Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
John 20:24-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
We don’t generally think of it this way, but doubt and faith really belong together. James Philip Bailey put it this way: “Who never doubted never half believed. Where doubt, there truth is—’tis her shadow.” Alfred Lord Tennyson even wrote: “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”
History has done Thomas the Twin a great disservice saddling him with a nickname that he never had in life: Doubting Thomas. Every person of faith that I can think of has doubted, yet we haven’t burdened any of those people with the nickname.
Thomas was honest with his doubts. Authentic faith begins with intellectual honesty and doubt is the bedrock of honesty. The Church ought to be a safe place where we can express whatever we are experiencing or feeling: deep conviction, fear, joy, sorrow, belief—even doubt. That’s why I don’t want to use that term “Doubting Thomas,” let’s not nickname people based on their doubt but help them to know that doubt is a part of the faith journey. We can be honest with our doubts.
Never avoid your doubts as if that will cure you of them. The key is continuing in honest relationship to God. Thomas Carlyle once wrote: “The credibility gap in our communications with God is evident in the way we launder our thoughts and feelings so our prayers present no hint of doubt, no trace of question, and no scents of anger — and only half our hearts.” We communicate with and relate to God then only half-heartedly and we don’t really deal with what’s going on in our life.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, recorded in his journal and diaries difficult periods of troubling doubt in his walk of faith. On more than one occasion he was so troubled by his doubts that he would state flatly in his personal writings, “I am not a Christian.”
Wesley recounts in his journal in March of 1738 that he finally confessed in a great period of doubt to his friend Peter Buhler that he was troubled with many doubts. He wondered if he should therefore stop preaching. And Peter Boehler said to him, “Well, preach faith until you have it, and then when you have it, preach faith.” Preach faith until you have it and then when you have it, preach faith. The word would be the same for us whether we preach or not. Keep doing the things that you do related to your faith. Keep acting on your faith. Keep serving. Keep giving. Keep studying. Keep praying. Keep asking. Keep worshipping. And then when you have faith, continue to do those things that you’ve always done. It’s that perseverance that is the key to moving through those periods of doubt in our lives.
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”.
1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.
2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.
3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster