A Week Late to the Resurrection: Wounded, Stubborn, Alive, Easter 2 (B) – April 8, 2018

Easter 2 Episcopal Sermon


[RCL]: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Today, the first Sunday after Easter, is traditionally known as Low Sunday. Low Sunday—that’s a tremendously unflattering nickname for us as the Church. Last week we presented the triumph of the church year. We announced to the world the Good News of Jesus Christ: Jesus died and rose again to new life for love of us. And the result is that the next Sunday is the lowest attendance of the whole church year, all the way across Christendom. Ouch. Was it something we said?

It may well have been. It’s a shocking gospel, frankly quite hard to believe. It was hard to believe even for people who knew Jesus in person while he was alive and witnessed his many miracles. Today we tell the story of Doubting Thomas, the apostle who had to see to believe.

Thomas, along with Peter, is the most human of the disciples, and this story is rich with interesting questions. The first thing that we notice is that Thomas misses out on Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples. It’s Sunday night, and they have been locked in the Upper Room, afraid for their lives since Friday night.

But not Thomas. Where is he? Was he terrified and trying to hide by himself, not wanting to be found by the Romans right in the middle of a pack of ringleaders of Jesus’ rebellion? Was he instead full of stoic courage, the only one brave enough to venture out and bring back food to his friends?

Whatever it was, he was definitely not there when Jesus appeared in the locked Upper Room. He missed the Resurrection. Many of us can identify with that sort of frustrated futility. We wonder if we’re missing the Resurrection in a lot of areas in our lives. God is raising things to new life and our attention is elsewhere, checked out, missing in action, like Thomas.

Thomas does eventually show up with the rest of the disciples, and they tell him, “We have seen the Lord.” And what is he supposed to think? If he was the only one who had been brave enough to leave, he has watched his brothers and friends driven nearly mad with fear and grief over the last three days. He probably feels great compassion and love for them. They so desperately want their dead friend and leader not to have been condemned to death and executed, that they have dreamed up this vision they experienced.

And who knows, Thomas wouldn’t put it past Jesus to come to them as a ghost. Lord knows he did stranger things than that when he was alive. But he is no longer alive. He is dead, and Thomas knows that denying that won’t help anyone. It’s never brought back any of the rest of the family and friends he’s lost over the years, and it won’t bring back Jesus.

Thomas remains in this state, unable to trust the word of his friends, for an entire week. What was that week like for him? The rest of the disciples were floating on air knowing that Jesus had been raised from the dead. But where was Jesus for that week? And why did he leave the disciples alone? It’s like Low Sunday. Last Sunday we saw him raised from the dead. Now we’re back and starting to wonder, did we really see what we thought we saw? At least we have witnessed him alive. Thomas has had only his own stubbornness to keep him going.

Stubbornness and maybe a tiny spark of hope. Because what made Thomas stick around for an entire week with what he believed to be friends driven to delusions by grief? If Jesus was truly dead, there was nothing left for him anymore with this group of people. By all rights, he should have gone home to his fields or his fishing boat. Remaining with the disciples was a dead end—the longer they stayed together, the greater the danger of being arrested by the Romans. And spending time with them would only serve to bring home every minute of every day that their friend Jesus was dead.

But Thomas did stay. Is it possible that a small part of him wondered if this story his friends were telling him might possibly be true? He reveals himself a bit in his answer to their claim that they have seen the Lord. He says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

He doesn’t say, “You people are crazy, I’m leaving.” He sets up a hypothetical condition under which he will believe in the Resurrection. He’s laying out the challenge to Jesus. He’s saying, “Come and show me, Jesus, come and prove it to me. Just come to me, Jesus, on any terms.”

Thomas wants to be tough and uncaring and skeptical, but he loved Jesus. He is grieving as deeply as the others, and although they are now joyful since seeing him alive again, Thomas has had no such comfort. He’s throwing out this challenge to provoke Jesus into coming to them again, because Thomas just wants to see his friend. Ghost or vision or real person, it doesn’t matter.

And Jesus does not disappoint him. Thomas has had a grim week, the lone skeptic among the believers. But as soon as Jesus arrives, as soon as he bids them peace, he calls Thomas to him and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

How fascinating and revealing that even in his resurrected body, Jesus’ wounds remain. And how very appropriate to Thomas’ story, and our own story. Resurrection is possible for us in so many areas of our own lives. But our wounds remain, the scars that, painful as they were in the making, have made us indelibly who we are.

