Sunday, 3 April 2016

Room to doubt

We come this day to once again bring someone into the life of Christ and the presence of God through baptism.  In doing so it is appropriate to hear the readings of "Doubting Thomas" from John's Gospel as it shows us an understanding of the presence of doubt in our own faith journey. If we read the story over I wonder if we still think that Thomas doubted at all but rather was slower than the others to believe.  After all they had the luxury of having seen the risen Christ.  Was their doubt just as marked as Thomas's when the women reported the emptiness of the tomb?

The question to ask is: Did Thomas reach out and touch Christ's side?  I think most people today would say that he did but John has a gap here in the text which we have presumptively filled with Thomas touching the Christ.  A presumption that has come from the art work of painters such as Caravaggio who portrays Thomas's finger thrust into the wound.  Perhaps it is the one thing that in this day and age we would all prefer.  Scientific method and the precepts of science have taken us down this route physical evidence.  We cannot believe anything today unless it has been scientifically proven.  If Christ was to appear before us we would demand evidence.  A biopsy so that the tissue could be analysed.  An MRI or an X-ray would let us know more about the body, the risen body of Christ.  Doctors and scientists would have to lay out the physical evidence before their peers and we would then be satisfied that what we saw was indeed the risen Christ.

Caravaggio's painting of Thomas and the risen Christ.  Do we need to physically touch to believe?

Thomas and the disciples do none of these.  They believe when they see.  If we cannot have the physical evidence then perhaps the visual is the next best thing.  All the other disciples saw Christ so why can't Thomas not believe, he didn't.  Would you?  Is your belief such that if a person told you that they had seen the risen Christ you would without hesitation say yes I believe you?  Especially under the circumstances of having known he was buried.  Much the same as if someone told you that they had seen Princess Diana or Nelson Mandela within hours of their burial / funeral.  They do say that seeing is believing but nowadays even that is not true.  We have so many wonderful programmes on the computer that can doctor the photograph that you took.  On Facebook I have seen people's faces on various animals as people have toyed with these various programmes.  Do we really believe now what is shown to us in a photograph?  So for us is seeing believing or would we want to devolve down to touch as Thomas asked?

The disciples were told by the women that the tomb was empty (Luke) and indeed that Mary had spoken with the risen Lord (John).  Yet, the disciples did not believe.  It is almost as if there is another hole in the readings, a gap, where nothing happens until the Disciples see the risen Christ.  Even Mary does not really believe until she has spoken with the Christ.  Most of them are either totally disbelieving or unconcerned as if there is an air of unreality drifting over them.  Collective hallucinations as a result of their grief rather than an understanding of God working in the world in the presence of Christ.  If someone told you that a bomb had gone of in the middle of Sydney, would you believe them or think it was an April fools joke after the fact.  You would want to see it on News 24 or some other media circus or at least corroboration from a multiple of sources.  Truth telling has long since disappeared from the public arena such that we can believe what we hear.

In this day and age doubt has a place in our faith journey.  Doubt sows the seed of inquiry as we begin our journey in faith.  The child we baptise today is a person who has been born into a world filled with certainties that are presented to her  through touch and sight.  Through physical provability and confidence in her senses. The sciences will aid her in understanding the physical world in which she lives and comes to maturity in.  A world that has placed its reliance on the measurement and categorisation of the world around us and is skeptical of that which is unseen and non-physical.  We are asking her parents and God parents to bring her up in faith.  To draw her into a development of that which can not be measured and categorised.  In this age of science they have a profoundly difficult undertaking as they are asked to develop in this young child of God an ability which even we find hard to hold.  The ability to believe in something that is not able to be encompassed by our methods of proof.  This is not an easy task as we all know for we are all guilty of some level of doubt in our lives.  If handled correctly however our doubt can be transformed into a faith that is as compelling as the disciples on seeing the risen Christ.  We may not have the assurance of the visual confirmation that they had of the risen Christ but we will have a growing knowledge that God is part of our journey as our doubts are answered.  We are asked to come to an understanding of God's presence in our lives that is not confirmed by our senses but is confirmed by our belief in a risen Christ.

Hearing Thomas' doubt we can see ourselves.  Hearing Thomas' words to the risen Christ we need to see the trajectory of our faith and the fulfillment of Christ in our lives.  We may be filled with doubt but our goal is in the faith that we hear Thomas enunciate. "My Lord, My God"

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