Been thinking about our Easter celebration last week and throughout the week, I have tried to meditate on the hope the resurrection of Jesus brings. Here are a few of my highlights and follow-up thoughts:
– I loved that our new series series unBELIEVEable is about faith and doubt. I loved being part of a church, that creates space for skeptics, seekers, and invites life-long believers to perhaps re-examine hidden corners of their faith.
To be clear, I’m not trying to get people to doubt more as a final destination. The hope is for us to believe and deepen our faith more and more. But I, along with others, believe one of the ways we grown in our faith is by embracing our lingering doubts, exploring new questions and possibilities, confronting our ignorance, our fears our naïveté, our presuppositions and our weak beliefs. In short, exploring our doubts can lead to greater belief. Sometimes a particular doubt may be answered, sometimes it’s tempered, sometimes we find it to be no longer relevant and sometimes it becomes part of the journey.
Doubt is not weakness as some may have implied somewhere along you spiritual journey. Nor is it as I heard in a sermon, the “weak muscles of belief” that simply must be exercised. To remain in the same place may be more of what Jesus had in mind when he would admonish the disciples’ weak faith. It seemed to me that Jesus was always inviting his followers to confront their doubts and believe. “Peter come walk to me on to the water!” Asking the blind men, “Do you believe?” and of course, “Thomas, come and touch my hands and my side.” Faith seems to be accompanied by doubt quite regularly.
I’m grateful that more people have been writing about doubt. It used to be more on the fringe, then over the years many have chosen to write about it. It’s even come from a variety of different angles including Peter Rollins and Alister McGrath – I doubt they agree upon on much so I find this an interesting obvservation. In any case what’s not helpful at all is to ignore our lingering doubts or to pretend we do not have them so it’s great that people are writing and preaching on doubt.
I do have a frustration with how our Biblical characters often caricatures Thomas and I for one am sympathetic to “Doubting Thomas.” It may feel cliche to some, but in my church office I have the Caravaggio picture “The Incredulity of Thomas” hanging over my desk. If this story of Thomas didn’t exist, I would likely read the Gospels thinking, “Didn’t anybody have trouble with this??”
Then there are the sources where Thomas gets his information – Peter and the other disciples. These guys – have we been reading carefully enough? Frankly, I’m not sure I’d buy fish from Peter, let alone trust him with an unverifiable truth that would require me to revolve my entire life around its profound meaning and risk my well-being. It’s as if those who look down upon Thomas forget the other disciples only told him of the resurrection after they had seen the risen Jesus for themselves!” No one in the Gospels, just starts believing just because it’s Sunday.
Can you picture one person saying to the other just days following the crucifixion?
“I believe the risen Jesus!”
“You do?? Did you see Jesus for yourself?
“No, I just kinda pieced the whole thing together from what he said. I just kinda realized today is the third day so yeah, I believe He’s risen.”
That story is not in the Bible.
Much more to say about Thomas but the point being, the goodness of doubt is that it vets belief. Perhaps another day we can explore if naive belief is really belief at all.
How the Meaning of Easter Speaks To Me Today
When I think of Isis beheading Orthodox Christians, killing Muslims, throwing gay people off of buildings, or when I think of pilots intentionally crashing their planes, or when I think of the countless other acts of evil and random tragedies that affect our lives, our families, and the countless others on our planet, I find a great hunger for meaning. In all such things, I experience anger and grief, I search for logic and purpose, I long for justice, and I crave meaning and eventually hope.
The pain and suffering can be feel unending. We may wonder is my life just the days I live until the evil of this world finds me? Is the best case scenario to avoid this evil until my body gives up on me one day? Along the way, I enjoy things, maybe fall in love, maybe help some people, fulfill duties, pay my contribution to society, contribute to something noble, etc. but is that what it means to live a good life? With this narrative, life feels fearful, and life becomes all about security and a bit of luck.
I suppose that’s part of it in some way but the story of Easter invites us to something greater. Easter answers the death and evil and pain and suffering of this world. When Jesus takes it all on and then comes back to life and invites us to follow Him, he is saying in no unclear terms, “There is so much to this life than the pain and evil that plague us.” He’s also saying, “Let me show you how powerful the love of God really is. It’s strong enough to defeat evil, sin and death and it invites us to so much more. Come and see.”
Now if Jesus was never raised to life, we take this all back and dismiss it to say the least. And it’s understandable to doubt such a claim. I know I have. But it’s in processing that, dismissing it maybe, digging it back up, embracing the doubt, the reason, the history, the options, the hope and then believing with a heart of integrity, well, now we have a faith that means something.
And that’s where I’m landing these days after celebrating Easter. Hope you had a great Easter too and may the coming days speak meaning and hope into our lives.