Jesus is resurrected to new life, but he’s still himself. And he helps Thomas recognize him through his wounds. That is a potent lesson for us. When we look at ourselves and at each other, part of the proof of our true resurrection is that the past is brought forward to coexist with the present. Our wounds are not erased as though they had never existed. They are still present but no longer cause us pain. They are proof to one another that we are new and whole, but it was our woundedness that got us to this day of resurrection in the first place.

There was one other thing that happened on Low Sunday in the early Church. Those who were baptized on Easter received a new white robe and wore it all week. On Low Sunday, they took it off and went back to their regular clothes. There’s something very poignant about that and our story of Thomas. Today is the day when the loud and public festivities are over, and we return to our normal, everyday lives. But today is also the Day of the Resurrection for Thomas. It is the day when the new white robe falls away and Thomas sees the wounds on Jesus’ body, the same physical person that he knew and loved and now recognizes as both wounded and whole, alive and breathing.

Can we recognize that same type of resurrection in ourselves? In each other? When the fancy Easter dresses and suits are put away for another year, what is left? Our same wounded selves that we fear to show to one another. But we need proof of the Resurrection, and we will only find it in each other. If we are brave enough to show each other our wounded places, we will find that they don’t hurt quite so much. We will find that we are indeed both wounded and healed.

Thomas was a week late to the Resurrection, but he made it all the same. Where do you find yourself today? There is still time for you to come back to life. Reach out to touch the wounded, living Jesus and feel him touch your wounded, living soul.

The Rev. Whitney Rice is an Episcopal priest, recently named an Evangelism Catalyst for the Diocese of Indianapolis, who currently serves at St. Francis In-The-Fields Episcopal Church in Zionsville, Indiana.  She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she won the Yale University Charles S. Mersick Prize for Public Address and Preaching and the Yale University E. William Muehl Award for Excellence in Preaching. She has contributed to Lectionary Homiletics, the Young Clergy Women’s Project journal Fidelia’s Sisters, and other publications. She is a researcher and community ministry grant consultant for the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, and a founding partner in the newly-forming women’s spirituality collective The Hive (www.thehiveapiary.com).  Find more of her work at her website, Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers (www.roofcrashersandhemgrabbers.com).

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What does it take to believe?, 2 Easter (B) – 2015

April 12, 2015

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Last Sunday, the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we proclaimed with joy and wonder: “He is risen!”

That was the theme for the day, that was the truth renewed and declared. The stone is rolled away! The Lord is alive!

And what we have is an empty tomb.

The women came to the tomb with the spices they had prepared for the body. Seeing heavenly messengers, they believed and ran to tell the men.

But when the women told their news to the disciples – what they had seen and learned at the tomb, that empty tomb – the men didn’t believe them! “These words seemed to them an idle tale,” says one gospel.

And so when we read the story of what happened next, when Jesus came into the house and stood among his disciples, we have to wonder what was going through their minds. After all, these were the same disciples who had refused to believe the women until they could see with their own eyes. And even running to the tomb to see what he could find, Peter did not go in: He stayed outside, seeing only the emptiness.

And then, as we read in the Gospel of John today:

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. … Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

They got it! They finally believed!

But not all. No, just as there were disbelievers at the tomb, there is a disbeliever in their midst in today’s story: Thomas. No sooner does one believe than another does not, and these back-and-forth tales persist throughout the Christian story.

“But Thomas … one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’”

Thomas was the holdout. There is no record of the other disciples’ response to this, but they could hardly claim the moral high ground. Looking back in John’s story only a few sentences, we read that Jesus showed them his hands and his side. It was only then that the disciples “rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

What is it about proof? Why do these disciples – the ones who were closest to Jesus, who walked with him, ate at table with him, listened to the wisdom of his preaching – require something more in order to believe? And how much is enough to tip the scale?

“Tip the scale”: That’s the image to hold in mind as we think about this.

Have you ever watched one of the many dog shows on television, a dog show that has tricks and trials? Sometimes dogs will have to run an obstacle course, and one of the obstacles will be a teeter totter sort of thing, where the dog will run up one side, and carefully balancing, carefully stepping past the middle point, will tip the board down on the other side. At this point, the dogs often seem not to walk, not even to run off the board, but to jump off, in their excitement.

