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Date: 23 Apr 2000
Time: 18:22:54

Comment

It is interesting that the Second Sunday of Easter and the Day of Pentecost have the same Gospel Reading, reminding us that the Great Fifty Days of Easter is also the Pentecost Season - the receiving the Holy Spirit. Resurrection and this gift mark the new life we share in Christ transforming our lives "inside" out; and give us a share in the mission of the Apostles to be witnesses to the resurrection.

tom in ga


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 03:31:14

Comment

Why was Thomas called the twin? THE twin? Twins come in twos. I don't recall him ever being paired up with any other disciple such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Nathaniel, etc.. Whose twin was he? Could it be Christ's? Would that be a reason he was unconvinced by the stories of the ressurrection? "I'm mistaken for him all the time. Just because someone thought they saw him doesn't mean they did. I must see for myself!" Just wondering. doutfully,tom in TN(USA)


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 12:34:18

Comment

I think I am going to begin this sunay's sermon by asking.... who is Thomas? .............. and go on from there.

susp in qu.


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 14:02:41

Comment

Thomas believed only when he saw the risen Christ. It seems that the task of the church is to let people SEE the risen Christ in us. revd


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 14:17:00

Comment

revd. agreed the task of the body of Christ is to be the ears, hands, eyes, ears, mouth and heart of the risen Christ. However, our buildings are full of people who want to be but cannot quite let themselves be - and then there are all those who flatly refuse to be believe susp in qu


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 16:15:19

Comment

The annual beat up Thomas Sunday has come. Dear old Thomas, so like us all, demanding proof. Faith is not possible or necessary without doubt. If certainty were possible, faith wouldn't be necessary. Be kind to Thomas this year, recognize his gifts to us all. Jesus didn't condemn Thomas' doubt, neither should we. Sue in Cuba, KS


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 18:05:05

Comment

"Peace be with you" as the first words of Jesus to the apostles always strikes me as very important. Jesus doesn't want us to be in conflict with each other over biblical truths or doctrine. Jesus wants us to share in His peace and to give that peace to one another. I hope to speak about the importance of peace within families, between nations and among people "who are different" than we are. One of my Confirmation students shared a most interesting comment about people who are gay. Would you let them come to church? Of course I would, I replied. It is God who judges not me. I don't tell people who are living together without benefit of the sacrament of Marriage that they can't come to church so I don't feel I should tell a gay couple they shouldn't come to church either. My student a fresh(wom)men seemed relieved that as a Catholic I could be so open. Maybe we need to remember to be more forgiving and peaceful as Jesus was to those who denied Him. Pax, Ed


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 20:38:16

Comment

Sue in Cuba, KS, If I came across as beating up on Thomas, that was not my intent. My own faith journey has been rocky at times, and I have come to a much stronger faith as Christ has been made visible to me in the lives of others. It seems to me that that is the task of the church -- to make Christ visible to others, however we can do that. revd


Date: 24 Apr 2000
Time: 22:56:45

Comment

If the resurrection had healed the wounds on the hands and the side, would Thomas have believed?

We are blinded by what we want to see. We see only what we choose to see according to our believes. We have seen the pictures of a six year old and the fisherman who recued him with a machine gun pointed at their faces and still some say, "It had to be done," or "it wasn't really pointed at them," or "The relatives made us do it" or even, "look how he's smiling now!" And we pretend that the scars aren't there! The scars are there and they go deep! One good Friday many years ago, when I was a 14 year old youth, one of Castro's soldiers pointed a weapon to my face because I wanted to process with my church, through the streets of Havana singing hymns to our Lord. I will never forget the fear! The Lord was there and God gave me the courage to march on, willing to die for a God I knew very little of. No one was shot that day, but the scars are there! And so is the resurrected one, inviting us all to place our hands in His wounds and continue to believe that He is our only hope for peace, for justice, for forgiveness and love. we, who live in comfort and wealth and freedom of religion forget or refuse to believe that the desperate cries of children and adults all over the globe are not real. We look the other way when unarmed African-Americans are shot by police in the streets of New York or when the Matthew Shepherds are murdered. We don't want to hear about the street children of Guatemala, who sniff glue to anesthesize their pain and are shot like dogs by the police. We pretend it's not our immigration officers who club Mexicans to death in our borders and allow Hatians to drown. It's time to put our hands into Jesus's wounds and believe and love and repent and then we will have life in Jesus' name. Rev.Gina


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 00:50:49

Comment

Preach on, Rev. Gina!

tc


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 01:44:06

Comment

It's interesting to notice that all the people in the Resurrections stories (John 20) are at at different place in their faith journey. John believed just by seeing the linens in the tomb. Mary Magdalene had to hear Jesus call her name. Even after she told the disciples He had risen, they still cowered behind closed doors in the Upper Room. They had to see Him face to face. And Thomas, like the other disciples, was not about to believe what someone else told him -- he had to put his hand into Jesus' wounds. They were all at a different point in their level of faith. But none of them had abandoned the others, and none of them had actually given up hoping. All continued to look for Jesus. And Jesus did not give up on them --He came to them and enabled them to continue their growth in faith. (I think we call that sanctifying grace.) At any rate, Jesus does not belittle us for our limited faith; He just keeps coming to us, helping us to grow our relationship with Him. That's pretty good news to me and to others like me who still have a lot of questions that can only really be answered by faith.


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 01:44:26

Comment

It's interesting to notice that all the people in the Resurrections stories (John 20) are at at different place in their faith journey. John believed just by seeing the linens in the tomb. Mary Magdalene had to hear Jesus call her name. Even after she told the disciples He had risen, they still cowered behind closed doors in the Upper Room. They had to see Him face to face. And Thomas, like the other disciples, was not about to believe what someone else told him -- he had to put his hand into Jesus' wounds. They were all at a different point in their level of faith. But none of them had abandoned the others, and none of them had actually given up hoping. All continued to look for Jesus. And Jesus did not give up on them --He came to them and enabled them to continue their growth in faith. (I think we call that sanctifying grace.) At any rate, Jesus does not belittle us for our limited faith; He just keeps coming to us, helping us to grow our relationship with Him. That's pretty good news to me and to others like me who still have a lot of questions that can only really be answered by faith. Art in KY


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 02:10:27

Comment

I am neither a preacher nor a knowledgeable layman, but it seems to me that Jesus used Thomas for pedagogical purposes. Jesus could have appeared before all 12 disciples at first, but he chose to come while Thomas was absent. Then, Jesus showed the 11 his wounds. There is no evidence that the 11 were given a chance to demand to see the wounds. So Thomas alone was "set-up" to voice his doubts, which he did. A week later, when Jesus answered Thomas's objections, he explained that those who believe but have not seen are blessed. Thus, the disciples realized that if Thomas could doubt, despite his earlier willingness to die for Jesus (Lazurus story) then the disciples' job of spreading the good news was going to be no easy task. On another level, modern day readers of the bible can see that doubt is natural and can be overcome. Even more remarkable, one of great faith can lose faith and yet regain it.

