Sunday, April 19, 2020


Thomas was not with them when Jesus stood in their midst
the first time. When the others told him about it, Thomas said,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put
my fingers in the holes, I will not believe.” A week later,
Thomas was with them when Jesus came and stood in their midst..
John  20:19-31

One of the things that happens when you read the Bible on a regular basis, like I do in preparation for preaching is that even familiar passages are always speaking to you in new ways. It happened again this week when I read today’s gospel, a text I have read and preached on many times. This is the first time I noticed the words, “When the gathered disciples saw Jesus after his resurrection and told Thomas who was not there with them, it says that Thomas refused to believe them. What I noticed this time was that Thomas kept meeting with them anyway! He didn’t say, “Jesus was here? Ridiculous! He’s dead! Your delusional! I’m outta here!” No, it says he was with them the next time!    

What Thomas did was pretty much the opposite of what we do when he have doubts. When we doubt, we quit joining the community. We assume that joining the faith community is only for those who believe, for those without doubt. People, in our experience, who doubt quit joining the worshiping community! Not Thomas! He kept joining them, even when he doubted.

The first thing many people assume about faith is that doubt is the opposite of faith. Not true! Honest doubt is not the opposite of faith. There is faith even in honest doubt.  Honest doubt is actually an integral part of faith. Thomas was not the only one who had doubts back then. When Matthew tells us, at the end of his gospel, that the disciples “worshiped even when they doubted,” he wants us to know this basic principle: honest doubt was part of the faith, even the faith of those who were closest to Jesus.

The truth of the matter is that many of the Easter stories, we have been reading this past week, are a mixture of faith and doubt. The disciples are presented as very skeptical about Mary Magdalen’s story about seeing Jesus alive on that first Easter Sunday morning. Thomas, flat-out, refused to believe until he  was given the opportunity to touch Jesus. On the road to Emmaus, other disciples were astounded by the report of Jesus being seen alive. They even failed to recognize him walking right beside them. Even after many reports, even after having seen him themselves, we are told in Matthew’s gospel that some worshipped, even as they doubted. Yes, the message is simple: faith is never black and white, all or nothing, but always mixed with a good measure of healthy doubt.  Doubt does not necessarily mean you don’t have faith. Doubt probably means you do have faith!

“Unless I see his wounds and touch them, I will not believe!”  The bigger question than whether doubt is part of faith, is what to do about doubt. Many, when they doubt, say to themselves, “It is hypocritical for me to pretend to believe when I really don’t believe. When I start believing, when my faith is strong again, then it will make sense for me to start praying and worshiping again.” That may sound good, even reasonable, but that’s not how it works! As Thomas teaches us today, what really works is for us to gather with believers until we believe.  Like a single hot coal, pulled away from a heap of burning coals, soon loses its heat, a doubter separated from the community of believers loses even more of his faith. Faith begets faith and doubt begets doubt.

Thomas may teach us yet another version of the great truth: “fake it till you make it.” Even though Alcoholics Anonymous made that idea famous, it actually goes back to the ancient Roman poet, Ovid who said, “Pretend to what is not, and then you’ll become in truth, what you are pretending to be.”  The great philosopher William James put it this way, “Act as if and the mind will produce your desire.” The idea is, if you take something that feels impossible, or at least completely unnatural, and pretend that it is the easiest, most natural thing in the world for you to be doing, eventually, it will become as easy as you’re pretending it to be.

I practice this often in my own life. (1) As many of you know, I grew up pretty much crippled by bashfulness. Bashful people find it painful to be in public situations. To cope, they are driven to avoid public situations as much as possible. This is a sure way to keep bashfulness going. The solution is to get out in public as much as possible, faking confidence, until one day you wake up and find out that you are no longer bashful.  The only way out of the fear of public speaking is to “fake it till you make it,” to do public speaking until you are no longer afraid to speak in front of crowds.  You cannot think your way out of bashfulness, you have to act your way out of bashfulness. (2) When I was sent to southeastern Kentucky as a newly ordained priest, against my will, somehow I was able to open my mind to “fake it till I made it.” I decided, since I did not get what I wanted, I would pretend to want what I got until I was able to really want what I got. It worked. Those ten years were wonderful years in many, many ways. I “acted as if it were a great assignment until it became a great assignment.”         

My friends, all of us have a good measure of healthy doubt, even as we believe. The secret to making sure that the scales do not tip too far to the doubt side, is to act as if we believe until we believe, to pray even when we don’t feel like it, to worship until we feel like worshiping.

So when you are tempted to drop out because “I don’t get anything out of it” or “I’m not into it today,” that is when you really need to get into it, that is when you really need to act as if you are getting something out of it until you get something out of it.  Even believers sometimes have to “fake it till they make it.”    


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Joy Comes In The Morning
Joy Gardner

If you've knelt beside the rubble of an aching broken heart
When the things you gave your life to fell apart
You're not the first to be acquainted with sorrow, grief or pain
But the master promised sunshine after rain

Hold on my child joy comes in the morning
Weeping only last for the night
Hold on my child Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight

To invest your seeds of trust in God in mountains you can't move
You have risked your life on things you cannot prove
But to give the things you cannot keep for what you cannot lose
Now, that's the way to find the joy God has for you

Hold on my child joy comes in the morning
Weeping only last for the night
Hold on my child Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight.
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight
Its just in sight

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Gloria Gaither / William J. Gaither
Joy Comes In The Morning lyrics © Gaither Music Co., Hanna Street Music

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