Faith is much like that teeter totter. It’s a balancing act of running up one side of consideration to the tipping point, and having reached that dangerous ground, that area where you can stay safely balanced on your comfortable side, or you can even stand in the middle if you’re very, very careful – and then jumping, with all you’ve got, to the other side, where you might find the downside of the plank, or you might find only thin air.

This is a useful application of the expression “leap of faith,” because that’s exactly what it is. Most often, what we find when we get to that fulcrum, that tipping point, of faith, is only spiritual “thin air” on the other side. It’s much safer, we think, to stay on the uphill side where we have solid wood under our feet. It’s more uncertain, scarier even, to have to scramble to keep our footing and balance just like those dogs on the obstacle course, before deciding to jump!

The threshold of the empty tomb of Easter morning is a fulcrum, a tipping point, a place of decision. Imagine two people on a teeter totter, facing each other. What is in between them, in the middle, is the threshold of that tomb. The door. The entry or exit. What does each one see? A way in? A way out?

In his collection of essays “A Grief Observed,” C.S. Lewis wrote:

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

Such is faith.

What is necessary for us to believe? We can all practice religion: That’s what we’re doing now, in acting out worship and remembering Christ in the Eucharist. That is the stuff of identifying ourselves as Episcopalian or Methodist or Baptist or any of a myriad of Christian labels and distinctions.

All of us who call ourselves Christian are not necessarily converted to faith. Tongue in cheek, we might claim that there is complete agreement in this church and every other church about whether to have wine or grape juice for communion, whether to have candles on the altar, or whether to have an altar at all. But those are the things of religion. And yet, so often those are the things that divide us, that get in the way of Christian believing and Christian community. But Jesus was not concerned so much with matters of religion as he was with matters of faith.

Think back on the stories of Jesus, his ministry, his interactions with people. Do you remember the stories of the Pharisees criticizing Jesus for eating food that was unwashed, for healing on the Sabbath, for sharing a meal and associating with those who were considered the less desirable people of society? And what was his response in every single case? Those are trappings, those are not the things that are important. Those are not the things of the Kingdom of God.

In the season of Easter, we tell stories not of religion, but of faith and believing. Of standing at the entrance to the tomb, and deciding whether to go in. Of being closed in the house with the disciples and greeting our Lord. Of the women, the only ones who believed without question or denial. Of Peter and the other disciples. Of Thomas, called “Doubting Thomas,” because he demanded to see and touch. Of Paul and Annanias.

May each of us this Easter season come to know the Risen Christ in a new way. May the event of Easter be a unifying experience, to bring together the Body of Christ, instead of breaking it again on the cross. May we celebrate our differences that will be honored in the gathering of Pentecost and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit at the end of this season. May we remember that it is Jesus Christ who unites us as Lord and Savior, so that we cling to our faith more firmly than we do to our religion.

And may we think about something in this Easter season: How will we put ourselves into the story?

What does it take for you to believe?

You stand at the entrance to the tomb. You have heard the testimony of the women. You know what the disciples know.

What is your story of faith? What is your response to the Easter news?

 

— The Rev. Machrina Blasdell currently teaches religious studies for Park University, Parkville, Mo., following 12 years as executive director of an interfaith council in the San Francisco area. She enjoys her family life, growing roses and making anything chocolate.

My Lord and my God, 2 Easter (B) – 2012

April 15, 2012

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Martin Luther once said, “That upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.” Luther was talking about what it means to have a god. He says, “A god means that from which we expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in Him from the heart … that upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.”

Here Luther provides a classic description of faith as trust. For Luther faith is more than simply believing that something is true. It is being prepared to act on that belief and relying upon it. It is about setting our hearts upon something, about putting our trust in someone. It is about that something or someone from which, when we are really honest, we expect all goodness to come and to which we would turn when times get really tough. To make his point Luther contrasts faith with historical knowledge. Luther says to believe in the historical reliability of the gospels is not saving faith. In his provocative way, Luther says demons are perfectly capable of believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross and that he rose again on the third day. Rather, true faith or saving faith, for Luther, is the trust or the faith that Christ died for me and that Christ rose again for me, that Christ has accomplished his work for us and for our salvation. There is a difference between believing that certain things about God and Christ are true, and having faith that those things about God and Christ are true for me, true for us. One type is abstract and general; knowing it barely affects our lives. The other is specific and personal; knowing it changes everything.