One layman's observations.


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 11:27:15

Comment

There are many UM Churches that at this time of year always seem to hold their breath.... lose their peace because of pulpit changes. It seems that we really do want to see if the man or women, who is leading us, has the marks of the nails in his/her hands and the wound in their side. We are still so much like the ten who need to see Jesus all over again. The trouble is we refuse to see Jesus in one another.


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 12:21:24

Comment

Why is Thomas so hesitant to believe? What's inside his head and heart?

John near Pitts.


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 12:26:21

Comment

For those who may want to know, one group of Gnostics believed that Thomas was the twin of Jesus. There were two such groups in dialogue here. The Thomas community and the Johannian community. There are three Gnostic documents that use Thomas as their disciple. It is believed that the Gospel of Thomas was one of the first Gospels but it is a series of sayings perhapps concurrent with 'Q'-the source. Read Resurrection Revisited by Greg Riley for some discourse on Thomas. In this lesson, there are two points that I would like to hear. Jesus uses a greeting that can be heard on the streets of Jerusalem all the time - Shalom. There might be others out there who used the same greeting a few years ago. Peace. Is it not interesting that the disciples didn't heard Jesus' voice in the salutation? Do we hear his voice when he speaks to us? The other point that I hear being made by John has to do with those who believe without seeing. Is there not a reprimand here for those who are literal? and a comment for those who believe because they have insight (they see) and can perceive the reality behind appearances ? John talks about sight alot.I am early in my thinking this week. PSinIa


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 13:42:12

Comment

Thanks Art in KY - Now I am focussed - Jesus does indeed come to all - whrever they are in their faith journey - even those whose faith is a dried up mustard seed - even those who doubt - with a little refreshment and care it grows and blossoms - we trust. susp in qu


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 15:39:05

Comment

Hi all.

At the risk of repeating a submission from a couple years ago, I was reminded again that scars are a sign that healing has taken place. Sometimes they are visible and ugly, sometimes they are invisible or hidden. Sometimes we even try to remove them! But they are there, indicating that life is still going on, that relationships are still possible, that new beginnings (resurrections!) are still possible.

The trick about scars is learning to live WITH them, not in spite of them. Learn what you can and can't do NOW, and learn what you can do differently from what you did before.

One more random thought: "Believe your beliefs; doubts your doubts. But don't doubt your beliefs, and don't believe your doubts!"

Rambling on in sunny Ontraio...

Rick in Canada, eh?


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 17:21:58

Comment

The are two interesting questions that I would like to explore the answer to in my sermon this time week: "Why was it so important that Thomas believe that Jesus was alive, when he already believed in Jesus? And why is it important that we belive Jesus was alive. There are the obvious answers, but what about the not so obvious, like, Thomas's mission --Thomas's mytre. RevRon


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 17:31:25

Comment

On Thomas Sunday

If we follow the proclamation from Mark's account of the resurrection - that left us to DECIDE to believe in the risen Christ, since there was no appearance recorded!

Then it seems to me, at least in year B, we would say that Thomas' coming to faith demanded that he discover the truth himself. Isn't this what all of us must do, to findly consent, surrender in pure faith to the reality of new life in our midst.

We must enter the unknown (the experience of the unseen risen Lord) and embrace what we cannot touch or see as the one who brings life in the midst of our darkness, death, and sin.

tom in ga


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 19:19:02

Comment

Thanks for the question about who was Thomas' twin.

I have read some sources I consider credible that suggest that Thomas could have been Jesus twin. Intellectually I try to be open to this.

Yet, I must confess that my heart is prejudiced. While I have tried to tell myself that doctrines about virgine birth were unimportant, I must confess that I have no trouble thinking of Jesus as having younger brothers but I just can't get my mind around the thought of Jesus having a twin.

Why should that be so hard for me to imagine? Surely I don't believe that Jesus genetic make up was some kind of superman. So why am I so unwilling to imagine that Jesus could have had a twin? Is it because that would threated the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke. Any suggestions as to why my mind refuses to be open on this one? Manzel


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 19:21:55

Comment

Thomas, De Ja Vue I've seen him somewhere before. But where? Oh yes, he looks a lot like the one I've seen in the mirror. Manzel


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 19:32:23

Comment

Why is there a whole week inbetween these resurection apprearances?

What was life like for Thomas during this week when the others all believed that Jesus was risen but Thomas believed that Jesus was the Christ but not that he had risen?

If the other 10 believe that Jesus is risen, why are they still hiding behind locked doors?


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 19:45:56

Comment

Was Jesus really giving anyone the right to refuse to forgive sins?

It would make sense if Jesus said, Unless you forgive any sin, it remains a problem. But this is a kind of ecclesiastical power that Jesus has constantly apposed.

It has been said that the early church fathers had a tough time deciding if the Gospel of John was to be included in the cannon. John's gospel was thought to have too much gnostic influence. Yet, one can imagine how the ecclesiastical leaders loved verse 23.

Do you and I really have this option? Is refusing to forgive ever really the right thing? Is there ever a time when our refusal to forgive is the way to healing, wholeness and the kingdom of God?

The United Methodist bishops have recently aplauded the pope for his asking for forgiveness of the sins of the Catholic Church. Isn't the basic sin of the church its conviction that it is always right?


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 19:54:53

Comment

Gracias a Rev Gina. Estoy de acuerdo con todo que dijiste. I, too, have been deeply troubled by the politicizing of this weekend's raid on the Gonzales' home. It seems to me, no matter what side you are on with respect to the father/son relationship vs. the extended family relationship, one question begs to be asked: Would God have wanted it to happen that way? Would God have supported the aggressive removal of this boy from his temporary home? This is a compelling story. Emotions are high. The wounds are deep. Here is where I'm thinking about going with this: The cuban-american community in Miami and in other places in this country are outraged. They have been hurt and wounded by a tyrannical, unjust leader. They have lost family members on rafts who have died in pursuit of freedom. For them, this is an issue much larger than the decision of an attorney general or an 11th circuit court. It runs deeper than the opinions of republican or democratic leaders. The wounds are personal and directly relate to a quest for freedom, political and religious freedom. I have been saddened in watching the reaction of this country. Once again, we are allowing the voices of a hurt, wounded community to be trivialized or muffled in the flag and in political rhetoric. We are almost shouting, "we don't understand your pain. We don't care about your pain. Show us your wounds because we can't see them and we wouldn't believe them even if we did". Jesus let Thomas feel his wounds. At least Thomas put forth the effort to reach out his hands and put them in the side of Jesus. What about those who would never even extend their hand? Lo siento para los sentidos fuertes. Sorry for the harsh emotions, but these have been a difficult few days to deal with. Peace, Mike en tejas


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 20:33:07

Comment

Art in KY -- thank you! Some of the children in our congregation have been asking some very tough questions lately -- really struggling with their faith. Your thoughts about how Jesus meets the disciples where they are in their faith really help. Thomas is asking for proof, just like these kids ask for proof that God hears their prayers, etc. Does Jesus tell him "well, pooh on you, you didn't believe, so go away!"? No! He says, "OK, here's your proof." God has nothing to hide, and will answer our questions. I have to think about how to get this across to the kids, but you've given me food. Thanks.

