Marks of FaithPosted: April 12, 2015
Marks of Faith
SLIDE 3: THOMAS WAS A CONCRETE SENSING KIND OF GUY
John is the only gospel, where Thomas plays a major role. He was absent on the evening of the first Easter, when the Risen Christ appeared to the rest of the disciples in the Upper Room. Ancient church tradition claims that Thomas was a carpenter like Jesus. He worked with his hands. He was a concrete sensing kind of guy who must have been from Missouri, because he wasn’t about to take the other disciples’ word for it that they had “seen the Lord.” “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
SLIDE 4: CONCRETE REALITY ISN’T VERY CONCRETE
Now one of the problems with concrete reality is that it isn’t very concrete at all. The world around us is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, electrons, and a whole bunch of empty space in between all of those little particles. And if we break down those little particles further, all we end up with is vibrating energy. The world as we see it with our eyes, or try to touch it with our hands isn’t the real world at all.
SLIDE 5: DARK ENERGY & MATTER
And the world as we “see” it only accounts for about 4% of the energy and matter in the Universe. Most of our Universe, an estimated 96% of the total is Dark energy and Dark matter invisible and so far undetectable to our senses and instruments. If only 4% of the Universe is detected and measured, then who knows what are the true boundaries of reality? When 96% of our Universe is a mystery, surely there is room for God, who knows maybe even resurrection is a possibility?
SLIDE 6: OPTICAL ILLUSIONS THE LIMITS OF OUR EYE SIGHT
Thomas didn’t know anything about atoms or electrons or Dark energy or Dark matter, but he wanted proof. We are all familiar with optical illusions that result from limitations of our eye sight. For instance, the insert in your bulletin contains several common optical illusions based upon foreground focus versus background focus, deciphering context from the relative sizes of surrounding objects, the mirror illusion, or the right brain left brain conflict illustrated by the names of colors in different colors. Optical illusions remind us that seeing isn’t always believing.
SLIDE 7: TACTILE ILLUSIONS
wanted to touch to make sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. But then there are also tactile illusions related to the limitations of our sense of touch. For instance, consider a tactile illusion most of us have experienced. If one hand is immersed in cold water and the other in hot water for a minute or so, and then both hands are placed in lukewarm water, the lukewarm water will feel hot to the hand previously immersed in cold water, and cold to the hand previously immersed in hot water.
Or another tactile illusion you can try out on your friends, take two cardboard boxes of different sizes and put a brick in each one. Check that they weigh the same, then get someone to lift them and tell you which is heavier. The vast majority of people will say that the smaller box is heavier, even though it isn’t, and will continue to maintain that it is even after looking inside both boxes and lifting them several times. Another tactile illusion you can experience at home is to take an ordinary comb and pencil and lay your index finger along the top of the comb, then run the pencil back and forth along the side of the teeth. Even though the teeth are moving from side to side in a wave-like motion, your finger will feel as if a raised dot is travelling up and down the comb.
SLIDE 8: EVEN TOUCHING MAY NOT BE BELIEVING
So even touching is not always believing. And somehow maybe Thomas knew that. For eight days after Jesus first appeared to the disciples, when Thomas was in the Upper Room and the doors were closed, suddenly Jesus stood there among them, and he said, “Peace be with you.” Then turning to Thomas he said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Despite Jesus invitation to place his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in Jesus’ side, the text does not mention Thomas reaching out to touch the Risen Christ.
SLIDE 9: FEW PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A LIE
Instead, Thomas responded, in complete submission, “My Lord and my God!” Would any of us have insisted on putting our fingers or hands in Jesus’ wounds? We do not know what the followers of Jesus experienced when they encountered the Risen Christ, but we can guess it was convincing enough to inspire faith. Although the testimony of the early church seems to have been based in the experience of the Risen Christ in the “breaking of the bread” at the Sharing Table. On numerous occasions Roman authorities offered to spare the lives of the followers of Jesus, if they would just deny their experience of the Risen Christ. If they would just be willing to admit their faith was all a hoax. Few people are willing to die for a lie. Those first followers of Jesus were convinced they had experienced Jesus alive after he had been killed.
SLIDE 10: BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE
Perhaps the most important part of our scripture is verse 29. And Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” There is no way to recreate the experience of the first disciples. We can read our New Testaments, but we cannot hear Jesus first hand, or witness any of the miracles described in the gospels. We also cannot know what it was like to see Jesus nailed to a cross, left for dead, and then suddenly experience the living presence of the Christ after his death.
SLIDE 11: WE BELIEVE BECAUSE WE WANT TO BELIEVE
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” I don’t think God gives us any points for being credulous. On the other hand, we are not likely to find faith unless we are willing to believe. In the end there are all kinds of things that cannot be proven that we must decide whether or not we want to believe. For instance, we cannot prove the sun will come up tomorrow morning but at some level we make the decision that there will be a tomorrow and so we set our clocks, when we go to bed, and we make plans to meet our friends for dinner on Friday night. We believe because we want to believe and then we act accordingly.
SLIDE 12: WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE TO BELIEVE?
So, what does God need to do to help us to believe? Believing starts with wanting to believe. We have a choice. If we do have a choice, who wouldn’t want to believe that love is the secret of the Universe, and love triumphs over death? I mean what would we rather believe, that life sucks and then we die? That dead is dead, and nothing we do in this life has any meaning. So you better drink as many beers as you can and attend as many sporting events as possible. And don’t go out of our way for anyone, because it does not matter in the end. Is that what we want to believe? Think about it. We can choose what we want to believe, knowing that our faith will impact how we live our lives.
SLIDE 13: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE?
The marks of faith are not the wounds of Christ, rather the marks of faith are the choices we make. To live as if life has meaning. To live as if love is the secret of the Universe. To live as if love triumphs even over death. Just take a moment to meditate on your most important relationships. Maybe the love you have shared with your mother or father, or your spouse or your partner, or maybe the relationship you have shared with your own children. Now answer me a question. Do you believe the love you have shared with the person you are thinking about will be cut off by death? What do you want to believe? “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”