To get at what Luther means, we might think of the first type of belief as being like our beliefs that it is currently 88 degrees in Hawaii, that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and that the Goldfinch is the New Jersey state bird. All these things may very well be true. But our belief in their truth will hardly affect our lives. Faith in God, according to Luther, is different, or at least, should be. If our response to belief in God is roughly similar to our response to belief that the Goldfinch is the state bird of New Jersey, then either our belief in God lacks genuine trust or our belief in Goldfinches is quite extraordinary. Faith is not merely believing that certain things are true, but rather trusting that certain things about God are true for us personally and being willing to respond to those things with our whole hearts, with our whole lives.

To use another example, when we say something like “I have faith in my brother,” we are not saying that we believe our brother is six foot two inches, has wavy black hair, and brown eyes – all of which may be true. Rather, what we mean when we say, “I have faith in my brother,” is that we can count on him when we need him, that we can pick up the phone and he will be there, that if times get tough, we know he will be there for us. For Luther, faith in God is not primarily about believing that certain things about God are true in some general or abstract sense, but rather trusting that God is faithful, loyal, and trustworthy, that God has acted to save us, that Christ is Christ for us.

Our gospel lesson for today is the story of Doubting Thomas. Many of us are familiar with the story. We hear it every year on the Second Sunday of Easter. In the evening of that first Easter Day, the risen Lord appeared to his disciples, but Thomas was not with them. When the other disciples tell him that they have seen the Lord, Thomas says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later the risen Lord appears to his disciples again, but this time Thomas is with them. Jesus tells him to see his hands and to touch his side. And Thomas responds by saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Now there is a lot to be said about this passage, more than we can possibly say in a single sermon. We have probably heard many sermons on Doubting Thomas, on the relationship between faith and doubt, and evidence and belief. And these are important topics, and they were, no doubt, very good sermons. But today let’s focus not simply on the belief of Thomas, but rather on the trust and confidence we find in his statement “My Lord and my God.”

Part of the reason for this focus is because the Greek word translated as “to believe” in this passage, pisteuo, actually means “trust” and “confidence” much more than our English word “believe” conveys. But it is also striking that Thomas’ confession of faith is notably formulated not in a general statement like “It is the Lord,” but rather in personal language, in the declaration “My Lord and my God.” There is no doubt an element of belief in this statement, but it also seems to be much more than that. It is also about personal trust and faith in the risen Christ as “my Lord and my God.” It seems like Luther’s notion of faith as trust, as that upon which we set our heart, is more to the point here. This is not just an abstract statement about the crucified and risen Christ, but about Thomas’ faith that the crucified and risen Lord is there for him and for his salvation.

This type of faith makes all the difference, because it is basically the good news of Easter becoming real in the heart of Thomas. That Thomas believes means that he has confidence and trust that the promises of God are true, are trustworthy, and not just in some general and abstract way, but personally, for him. His Lord and his God has been raised from the dead, and that means everything has changed. Cruelty is not the last word. Death does not get the final laugh. Sin and death and evil are not the ultimate powers of the universe. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Forgiveness and love and life are the final realities of the universe. We need no longer be afraid. The power of God is stronger than any tomb. God has conquered the future and promised us a share in the eternal life of Christ. We can lead our lives with courage and with confidence because the Lord of all life is on our side.

When Thomas sees the risen Christ he says, “My Lord and my God.” It is more than simply a matter of historical knowledge. Rather, it is about the transformation of Thomas’ whole life, because in the risen Christ, in his wounds, he sees his Lord and his God, who is there for him and for his salvation. The most important part of the story may not be that Thomas put his hands in the nail marks or in the side of Christ, but rather that he put his trust in his Lord and God.

 

— The Rev. Dr. Joseph S. Pagano is the associate rector of St. Anne’s Parish in Annapolis, Maryland.

We’re all in this together, 2 Easter (B) – 2009

April 19, 2009

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Poor Thomas!

We’re at that time of year again. Easter Day is past and once more we’re reading about Thomas, who evidently just can’t believe Jesus has been raised from the dead.

But don’t we love this story? We love Thomas.

We love to chuckle indulgently over his lack of faith, because we certainly don’t have trouble believing. We’ve even given him a nick-name: doubting Thomas. It’s become so much of a cliché that we can hardly believe Thomas is capable of anything except doubting.

This story seems so simple. Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the apostles the first time – and when he heard about that, he simply found it hard to fathom. “I won’t believe until I see it for myself,” he says. And lo and behold, Jesus calls his bluff.

We could say, “End of story”; but of course, it’s not.

There’s a whole lot more to this reading than a simple story of doubting Thomas. To begin with, it isn’t all that simple – and yes, this story also says something about us. Like Thomas, we too are part of a community built on faith.

So, let’s take a look again at what this story is all about.

The apostles are gathered in a room on the first day of the week – the same as they had done when Jesus was with them. Jesus suddenly appears among them. He breathes on them, imparting to them the life of the Spirit. But for some reason, Thomas wasn’t there. He only hears about what happened, and he simply can’t believe.

The following week, the apostles, including Thomas this time, were in the room when Jesus again appeared among them. Jesus offered Thomas the chance to touch his hands and his side, but Thomas doesn’t seem to need to do that. Instead he offers Jesus his profession of faith: “My Lord and my God.”

The thing about this story that should be a lesson to us is that Jesus appears each time within the assembled community. Jesus doesn’t appear to Thomas alone. But he also doesn’t appear to Thomas in the group to embarrass him. Jesus appears to the group because it is within the group that they could continue learning about him, supporting each other, and being effective witnesses to the life of faith Jesus offers them.

In the final verses of today’s gospel passage, Jesus tells the disciples that many would come after them who would not have the same experience of him that they did. No one would again walk and talk with him as the disciples had; and yet, these others would also come to believe. Even the writer of this gospel says that the things about Jesus that were written in this gospel were written so that others may come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and that through believing would have life in his name.

So, in one sense, Jesus was offering Thomas a chance to experience seeing him risen from the dead the same way the other disciples had. In doing that, Jesus also further strengthened the faith of that particular gathered community.

In another sense, Jesus is strengthening us all. We, too, are a gathered community – getting together at the beginning of the week in very much the same way the apostles did. They gathered to share their real life experience of knowing Jesus and working with him.

The apostles remembered him saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We gather to share in that story. For us, it is a remembrance of the story handed down to us, but unlike many of the family stories we tell, this is not just a remembrance – we continue to share in the presence of Jesus through the Eucharist. How that happens is a mystery, but in that mystery lies the powerful sense of belonging that draws us back here each week.

This image of the community gathered in prayer for strength and to keep the story alive is a very important one for all of us in the church today. On Easter, in churches all over the world, the paschal candle was held high and brought into dark churches. “The Light of Christ!” and then “Thanks be to God!” was sung by thousands of congregations of several different traditions.

Remembering how the time zones work, we realize that the Light of Christ was being proclaimed, was being brought into the darkness to give light to that darkness pretty consistently for about 24 hours. Imagine the Light traveling from the first dawn of Easter to the last. Imagine all those voices singing and shouting that Christ is alive! Imagine being a part of a whole world acting as one community sharing its faith with one another and with the world. That’s how our community has grown from that tiny group of twelve apostles and a band of followers. It doesn’t get any better than this.

And yet … and yet … today we also realize that the excitement of the Resurrection and the first sightings of Jesus didn’t make those early disciples perfect. It didn’t take away all doubt, all fear. The disciples were still hanging about the room, afraid of possible repercussions. Thomas wondered and was honest about it. Change from being the followers into being the ones responsible for doing what Jesus did was still a bit scary.

We see a lot of ourselves here. So, what do we do with this?

It’s a story about faith, remember. It took faith for those disciples to stick together after the crucifixion. It took faith for them to hang on when they couldn’t see Jesus anymore. It took faith for them to believe they could work out their new life together – to believe that the risen Jesus would always be there for them. That Light that filled our hearts with joy and exultation on Easter is the same Light that guides us now. It’s the same Light that will help us continue building community with all its ups and downs, confidence builders and doubts.

As Episcopalians, we do believe that we are loved by the God who made us. When in our humanness we give in to doubt, we are not cut off from the love or strength of God; we’re offered the same chance as Thomas to experience the reality of God’s love. Because in the community of faith, we are always accepted at God’s altar and in the company of our fellow believers or our fellow doubters. We’re all in this together.

So, maybe we should stop labeling Thomas as “doubting Thomas” and be grateful to him for showing us that it’s OK to question and that it’s perfectly normal to have doubts.

But we should also learn from his story that, as a community, we have the responsibility to share the story we’ve been told and to be a strength to each other and to those around us. We do this all week long, wherever we are, by living faithful lives.