Janet in MD


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 20:43:38

Comment

I always thought it was odd that we proudly call him "Doubting Thomas." In my opinion it should be "Lucky Thomas." Thomas saw and beleived. We live by faith, which implies we live with doubts. Somehow I think I will preach a prayer that we could be so "lucky" as to witness the hands and feet of Christ in our life this day. The truth of that is we do. But like, the Mary's, the disciples and the others we mistake Jesus in our midst for nothing more than a gardener or a transient. Our responsibility is to ever be ready for as Kel Groseclose wrote "this God of hope and joy and new life is ever full of surprises."

+ J.P in CO


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 21:59:06

Comment

I have missed the interaction for some time as I have been off the Lectionary and preaching a series of topics.

I will pick up of the role of Thomas as being essential to the core of our believing. My sermon is entitled "I Doubt, Therefore I Believe." I remember a movie I saw on Television some time ago (I think it was called "Mass Appeal'?) where 2 priests where conflicted by values. One being a shallow, treat 'em nice kind of guy and the other a truth teller. One was schmozzing the congregation while the other was alienating them. The sermon at the very end of the movie used this text. Asking those present to come with their doubts and to see, feel, the wounds of the priest's life, he bore witness to the power of healing. Bring your heavy dose of doubt before the Lord and place your hands in these wounds, see the pain, yet know the healing and wholeness found in God. (I may be editoralizing a bit, but I sense the need to allow doubt to be acknowledged and followed to the risen Christ.

AW-G rocky coast Me.


Date: 25 Apr 2000
Time: 22:44:07

Comment

Dear cloud of witnesses, It's early in the week but I'm working on the idea that its ok to ask questions, even be skeptical. many of us grew up in situations where questions about such things were responded to with "just have faith", or even worse "if your faith was stronger you wouldn't ask that. Here is Thomas one of the twelve, one of those who knew the person of Jesus better than any other and he still has questions, is still skeptical. "Show me" he says, and what does Jesus do? He shows him! Lets him touch the holes, feel the marks. He doesn't rebuke and say "oh you bonehead Thomas, why are you such a lameo with no faith.

I try to include things in our worship service that the congregation can physically take with them to help them remember the worship service. This week I will be handing out foam rubber question marks (that the mothers who meet at our church with their kids for a play day once a week cut out for me) that they can take home and actually write a question they want to have God answer for about His nature. and then have them pray That God would reveal not only himself to them in a new way but lead them in the answer to that question.

I haven't quite figured out the connection between being skeptical and asking questions and Jesus' words in vs.29 "blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe" any thoughts?

Thanx

Mark in N. Idaho


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 01:09:31

Comment

Mark, I like your foam question mark idea.

When Jesus says "blessed are those who have not seen..." I think he is making an accurate observation. It is painful to be skeptical. It it painful to question. It is a blessing to have clean, clear faith. But that's not always possible. The message of Thomas's story is that Jesus responds to the skeptics and questioners too. He doesn't give up on Thomas just because Thomas asks for proof. God, Jesus and the resurrection can stand up to scrutiny.

Janet in MD


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 02:24:23

Comment

Any one taking up the "forgiving and retaining of sins?"

Mark in Va.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:19:24

Comment

What the heck is retaining sins? Religious leaders got upset at Jesus for forgiving sins but where is there a story of Jesus refusing to forgive anyone who asked?


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:22:04

Comment

So did Thomas miss out on the Holy Spirit?


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:28:09

Comment

Just imagine the stock piling of sins. If we as a church retain enough of them.... we turn ransid. The measure you give is the measure you recieve.

The refusal to forgive is always a source of evil. It is always an act of agression. Teach attack and it will always come back and bite you.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:45:17

Comment

What a contrast this is from Jesus statements about faith. Instead of Jesus saying Ok I will heal you, he says "go your faith has made you well". Else where the works of faith are not the works of an arbitrator. The woman who washed Jesus feet was praised by Jesus. Her forgiveness and her loving much were already accomplished before Jesus ever responded to Simon's concern. Jesus saw the love the the forgiveness as going together kind of automatically and not as some award subjectively assigned for having found favor.

Jesus understood the woman's sins to be forgiven regardless of how people felt about it. It is a matter of Grace. Grace is not dependant on the right human behavior.

Would Jesus ever suggest that the disciples had a copywrite on who is allowed grace and who is not?

Is grace the property of the ecclesiatical leaders? If so then why not sell indulgences? No. We do not own the grace of God, we merely reflect it.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:56:38

Comment

Fear of the Jews-- Surely and his disciples would never have used that phrase, They were Jews.

Fear of the Ecclesiastical leader is more like it. Does that ring a bell with anyone?

United Methodists are preparing for the most divisive General Conference since the Cival War. One of the issues is a restructuring of the power at the top of the denomination. When people are manuvering for power it is a symptom that sickness has already set in. It is a time when "us and them" language wounds the body of Christ all over again.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 04:58:47

Comment

Peace!

Rejoyce! If only these were truly the affects of our preaching.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 05:12:41

Comment

4. 25, 200 I love the way people some people respond to the Bible in general and especially the difficult teachings of Jesus. Many of label Thomas' doubt - incredulous. And yet, much of the Church today doubts the Bible and the difficult teachings of Jesus. We even have the "impressively ignorant" Jesus Seminar (I believe that is what they call themselves) who one a year meet to discuss if Jesus would have said and done the things recorded about him in the Bible. Now, you talk about your doubting Thomases. For me, Thomas doubted because he was locked into the "real world." He had the same mindset of the Lutheran theologian featured recently in Newsweek who doubted miracles. He postulated that for God to intervene supernaturally into the live of an individual and heal them while the rest of the suffering world goes on suffering just doesn't make sense. Well, big red fire truck! God making sense to the human mind. Now that's a real oxymoron. I think that Thomas is the old man in the new testament. Adam had to see if he would really die like God said. After all Eve ate the fruit and was still alive. Maybe God is mistaken on occasion. Thomas probably thought that the others were emotionally overwrought. They saw Jesus because they wanted to. If this same Lutheran theologian (Philip Hefner - see Newsweek May 1, 2000 pg 61) would ever visit a church that did believe in miracles he would see physical healings, broken hearts mended, relationships restored, - God working today. Somebody please send him the last 5 years of His Mysterious Ways from Guideposts. Faith in Christ is faith in a supernatural God who does supernatural things. Faith in God that must be explained in human terms and understood completely by the human mind and observed with the scientific method is not faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I don't fault Thomas or Hefner. Some of us are more full of the old Adam than others. Some of us take more convincing. I guess that's why I love childlike faith. Faith that simply believes.

