Sacred Soil


Living Questions
April 7, 2013, 10:15 am
Filed under: Sermons

Easter 2

Acts 5:27–32
Psalm 118:14–29
Revelation 1:4–8
John 20:19–31

I’d like to begin with one of my favorite pieces by Rilke

…I would like to beg you dear [one], as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

It’s these words that convict me that Thomas gets a bad rap. “Doubting Thomas”, as we know him. The one who has the misfortune of missing Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples—and yet he desperately longs to see that this one is real. He longs to touch his savior. And for this, we single him out, labeling him a doubter. And we never really say that nicely.

But I propose to you, that Thomas was, rather, asking a question. He was wrestling with the stories presented to him, and he didn’t understand. He had watched Jesus die. And so, it does not seem wrong to me that he should then also want to see this man alive, breathing, to see the wounds. To touch them. He was asking the question: is this real? How can this be?

And the question gets him in trouble.

I’m not so sure that he gets in trouble with Jesus. The thing about the Greek text, is that it doesn’t have punctuation. All the question marks, periods, exclamation marks, all these are inferred through the text. And the thing is, you can translate Jesus’ question, just as well, into a statement. The text may just as well say,
Have you believed because you have seen me? Or
You have believed, because you have seen me.

From the rest of the context– I don’t get the sense that Jesus, the one who seeks Thomas out, who welcomes the touch, I don’t get the sense that he is too worried about this one who questions. He knows that touching is important—and that we’ll not always be able to do so.

But, for centuries after, Thomas’ question gets him in trouble. His desire to see, to touch, speaks dangerously of doubt. And for those who benefit from the current state of affairs, those who have the authority to say what is and what is not, well, this is nervous making. We shall not encourage folks to question the status quo, the givens of the faith. Questions only lead to trouble. Do not worry yourselves about seeing, only believe.

I know that for some of you, this is personal. It’s happened to a lot of you in this room. The story goes something like this: My Sunday School teacher always told me I asked too many questions. I got in trouble, and sent into the hall. Or, we just knew we weren’t supposed to ask questions, we were just to take it all in and absorb what we were told.

I like to imagine those hallways, full of kids who dared to ask too many questions.
Oh the trouble they made…

The thing is this “Doubting Thomas” story can be dangerous for us, privileging silence.
Is it truly more honorable, more faithful, to just suck it up and pretend we all get it?

Because I think the truth is, we’ve got lots of questions. This story of the risen Christ, it’s odd. It is unbelievable. It is the kind of thing that, perhaps, seeing makes more believable. Maybe not. But this story of resurrection and new life, asks more questions than it answers. What was the tomb like? What did the disciples talk about in those early days? How is it that they were not also killed? How does a man enter a locked room?

You likely have more. I hope you do. Because, I am convicted, that rather than leading us away from faith, these questions actually have the power and the capacity to increase our faith, to make us yet more faithful.

Because it is in questions that we discover our world. It is in questions that we discover God at work in surprising ways. It is in questions that we re-examine the narratives we’ve been handed, and seek out a more honest truth.

This past Friday night, we welcomed 14 guests into our building, offering a safe place to sleep, and a few good meals. We offered this, because someone dared to ask, why do the homeless have no place to rest their heads?

We send missionaries around the world, so that we might learn from emerging Christian communities how the Spirit is alive throughout the world—all because someone dared to ask, how might we accompany others as they seek to live faithfully?

We are a Reconciling in Christ congregation, boldly declaring that everyone is welcome here, be they gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender—all because someone dared to ask, How can we share God’s love with those whom the church has historically excluded?

These questions and more have fueled our faith. They have brought us into closer community with those nearby, and with those far away. These questions have upset the status quo—they upset the standard narrative.

Far from being a dangerous puncture wound, allowing faith to limply deflate. These questions allow us to discover God at work amongst us now. They allow us to seek justice, to seek the true authority about forgiveness and newness of life.

And yet, fearful authority seeks to narrow the possibility by narrowing the questions. Fearful authority, knows that questions have this way of breaking the bonds of expectations, and leading us into new places.

But this is precisely what our God is always doing. Breaking into new places, showing up behind locked doors, inviting us to touch the wounds, to answer the questions with our hands. Inviting us to ask them again and again.

And I wonder, as we live these questions, perhaps we may just discover that we have seen, that we have seen this resurrected Christ, here in our midst. We who know that death is not the worst that can happen to us. We who know the joy as:

Christ appeared Friday night, as the doors opened to our guests.
Christ appeared as the children gathered at Children’s time.
Christ appeared at the British home, as folks prayed together
Christ appeared yesterday evening, as Jeanie was, at long last, ordained as a pastor.

We are blessed, because we have been living these questions. When we asked, Christ, where are you? Are you real?, the response was given, through the people around us. And our eyes have been opened, our fingers have touched the wounds.

And so Christ appears to us again, here, in the bread and the wine we will take at this very table. Christ appears to us, wounded, and yet whole.

And we cannot help but respond, My Lord, and my God. As we continue, living into God’s answers.