We realize also that it’s in the Eucharist that we find the strength to do all this. As we live this out, we’ll see ourselves getting stronger and stronger. We’ll be a congregation that others will want to join, because they’ll see that this is a place where it’s OK to question as Thomas did; that this is a place where everyone’s gifts are appreciated; that this is a place where all are welcome.

Remember, Jesus says to all of us, “Blest are those who have not seen, but believe.”

 

— The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is executive director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee, and assistant professor of Contextual Education. She is also publisher of “Tuesday Morning,” a quarterly journal of ministry and liturgical preaching.

My Lord and my God, 2 Easter (B) – 2006

April 23, 2006

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

This gospel in John is what is traditionally read every year on the first Sunday after Easter. For reasons that become less and less clear to me, we somewhat smugly refer to this as “Doubting Thomas Sunday.” Which is too bad.

It is too bad because such a designation reinforces a number of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions about the heart of the Christian faith – beginning with a decidedly negative connotation to the word “doubt.” We assume doubt to be bad or even the opposite of faith. We tend to think of Thomas as something less than a faithful disciple of Jesus.

Many, however, such as the great twentieth century theologian Paul Tillich, view doubt not as the opposite of faith but as an element of faith itself. Or as Frederich Beuchner put it in his book Wishful Thinking, “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

Faith, as described in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, 11:1, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” An example given in that epistle is Abraham taking off on a journey with no maps. Faith is not knowing where you are going, but going anyway.

I have faith that my friend is my friend. I cannot prove that friendship. And when I experience that friendship I have no need to prove it. And were I to try and prove it through some sort of testing, the friendship would go bad and become no friendship at all. So it is with God in Christ.

I have faith that a certain piece of music is beautiful, but I cannot begin to prove its beauty. I experience it as beautiful, but cannot necessarily demonstrate its beauty. So it is with God in Christ.

So we have the disciples, minus Thomas the Twin, who have an experience of the Risen Lord. We should note, however, that they do not say they believe Jesus has risen. They do not say they have faith in the risen Lord. They only say, “We have seen the Lord.”

They have experienced Jesus again after the crucifixion.

Thomas wants to have a similar experience. We could say that whatever doubt Thomas may have harbored, moved him to want to share in their experience. And in all honesty, at the end of the day, we are here because we want to share in their experience as well.

What is interesting, is what Thomas says when he does share the experience: “My Lord and my God!”

This stands as an early, if not the earliest creedal statement, alongside Martha’s, “I believe that you are the Anointed One who is coming into the world.”

I suggest creedal because the very first word of both the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds is the word credo. This Latin word is commonly translated as “I believe.” And because we are modern people, we tend to understand belief in its post-enlightenment, post-scientific sense as assent to statements that are verifiable and true. This has the effect of making Christian faith a matter of the head, implying that the important thing is to believe the right set of claims.

Credo, however, in its Latin roots, means literally, “I give my heart to.” Which has the sense of saying, “I commit my loyalty to,” “I commit my allegiance to,” “this is how I see the world in my heart.”

In the world of the Bible, and in the world of Jesus and Thomas, the heart represents a deeper place of the self, a deeper dimension of belief than thinking, willing, and feeling; deeper than our intellect, emotions and volition. The heart is deeper than the head and any ideas we might have. In fact, prior to the seventeenth century, the word “believe” did not mean believing a set of statements or propositions.

The object of believing expressed in the creeds was not statements, but a person. That person is God, Son, and Holy Spirit. So when Thomas and John the evangelist speak of belief, it is credo; it is giving one’s heart to Jesus as God.

That is, to believe means to love. What we believe is what we “belove.” Faith is about “beloving” God in Christ. It is about being in relationship with God.

So when Jesus says the great commandment is to Love God and Love your neighbor, he is talking about relationships. He concludes, “Upon these two relationships hang all the law and the prophets.” The law and the prophets are the first two parts of the Hebrew Bible, the whole Bible of Jesus. So he says all of scripture depends on these two relationships: loving God and loving your neighbor. Or we are to love God and that which God loves – which is all creation and everything and everyone therein.

When Thomas says, “My Lord and my God,” I believe it is his way of saying, “I give my heart to God and all that God loves.” This is the heart of the Christian faith, which is itself a way of the heart. This is why we might do well to call this Credo Sunday instead of Doubting Thomas Sunday: Credo, a day to give our hearts to God and all that God loves.

— The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter’s Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word.