Dale in KS


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 12:48:10

Comment

How do we "retain sins?" Any thoughts?

Mark in Va.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 13:07:44

Comment

Two topics in one post - On tom's doubt and on retaining sins.

Thomas' doubt is not like the Jesus seminar's; no lofty questions about theological concepts, grammatical inconsistences or such. This was the One whom he would have followed to death (Lazarus' story), who was the messiah but was cruelly, slowly, publicly tortured to death. Alive? One could only wish, but I DON"T think so! Thanks to Gina and Mike I now realize that I have some repenting to do; I have watched the Elian story from a safe distance and judged this and that as mere politics, but now am reminded that that community is acting out of what they have lived through, not just heard about. Correct or not, they have more right to feel as they feel than I have to judge. The political posturing of candidates on all sides is suddenly all the more reprehensible! This was not merely Thomas' ideas or ideals, but his life and his love. It will need more than second hand evidence to convince him. He saw Jesus killed, he must see him alive. Not mine to belittle such doubt.

On the retention of sins- It's kinda like the retention of water, uncomfortable for the one who carries the weight. A grudge is like a cattle prod held wrong way around. It hurts the one who holds it more than the one it is held against. As I see it, it may have been not a right but a warning- "It's now in your hands to forgive. If they die unforgiven it is on your shoulders." Jesus loved us enough to die to obtain our forgiveness. What does it say about our commitment to Him if we let folks go to Hell without making every effort to dierect them back to God? Geez, I'm preaching to me now! Better quit. tom in TN(USA)


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 13:17:46

Comment

There's been some question about retaining sins. I think you can connect this to the lesson from First John. There are those who "say they have no sin", that is, who rationalize their sin, who excuse themselves, who minimalize the seriousness of their sin, who may admit their sin but have no desire to change, etc. We need to confront these people to come clean with God. But until they do, their sins are "retained." They can't be forgiven if they think they have nothing to be forgiven of, or prefer not to be forgiven. But "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins." All who come clean with God are forgiven. -- Mike in Maryland


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 13:38:24

Comment

Some thoughts on forgiving/retaining sins: The New Interpreter's Bible says that in John, sin is not a moral lapse but is that which blinds people to the revelation of God in Jesus. They cite John 3:19-21, 8:21-24, 9:39-41 and 15:22-24. Therefore, forgiving and retaining sins has to do with the mission of the Church. Jesus sends us out as he has been sent by his Father. Forgiving sins is bearing witness to the risen Lord and our "Spirit-empowered mission of continuing Jesus' work in the world." If we do not bear witness, people will stay in their blindness and unbelief (which is the Greek for what was Thomas' place, not doubt).

Betty in Spokane, WA


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 13:55:47

Comment

How many people heard the Christian Message last Sunday? When you begin to add up all the masses who crowded into churches all over the world, can anyone add up the number. If Census takers were wise they would just set up tables in front of churches on Easter Sunday.

How many lives have been helped, saved, healed, and restored through the mission of the Church? How much of the present day efforts of justice, disaster relief, hunger relief, etc is by the Church? How many desperate preachers still hang in there each week because the ways they have been helped by the mission of the Church?

Who could imagine that the power being displayed on Easter Sunday morning was once a small group, shut up behind closed doors, locked up in isolation, frozen up in fear. Those fearful men could not imagine what power and potential lie within them. Something happened!

The sovereignity of God is demonstrated in Jesus entering into the midst of their closed up fear. Jesus brings 1. peace (three times) 2. power (The breath of the Holy Spirit inspires life and energy) 3. faith (for believers and doubters alike) 4. mission (gospel of forgiveness of sins)

The incredible authority of forgiving and retaining sins is irreversibly connected to the receiving of the Holy Spirit. The awesome responsibility in not so much that we have the authority to retain forgiveness, but simply and pragmatically, that if the Church is not faithful and effective in procaliming the message, then forgiveness will get stuck, clogged, and retained like plaque in the church's arteries.

Fred in LA


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 13:58:54

Comment

These are good questions written by "someone" this week. I will try to answer them the best I can.

"Why is there a whole week inbetween these resurection apprearances?"

Early on, what we find is the importance of Sunday, as a memorial of the resurrection (as well as the first day of creation (new creation); it was on this first day of the week that Jesus appeared to his disciples. Did he appear on other days? The fact that there is not mention of his appearing gives us permission to believe that he was with his disciples not just on Sunday but throughout the time prior to the Ascension.

"What was life like for Thomas during this week when the others all believed that Jesus was risen but Thomas believed that Jesus was the Christ but not that he had risen?"

Here is where faith and imagination come to play. What do you think? You wont be too far off base! My guess is that he was eager to experience whatever it was that his fellow disciples experienced - wanted to see first hand!

"If the other 10 believe that Jesus is risen, why are they still hiding behind locked doors?"

Good observation. So maybe Mark's account is not that much different. In Mark the women leave the garden afraid, telling no one what they had seen or heard. No doubt there is a hesitation before we receive new life, the old has to die, that takes some time. Being afraid was a correct response to all that had happened and was about to happen.

Where are we in our own transformation, our own conversion to new life?

tom in ga


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 15:30:25

Comment

Hi folks, Don't forget, in the discussion of Thomas and his doubt turned to belief, that he didn't just believe, he made the strongest proclamation in the whole of the gospels of who Jesus was/is when he said, "My Lord, and my GOD!" Thomas was the first to recognize Christ as divine. His doubt bore fruit. rev jgu in OH


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 16:20:30

Comment

Dale in KS i liked your thought about "old man in a new testament" and your thoughts about not always comprehending the mind of God, I have a dumpster full of "programs that made sense to me but for some reason didn't to God. Oh, and is "Big Red Fire Truck!" a rebuke or a comendation? I want to make sure I use it in the proper context. It's catchy, has a certain flair and looks better than #@&!%, but hard to dance to ;-)

Mark in N. Idaho


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 17:22:19

Comment

Q. How do I retain sin? A. This is the seat of doctrine called the office of keys. "Whosoever sins you forgive...." God's called pastors are given this commanded/responsibility to forgive and retain sins. Forgive the repentant, and to not forgive the unrepentant. "If they are not forgiven, they are not forgiven in heaven. Some church hoppers, who are carrying on -unrepentant, causing havoc in the church, might find themselves in a heap of trouble on that last day. RevRon


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 17:26:08

Comment

How long does one suffer? Perhaps forever … probably forever … forever, never ending, never ceasing, always the pain which will not go away, always the scars which will never heal.

