Gospel: John 20:19-31
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
I have a nephew named Thomas. I remember when my sister told me what his name would be. My mom and I turned and looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing, “Doubting Thomas.” If I remember correctly, we didn’t vocalize that thought at that moment, but discussed it, as any family should, behind my sister’s back. Now I’ve come to see that Thomas gets a bad rap. He does so much more than doubt, but even his doubt cannot separate him from the love of God. In the end he believes and confesses.
First let us establish that Thomas is left out. Left Out Thomas is what I will call him. He is the only one not there when Jesus makes his peaceful appearance. The Disciples were locked in their room for fear of the religious authorities who might like to crucify one of them next. But Thomas is not there. Where is he? Some say he was out getting groceries. Some say he believed what the women told him, that Jesus is risen and was out looking for him. In that case, he wanted to see Jesus’ hands and side because he wanted to make sure it was really him.
The fact that Thomas was not locked up in fear in the room with the other Disciples makes him Brave Thomas. He said before they went to raise Lazarus, “Let us also go to Jerusalem that we might die with him.” He’s out there. He’s taking a risk out there. He isn’t afraid, or if he is, he isn’t letting his fear stop him.
The next name I have given to Thomas is Honest Thomas. Doubting Thomas is a judgment meant to shame Thomas and all who doubt. Yet we all doubt. We are all Doubting Thomases. However much faith we have, still we wonder, if we are honest. We might as well be honest about it and ask questions and look for the risen Christ and seek to touch him and wrap our brains around how he could be resurrected and why he’d want to do that for us. Faith and doubt are not opposites. Faith and certainty are opposites. Faith and doubt are two sides of a coin. They go together.
Thomas is also Curious Thomas. He asks questions. He wants to see and touch. Sometimes the church has failed people with inquisitive minds. We have asked people to just accept what we tell them. However, that is asking people to become mindless sheep—my friend calls them “sheeple.” A combination of sheep and people. God can take our questions. God likes our questions. We ought to use the minds gave us to inquire and try to understand and to verify for ourselves, because we can’t always trust those in human authority.
Thomas is also Believing Thomas. He spends at least as much time in the Gospels believing as he does doubting. This is a story of a person’s unfolding belief.
And finally he becomes Proclaiming Thomas. He proclaims, “My Lord and my God!” He gets it and he shouts it.
I don’t know why people focus so much on negative characteristics, but we often do. Probably to protect ourselves. However, it is not so with God. God sees the whole picture. God sees us at our worst and our best and is leading us toward wholeness. That is part of what the word peace means. In Hebrew Jesus would be saying, “Shalom.” Shalom means wholeness. Three times, Jesus greets the frightened Disciples with the greeting of peace and wholeness, and it is God’s intention for us too, God’s promise. Shalom is something we build between us, but it is also a gift of God.
The way God sees us, we are not defined by our mistakes, our sins, or our doubt, our brokenness. We are defined by our friendship with God, our adoption into God’s family, and the fact that God made us very good. My grandma used to have a plate up on her wall with a little boy on it and it said, “God don’t make no junk!” That’s right. We have value in God’s eyes. We have relationship with God. Nothing can get in the way of that. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Of course the Gospel writer John was writing to his audience who were becoming anxious for Jesus’ return. Some of them had seen Jesus and believed, and others had missed out on it. He was saying that those who hadn’t been there were also blessed and showed an amazing faith. Of course now we’re all in the same boat. None of us were there to see Jesus walk the earth or to touch his hands and side. However we do see him and touch him. We see him whenever we see someone in need, someone wounded, someone hurting. We see him when we see anyone who is marginalized, an immigrant, someone whose car is broken down by the side of the road, those who gather cans and bottles as their income. And we do touch him. We touch him when we hold the hand of a homebound person, when we embrace a convict, when we put first-aid-cream and a band-aid on a boo-boo. And we touch him when we take him into our own bodies in Holy Communion. We eat his wounded flesh for the healing of our world, for the strengthening of our belief. We drink his blood poured out for us, touch his life and his power, so that we can pass that on to people who live in fear and isolation.
May we find in Doubting Thomas a role model. May we embrace our doubts and voice them rather than pretend that we know. May we be Left Out of the “faith” everyone else pretends to have in order to come to a faith that is our own. May we be brave, willing to exit the room where others lock themselves in fear. May we have courage to look for the risen Christ. May we be honest and straightforward with God, knowing we have nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. May we allow ourselves to have an honest relationship with God. May we be curious and questioning and thing for ourselves, rather than led astray by believing everything our religious leaders tell us. May we find in our doubts an element of belief, a kind of “yes,” an affirmation of ultimate truth that brings us abundant life that we, then, share. May we find our lives proclaiming the resurrection, naming God, naming what has power and who gives life. May we find resurrection all around us, among the Easter doubts, fears, and hopes.