in
need. To help them out in their work, he
gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Gospel of John, our story today is Pentecost…this is when the Spirit of God is
given to those who are sent out. Verse
22 says, “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘receive
the Holy Spirit.” The word for
“breathed” is the same word that is used in Gen 2.7 & Ezekiel 37.9, when
God breathes in the nostrils of the first human the breath of life, and when
Ezekiel prophesied to the breath to enter into the multitude standing on their
feet waiting to come to life by the breath of God. The Holy Spirit brings life and animates that
which was dead or paralyzed with fear to have courage and conviction.
disciples are not to just witness Jesus’ resurrection and call it good. They are to embody him and his life of
service and trust in God. When Jesus
asks Thomas and the rest of the disciples to believe, he is not implying some
sort of head knowledge. Belief
in Jesus means seeking life in Him and not in other things. Belief in Jesus means understanding that his
mission of forgiving sins and offering peace is also your mission in a hurting
world. Belief in Jesus is trusting God
even when you have doubts.
There are many things in this world that can cause us to
doubt, not the least of which is war, starvation, disease, poverty, violence,
addiction, the seeming silence of God when we are in need, etc. etc. But it is very important for you to know and
understand that it is
possible to doubt and to still have faith.
To have doubt and still turn to God is exactly what faith
is. It means you can ask the tough
questions to God, like: why is there suffering in this world, why did my loved
one die, why did this happen to me, or even, do you love me, God, are you with
What made Mother Theresa an incredible person of faith is
that even in her deepest doubts and despair she still turned to God for life,
for strength, and for love, along with all of her doubts and questions. People who have experienced the depth of darkness have the
fertile ground in their hearts to have true resurrection and life.
I know many
of you have endured a lot of suffering in your lives and that you probably have
many doubts about God and about the future.
The message of the cross is that Jesus comes to you and to me in all of
our locked rooms and hearts in our darkest moments and offers us peace.
saves us, by getting us to forget about our fears and doubts and give up on
hiding in our rooms. Jesus saves us from
that life, and gives us one where we go out and make peace and forgive sins so
that we may have life in his name and not be hiding in fear or letting our
doubts stop us from living out what God calls us to be doing (Taken from Ben Splichal Larson's sermon of April 2009). You also are given the same Spirit that was
given to the disciples on this day so long ago to give you courage and faith!
pronounces a blessing on the ones who haven’t seen and yet believe. This is us, along with the other 2 billion
Christians in the world today that have not seen, yet believe because the
witnesses to the resurrection came out from hiding and did what Jesus asked of
witness inspired people like Mother Theresa, even though she did not see the
risen Christ with her own eyes either.
Faith comes through hearing the story and being nurtured in faith
communities like this one. It is a
journey that has ebbs and flows.
Craddock, a contemporary pastor and author, writes this about faith:
faith is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s
lap. For others, faith is a lifetime of
wrestling with the angel. Some cannot
remember when they did not believe, while others cannot remember anything else,
their lives having been shattered and reshaped by…faith (John, p.142).
faith based on signs and faith that needs none; there is faith weak and faith
strong, faith shallow and faith deep, faith growing and faith retreating. Faith is not…a decision once and for all, but
a decision anew in every situation.” (p. 144)
We live in
a world in which many things are uncertain, and yet we are met this Sunday
morning, one week after the celebration of Easter, hearing the confession of
one who was deep in unbelief: “My Lord and my God!” May we all confess today with Thomas in all our
doubts to the One who is life, who makes His way into the locked rooms of our
hearts: “My Lord and my God!”