She was a fighter, the kind of woman whom one yearned to have as an advocate. Certainly, there was nothing in her physical demeanor that even suggested the persona of strength. Her slight frame and wispy graying-blond hair offered no hint to her tenacity or stamina. "Nondescript," might be one's thought upon a casual meeting, nondescript, of course, unless one scrupulously considered the deep lines of life traversing a face formed in the abyss, or unless one carefully noted her penetrating stare which seemed able to expose the hidden hypocrisies of her adversaries. To have Lew in one's corner was to know the presence of a true guardian, to know absolutely that one had a friend, an ally who would be there, as they say, in the thick and thin of it all. Lew was that kind of person, a person with whom to be reckoned. Victim's Rights activist, they called her. Point of Light, they honored her. Her passion knew no limits and her directed anger knew no bounds. She was a voice for those brutalized by horrific evil of the world, whether it stemmed from the hands of a knife-wielding monster, or resided in the cold indifference of a callused bureaucracy. With Lew at your side, you were never alone.

So when she approached us, we could hardly say no. Lew made it impossible to say no. To deal with Lew was to acquiesce to her ultimate yes. Yet, as we viewed the house, I wondered how in the world we had ever thought we might bring some sense of order to this chaos. With an inexperienced team of servant-volunteers and a budget of less than a thousand dollars, tackling the scene before us was insanity, a journey into the realm of the impossible. The house had been lived in by Kate, a single mom, and her two sons. Though they struggled, living on the edge of debilitating poverty, they were happy enough until in one horrific moment their lives were forever changed. On a quiet night, much like any other night, someone broke in, and while her boys were huddled in the adjacent room listening to their mother's screams, Kate was raped and knifed. Wounded and bleeding, she struggled from the house and collapsed on the porch steps. They left the house that night and had not returned for six months, six long months where the house sat exposed to vandalism, animal feces, and the rotting food left on the table. And now we stood in the middle of this hopeless circumstance, knowing that we could never repair what lay before us, yet, unable and unwilling to turn away.

After long moments of disbelief and looks that clearly expressed a sure sense of futility in the job stretching before them, the team embraced the task with the energy of the possessed. Whether born out of a na´ve belief that they might somehow fix the unfixable, whether spurned forward by the energetic enthusiasm of weekend warriors, or whether they moved simply because it was difficult not to act in the face of Lew's iron will, the team hurdled into the depths of the tempest. Filthy carpets were ripped from the wooden floors, great gaping holes in the walls were repaired, walls were scrubbed with hot soapy water, shattered windows were replaced, paint was splashed on one room, then another, and still another. As one hour rolled into the next, as bodies moved through the chaos, as hands reached into the confusion, a miracle occurred. Little by little, the house once again began look like a home, the impossible became the possible. The team proclaimed hope in spite of the evidence, and found that through their love, their lives, and their action, that the evidence had changed.

At the end of the day, we walked through the house with Lew, marveling at the transformation, amazed by the contradiction of the morning's reality. As we reached a second floor room, whitened by fresh paint and new ceilings, Lew suddenly stopped. She stood there for a moment and then began to shake. Large tears flowed down her face and great sobs began to rack her frail body. She looked around us, and in a face contorted by disbelief, she exclaimed, "Why did you do it? You didn't even know her, you didn't even know her." And then, in a broken voice punctuated by anguish, her story began to unfold.

Lew was once a proud grandmother-to-be. Her daughter was pregnant and they excitedly awaited the gift of a child. But the birth never came, for in a living nightmare, Lew's daughter was murdered - Lew's daughter and Lew's unborn grandchild. Lew was devastated, the life crushed from her as sure as it was taken from her daughter. She was on the precipice, barely hanging on to her sanity, more dead than alive. And though she was not a regular member of a church, she sought out a pastor to help her grapple with the unyielding pain, the staggering trauma, and the all-consuming anger. For whatever reason, the Church did not help her. Perhaps the pastor was too inexperienced or too overwhelmed with his own congregational troubles, perhaps she was at a place impossible to reach, perhaps even God could not reach beyond the chasmal wound which had penetrated her soul. For whatever reason, she bore her horror alone, carrying her anger and resentment for eight long years, hating the Church for its failure to minister in the unfathomable depths of her despair, hating God for the offense she had endured.

There, in an upstairs room surrounded by strangers, the anguish flowed from her, releasing her tormented soul. There, behind locked doors protecting a heart that could bear no further hurt, in the midst of her disbelief and agony, a presence came and stood with her, a presence bearing the scars of the world. "Touch me and know me. Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. For I, too, bear the wounds of hate." We stood with them, we stood in The Presence, and we believed. And in the ocean of pain, consumed by scars which will never heal, there was…

Peace.

Shalom my friends,

Nail-Bender in NC


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 20:13:20

Comment

I think Thomas gets shorted. Thomas could be responding to the dis-belief of the others. "You don't act like people who have seen the resurrected Messiah!

Mk in Chgo.


Date: 26 Apr 2000
Time: 22:56:47

Comment

To Mark in N. Idaho from Dale in KS

The reference to big red firetruck is about the widely circulated joke about the person in the kitchen who had a grease fire. When throwing water on it only spred the fire she dialed 911. When the operater asked how to get there, she replied, "Duh, in a big red fire truck."

My poing was that we often fail to communicate on God's level because we insist on communicating on our level. The fire lady misunderstood the 9ll operators question. How often do we misunderstand God's word, God's purpose, God's thinking, God's wisdom. I see religous leaders attempting to rationalize God and God's ways. NOT POSSIBLE.

God's truth is still truth in spite of what the culture says, or I say, or anyone else says. How do we get at the truth? Through the power of the Holy Spirit.


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 01:04:08

Comment

Two things jump out at me from John. First, the 3 times repeated "Peace be with you." What is this peace Jesus gives? A colleague of mine suggested to me that the peace is the realization of God's loving grace. No matter what has happened or what is happening there is always God's loving grace. God is still in charge. Second, belief. As several have already mentioned we are all on a faith journey. This is explained in a book some years back by Wayne Rood entitled, "Will Our Children Have Faith?" Instead of picking on Thomas, why not think positively about him. Perhaps he had the most faith of the 11. He was the only one who had enough faith to trust in God to protect him outside the house. The other 10 were so doubting that they stayed behind locked doors. We must remember that the 10 were still struggling with their faith, still behind closed doors a week later when Thomas shows up. Thomas dealt with the reality of where he was on his faith journey. He was honest saying out loud what the other 10 were thinking. At least he had guts. Depending on how honest we want to be with our congregations - Isn't it true that the congregation would rather stay locked up behind locked doors than face the world and share the gospel? Do we believe in the resurrected Jesus - really? As far as, "for fear of the Jews." Seems to me Raymond Brown in the Anchor Bible says John uses the words "Jews" to mean "Unbelievers." This is also reaffirmed by Dr.Robert Tannehill at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. I really have to struggle with forgiving and retaining sins. Sounds awefully like the Confessional to me. Perhaps I am having the same trouble the religious leaders had with Jesus. They asked, "Who is this man that he forgives sins?" In reality it is not up to me to forgive or retain sins(judge people). We get into a lot of trouble judging people. Maybe it is best to leave the judging and forgiving up to God. What do you think?

Philip in Ohio


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 12:14:15

Comment

It seems to me that there is great strength in the ability to doubt, because if we don't doubt then there's nothing left. Faith is about what is left, and what's not understood. It is a wonderful thing to doubt: God is a mystery: rejoice in that fact, and know that his strength is far greater than ours because of that. I worry a little that contributers to this site concentrate on what our human failings are - the negative rather than the positive - what we in the church DON'T do, or aren't, and what we should be etc - it would be good if we could see to what extent we can offer helpful thoughts to those who couldn't care two hoots about what the church isn't doing. John in Australia.


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 12:46:02

Comment

Nail Bender I was deeply moved , to tears by your story. I am working with a parishonner who is in an advanced stage of colon cancer who is facing that same anger, disbelief, and pain that God may stand by and allow something of such a degree of suffering to happen. I am speechless in the face of such anguish and pain I think that only in the midst of such a supportive community can there be a deep realization of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I pray that like thomas and like Lew my parishonner too will be able to realize the peace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ. RevLatha from MI


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 14:04:26

Comment

Just a thought on the forgiveness or retention of sins.

My underlying theological premise is that sin is separation from God, and forgiveness is entry (or re-entry) into a loving relationship with God.

If this is true, then the disciples, as the ones who know the way to God, can either share that belief or retain it. If they tell others about Jesus, those who believe have forgiveness. If they fail to tell, they deny others the opportunity to know the forgiveness of God.

Looking at it this way really puts the onus on the disciples to share the good news. The "Office of the Keys" is not so much a power that they recieved, but the privlege and responsibility of witnessing that belongs to every believer.

-SS in PA


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 14:08:45

Comment

I just read Richard Fairchild's sermon for this Sunday on his Kir Shalom site; very helpful. We are celebrating Baptism this week and I am going to connect the idea of hallmarks, the marks on Christ and the signing with the cross on the child's forehead at Baptism. Jennifer in Mississauga


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 14:20:05

Comment

Ooops! I submitted before I finished reading. Sorry to resubmit a thought that was so clearly articulated by others before me. Mea culpa.

SS in PA


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 15:05:49

Comment

It seems to me that Thomas is a good example of the power of labels. I don't know who first called him "doubting Thomas", but imagine what a difference it would have made if he was known to us as "honest Thomas". He reminds me of the person who came to Jesus asking for healing. Jesus asked if the person believed, and their response, was something like, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." Seth in Toronto


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 16:29:37

Comment

I liked to comment about perhaps Thomas responding to the fact that the others claim to believe that Jesus is risen but yet they are still locked up in that room. They don't indeed act as if they believe. My sermon title this week will be "Get Over It". My focus will be how we stay locked up in our fears and pains and how Jesus comes to us offering us peace. Further, I will emphasize how Thomas broke into praise when he saw the scars and how our sacrifice of praise even in the direst of circumstances opens the door for shalom. Shortrev in FL


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 18:39:18

Comment

Nailbender once again your penetrating, insightful story has plumbed the depths of the truth of Scripture. I have been blessed by your narratives - thanks!

I am continually intrigued by the question brought up earlier about the weeklong delay between appearances (at least to Thomas). What was Thomas going through during that period? Probably the anguish of the (apparent) absence of God - the "dark night of the soul" as John of the Cross would describe it. It is a horrific experience, to doubt the very foundation upon which you stand, to wonder if you have staked your life on an illusion. Yet Jesus redeems even this experience; wasn't He also "God-forsaken" as He cried out from the cross? I have read commentators that suggest that "Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani" means that in being fully human, Jesus experienced even the temptation to atheism, thus is able to reach even those who would otherwise reject Him as being "unable to understand".

So like the old footprints poem, Thomas probably felt that he was alone, that his prayer was unanswered even though God was closer than ever. He was given grace to proclaim Jesus as Lord and God when Christ did appear. But he learned the very difficult and painful lesson that God is not in our control, God does not simply do our bidding when we demand it. But the waiting is the hardest part (apologies to Tom Petty!)

Bo in KY


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 19:40:31

Comment

Friends,

During Lenten bible study we hit the highlights of Job. This week I'm realizing what a brother to Thomas he was, doubting the continued validity of a system of retributive justice that no longer worked. It was working through those doubts with his 'friends,' who gave up on him and his struggle, and his God that led him to those wonderful words that speak to us of the resurrection, "I know that my redeemer lives!"

We simply must allow ourselves and others to doubt/struggle--how else can we ever grow in our faith?

Happy Easter Season! Rebecca in MD


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 21:23:08

Comment

I have found this week's discussion most helpful.

As a result I have entitled my sermon, "Seeing Is Believing." My focus will be on how sometimes preaching is not enough. The testimony of the disciples was ineffective until Thomas was able to see the resurrected Christ. In the same way, our testimony by itself will continue to be ineffective. That is until it is validated by the presence (sight) of the resurrected Christ in our lives. The Peace of God, the Love of God and the Joy of God.

Andrew (a BAPTIST) in MS


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 23:27:01

Comment

To assume that the disciples stayed behind locked doors all of the time may be a mistake. Perhaps it was their worship day/time again (one week later) and they locked the door for "worship". It may be quite appropriate to assume that they went back to work (fishing for some, as Luke tells us). I find it hard to imagine that they stayed locked away all of the time. Thomas missed church the first time. why? He was a loner, like many men when they grieve (cf Wm Barclay) Deke of the North


Date: 27 Apr 2000
Time: 23:39:01

Comment

I think one important thing about "Doubting Thomas" (always did feel he got a bum rap for that!) is that it never said that he put his hands in Jesus' wounds. Thomas sees and hears Jesus, and then declares Jesus to be Lord and God. All of a sudden, by being in Christ's presence, Thomas doesn't need the "proof" that he had previously demanded. Don't you think that this is still applicable? If we allow ourselves to be in Christ's presence, then we may no longer demand the proof of specific answers to prayers in order to believe in God's existance?

I also think of Job, and his response to God's answer, which really answered none of Job's questions; Job didn't demand further, but was awed to be in God's presence and accepted that as sufficient.

Just some musings

Pastor Deb in Maine


Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 10:57:19

Comment

I don't like big green firetrucks but I have learned to grow in the Word of Christ by the wonderful commitment you Christians share.

It is not to one name or another but The Name that I see written across every the soulful comments and insightful hermeneutics that intersect here.

I read theology in the hard cover here I see it in the raw juice of darting thought. Like a fresh pizza with the cheese sticking to the palate.

Every good thought,

Cheers David in New Milford, NJ


Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 11:28:07

Comment

The discussion this week has been great! I have not added many inputs to the weekly discussions. Each of you have truly blessed me and the sermons that I have delivered. This week, my sermon title is, "Feeling the Pain". I am not so sure that the original ten in the text were any different than Thomas. The passage tells us in 20:20, "he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." At some point in our lives we must feel the pain of CHRIST. Unfortunately, many must fall flat on their face before they learn to look up and see JESUS. I sense that the hardest element to pass on to the congregation is that we are sinners first. Thomas was asked by CHRIST to literally, feel the pains, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." He beleived at this point. If we only had the compassion of CHRIST in our own day to day relationships. CHRIST has breathed on us the power to forgive and retain sins through our commission of spreading the gospel. How difficult that can be if we cannot "feel the pain". kc


Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 14:30:15

Comment

Friends, looking back at a sermon on Thomas a few years back, I found something I'd forgotten. It seems that according to "The Acts of Thomas" that Thomas started the church in India. There is a Thomist Church there that traces its roots back to Thomas. In the conclusion of that book, Thomas is finally described as "Obedient Thomas."

Aren't we all in process--God isn't finished with any of us yet! Who knows what God may yet do in any of our lives, especially in the lives of those we've neatly labeled and categorized. We can all write a new chapter in our lives--we don't have to settle for past mistakes and disappointments.

Peace, Rebecca in MD


Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 15:26:12

Comment

I've thought of Tomas the Realist, and not necessarily the Doubter. When Jesus says...and you know the way where I am going...Thomas speaks up and says...Lord, we don't know where you're going so how can we know the way. He calls it like he sees it. Thomas is the first citizen from Missouri!

I get the feeling that Thomas' frame of mind was clouded by the reality of Jesus' death and it would just be too painful to allow himself to hope again and believe that He's risen only to be crushed once more. I think Thomas' hesitancy is born of grief.

As well, why does only John relate this story? Probably he's making a point to those who will come to believe because of his witness. In Thomas are found most of John's audience. So I guess what John is saying is, "Sure it was great seeing him, touching him, but you must know that you who have not seen him have something more wonderful than we have. Jesus calls you blessed, Jesus is thrilled with your risky faith business. How much you increase our faith by your belief."

John near Pitts (another realist)


Date: 28 Apr 2000
Time: 16:35:39

Comment

A couple thoughts--as always great stuff to think about. On the question of when the disciples were gathered--as far as I can tell from the reading and the pericope which goes before this one in John, it is not a week later, but instead the night of the same day that Mary encountered Christ at the tomb. John 20:1"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb"; John 20:19--"When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week"--why would we assume from these parallel passages a week has gone by? Second: Rev. Gina--I appreciatew your take on the whole Elian thing and others' supportive comments on it but as courteously as I can I need to disagree. Some of us pastors out here see the actions of the government as the rescuing of a child in peril. There is no Christian consensus on this one! Finally, my focus for preaching will be on the whole question of belief. This verb appears in the passage 5 times: Christ is so insistent on the notion of belief. Yet how often do we as Christians mistake mere belief for discipleship? 95 percent of Americans say they beleive in God but if that beleif were really real, really transformative, really inculcated in our souls, would any children still be hungry today? Any folks still be in poverty? Can we believe in God but hoard all our money for ourselves? Or live in suburban enclaves which turn their backs on the powerless? Can we claim beleif in God and be homophobic? Racist? Sexist? A spouse abuser? I want to focus on the notion of cultural belief which is weak and one-dimensional but which many Christians/churchgoers mistake for real belief which leads to tranformation which leads to discipleship which means faith actually makes a difference in how we live, not just the words we mouth in hackneyed religious platitudes. John in RI


Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 01:12:47

Comment

Until about 10 years ago, I never was sure what to make of Thomas. I have always believed. Then, in the course of a couple of months, I was betrayed by a friend, lost a job, lost a close family member, and lost our savings due to an embezzlement by a secretary. We couldn't even sell our house in the face of the real estate bust to pay the bills. No one was hiring, and everyone was being laid off. We were worried and we were hurt. We would go to church, and there were sung all the familiar songs of joy, but the psalms in our hearts were the ones of lament. The joyous songs sounded defiant and out of touch with our reality. We did our best to remain faithful during these difficult times, but the worst part of it all was that it seemed that our prayers had fallen on deaf ears. Many months passed. God seemed silent for what seemed to be an eternity. I was beginning to wonder if God cared.

At long last, a head hunter left a urgent message on our recorder that she would be calling at 7:00 p.m. I was sure that the purpose of her call was to announce that I had received a job offer that would save our family. I waited anxiously for the call to come, and it did at precisely 7:00. She was frantic because she was sponsoring a family of religious refugees from Russia, and not only were they arriving 30 days ahead of schedule, they were arriving at 10:00 that evening. The purpose of her call was to ask if we could gather together pots and pans and a chair or two for the refugees' new apartment – and have them there by 9:30. I rushed into the den to tell my wife the good news about the immigrants. It didn't occur to either of us to be disappointed on the job front. What mattered was a family from far away had left everything behind to begin a new life, and they needed our help. We met the family who had nothing of their own but hope.

We got back home that night around midnight – more excited than we had been in months. And then it occurred to us that God had given us a job to do. He hadn't forgotten us at all, nor did He ever cease to care. I now know that on that evening, Jesus said to me, as he did to Thomas in Verse 27, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe." I met the Jesus who had suffered, and on that evening he asked me to be his body for that family. And I was blessed because of it. And I have carried from that day a hope and an assurance that has carried me through many a difficult time. It was a hope that got me out of that closed room of despair, and sent me into a dangerous world where I could experience joy, hope, and healing even with the scars.

In reflection, God used this time to shape us into the people he would have us become. As it turned out, he was never silent. He sustained us through well meaning friends, and through a church which defiantly carried the message of hope as the true reality.

