Tag Archives: doubt

Doubt and Faith

“Doubting Thomas” will be focus of many sermons this Sunday in congregations that use the Revised Common Lectionary.  The story of Thomas in John 20:24-31 is assigned every year because it occurs the week after Jesus resurrection. In the story the other ten disciples tell Thomas, “We have seen the Lord,” after he missed the first resurrected appearance of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Thomas responds with skepticism, “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” (John 20:25).

"Still Doubting" by artist John Granville Gregory

Today I read a helpful blog post on the challenges of being selective in our skepticism from TE Hanna. He points out that one cannot be semi-skeptical as one looks at the data of faith. Either you look at all or none of the evidence. I am not a philosopher, but his reasoning helped me think about faith and Thomas.

A certain amount of skepticism or doubt is needed in daily life. So much information assaults our senses every day that we have to filter what is valid and helpful. Not everything I see on the internet, read in a book, or watch on television is true. We are not to be gullible to everything someone says.

Of course part of our skepticism is based on the character of the witness. Last week I was with a group of pastors for our weekly text study when one began to tell us the story of his upcoming trip to Rome. He and his wife had been planning it for several months. He had told a Catholic priest, a friend, and the priest had told, “I think I can arrange an audience with the Pope while you are there.” My pastor friend went on for a few more minutes about his excitement about the upcoming audience while I and others peppered him with curious questions and exclamations about how wonderful his audience with the pope will be. Finally, with a big grin, my pastor friend said, “April Fools.” The papal audience was a joke that he played on us, though the trip to Rome is real. The whole group had believed his story, in large part because he rarely tells such fables. He had always been a reliable witness.

That is part of the struggle in the Thomas story. When confronted by his ten friends, he is sure they must be bearing false witness. As I wrote about this last year, I wonder what the week between appearances was like for Thomas and the other disciples.

Which pushes me to deeper reflection, is my life congruent with my testimony of Jesus’ resurrection? Do people believe in Jesus because my life and my words bear witness to his resurrection? I pray that this is so for each of us.

Lord Jesus, may my words and my deeds bring deeper faith in you to others.

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Still Alice

Still Alice

I recently finished the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  Alice Howland is a respected fifty-year-old Harvard professor of psychology who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her memory loss throws her whole life and family into a tail-spin.  One scene in particular, after her diagnosis, stood out for me.

Alice is a runner and she finishes a run outside an Episcopal church.  Though raised a Roman Catholic, Alice has no active faith.  Yet she feels an impulse to enter the church with some vague hope for help.  Inside, she reads from a banner, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”  She knows she has a great need for help, but “who is she to ask for help from a God she wasn’t sure she believed in?”   She hopes someone, a priest or parishioner, will come so that she might unload her burden.  No one comes. 

The scene haunts me because I believe so strongly that God is our refuge and strength.   There are no magic answers that will suddenly take Alice’s questions and fears away.  But there is the loving, powerful presence of God that carries people in the midst of their struggles.   I realize Still Alice is a novel, well written and thought-provoking.  I just pray that when someone with such questions or doubts walks into Resurrection Lutheran Church, there is someone who can bear loving witness to God’s compassion and care.

In what ways does your reading current fiction shape your faith?

The Certainty of Questions

As the new lead pastor I have been asking lots of questions.  Who prepares the worship folders, the video slides, or the confirmation materials? Who plows the parking lot?  How much money is in the budget for mission outreach? Who cleans the bathrooms?   Like any new hire I am in the midst of a sharp learning curve, realizing everyday that there is more and more I don’t know.   That can be unnerving at times, especially when my personality is one that likes to appear very competent and knowledgable.  I hate looking foolish!

So I am struck by the amount of questions in this Sunday’s scripture lesson, Matthew 11:2-11.  First, John the Baptist has a question for Jesus, “Are you the promised Messiah that so many people are expecting, or should we start looking for someone else?”  Wow!   The fiery, intense John suddenly has cold feet about Jesus.   John questions whether he has prepared the way for the wrong guy. 

Second, Jesus asks the crowd questions about John, “What were you all expecting when you went out to hear John preach?”  Jesus challenges the expectations and assumptions of the people. Could it be that we allow our assumptions to dictate what God should do or be?   Do we at times assume that God’s ways should match our expectations?  Can questions break open a new perspective, a new vision?  Can doubt play a role in shaping faith?

What questions do you wrestle with as you seek to trust, live and serve?