I now believe that the invitation to touch his wounds is one of the ways that Jesus assures us of what he taught the disciples who could identify him as the Messiah, but didn't understand its implications: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

Brad in Texas


Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 15:11:10

Comment

I just want to thank the group for the helpful comments... all the comments. I read them each week when preparing my sermon and find them provoking. Somethimes they get me going and other times they help me center my thoughts. Keep talking... Blessed Easter, Larry Metzger, LMetz@aol.com


Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 20:19:21

Comment

What stricks me at this late hour is that the questioning of Jesus by Thomas "unless I see;" turns into Jesus' questioning of Thomas "Reach out your hand." This questioning is what happens to us when we engage scripture - being called from unbelief to belief? Not to question Scripture or Jesus, we remain only outside observers looking into stainglass windows wondering, but in questioning we are drawn to a new and deep place, the resurrection become a present event in our lives.

Allelulia Christ is risen.

tom in ga


Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 21:17:45

Comment

To Brad in TX -- thank you for a great personalization of the Thomas story. I plan to read your story verbatim as the introduction to my sermon ... and to say very little after it! Thanks again.


Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 23:00:56

Comment

dittos on Brad's story. Thanks for your willingness to share. I have several church members who are going through similar struggles at this time. Your story will be a big help.

The month of April is often a crisis month. Suicides are way up, accidents (many due to teens celebrating graduation a bit early), depression from income tax, spring fever in others exaggerating the helplessness in others, etc.

The timing is perfect for a message on "When it is difficult to believe." Now that the fanfare of Easter Sunday is past, it is time to apply the Easter faith to the realities of life.

Fred in LA


Date: 30 Apr 2000
Time: 00:55:46

Comment

A few thoughts, while trying to "tie up" the "loose ends" and come up with a coherent closing to tomorrow's sermon.

First, the risen Jesus does not bear "scars" -- he bears WOUNDS. Scars, ugly gashes, signs of struggle and battle, would be one thing; but WOUNDS . . . open, raw, gaping, messy, tender . . . quite another thing. Neither is very much appreciated in our world: scars are to be covered up at any cost; wounds are totally unacceptable, escpecially in light of renewed pathology about disease transmission (which seems out of place in our "advanced" culture, doesn't it?). Nevertheless, it is Jesus' wounds which make him recognizable, beyond any doubt. Could it be that we are being led to see our own wounds in the Easter light? Wounds are the test of truth here. Jesus insists on showing, sharing them (he neither HIDES nor FLAUNTS them). Thomas insists on seeing, touching them. Our own wounds make us unique--the polished, shiny, "acceptable" parts are a dime-a-dozen, while the raw, hurting, broken places tell the stories of our lives. And our lives are finally the only places where Jesus shows up. Keep in mind here that the "deaf" community has an unmistakable sign for Jesus: the middle finger of each hand points to the palm of the other in a mirror process. There was also an ancient Christian monastic/mystic tradition of seeking "stigmata": to be so repentant and in love with Jesus that his own wounds appeared on one's skin in the palms.

Second, I am intrigued by the striking parallels of Mary's encounter with Jesus (a key focus of John 20:1-18) and Thomas's (found at the heart of vv. 19-31). Both push into places where the other disciples do not wish to or need to(for whatever reasons). Both pursue a trail of truth to a vivid encounter with the risen Lord, ones which seem to have a "tailor-made" conclusion: Mary hears Jesus say her name (which, oddly, evokes her faith more than the sight of him); Thomas finds Jesus meeting his request for proof (which highlights the oddity of a risen Lord with wounds). Both seem to "melt" before Jesus in faith: Mary speaks a term of adoration and affection ("Rabbouni") while Thomas cannot help but exclaim words of wonder and worship ("My Lord and my God!") It seems to me that both Mary and Thomas are being held up as honest examples, not as heroes really, but as true-to-life parables (which is why the other disciples seem to be in the background, part of the scenery).

My own "midrash" of verses 29-30 goes like this: "Have you believed because you have seen me? (Well, then, you're not so unusual.) Blessed (indeed) are those who have not seen and YET (in spite of their lack of passionate pursuit of the truth) have come (somehow) to believe. (Though most people come to faith the way Mary and Thomas did: resisting easy answers, coming to a place, alone, where only the Risen Lord himself can help them.)

I like the question raise earlier in the week about "Who is Thomas?" By way of response: "Thomas" in our day could be those numbers of people who, for many reasons, have come to the place where hearsay, even trustworthy hearsay (like the witness of the disciples throughout John 20) is not enough. They hear the message of the Church, the words and symbols and ideas, but find themselves hungry for an encounter with the One of whom we bear witness. I offer this quote from Henry Knight (found in A Future for Truth): "If the resurrection is true, then there will be Christian communities where its impact will be evident, and persons for whom faith in it will have made a significant difference in how they live their lives. For many in a postmodern world, the existence of such communities and lives will be the only evidence they will seek."

Perhaps "wounds" are the answer, as unlikely as that may seem . . .

TK in OK


Date: 30 Apr 2000
Time: 02:16:22

Comment

If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. At the times when life seems to be going my way and dreams are coming true, the rug seems to be always pulled out from under my feet. This is the human experience. Thomas must have felt that way too. Jesus being the Risen Christ had to be too good to be true. He, along with the other disciples discovered that being in the presence of the Risen Christ makes all doubts turn to belief. Why was Thomas there with the others that he feared were delusional? He had HOPE that what they were sharing was the Truth! He wanted the FAITH that the others had following their experience. And he Wanted the return of the presence of the LOVE of Jesus. (These three sound familiar don't they?} Why was he there? Why are we in church today? We too want the experience of FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.

Rambling thoughts from West AR, I am out of practice in sermon writing. Thanks for all the input from everyone! Bless you BRAD. After losing my job during the middle of my first pregnancy moved to my parents' rent house. Within a month my parents split up (after 31 years), my beloved Granny was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I was placed on complete bedrest and nearly lost my baby. Only months later, My own father stole all our savings from us and we became homeless and dependant on the gifts of others for a place to live (an old camper) and food to eat (thank Heavens for the garden of my aunt). Then my husband (the sole provider as I had a new baby) was suddenly hospitalized for tick fever and nearly died.

When the situation was the most dark, a job was created for me. Yes, created, in a church that had never had a youth director. Since THAT answered prayer, my father and I are now talking again, my husband's new business has grown to the point that we have 5 employees and he is so busy that we have a waiting list for our customers. We own our house and have another baby.

When the valley is the darkest is when God's actions seem the most illuminating! Praise God for bonfires!

Cella


Date: 01 May 2000
Time: 02:19:45

Comment

Cella, It's late on Sunday, and I am just now reading your message. Hope you get mine. Blessings to you as well. May God always keep the bonfire lit for you.

Brad in Texas