Friday, May 01, 2009

April 19 Sermon: The Benefit of the Doubt

The Benefit of the Doubt


Thomas used as a polemic against his community. 

Importance of Xity seems to be belief/doubt.  What about action/apathy. 


1 John says it is not about what you profess, God’s focus is on whether you live in the light or in the darkness. 

What do you think it means to “walk in the light.” 

Do you live in an up front and honest way with people? 

Do you lie or gossip?

To me, the witness of Thomas is that a skeptical nature doesn’t keep a person from experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness. 

Why do we sometimes behave as though the point of all this, all this religion, is to pass along a set of beliefs, and the most heretical thing you can do is doubt the story.  If we take a fuller look at the witness of scripture, we can see that the life lived is what counts.  After all, as John says, you can say you are in fellowship with Jesus, but if your life is lived in the darkness—how can you be in the light? 

Probably one of the reasons the 12 step program is so powerful and effective is because it asks its participants to come out in the open with the fact that they have a problem, and then bring to light those instances in the past that give you shame—go to the people whom you’ve wronged and own up to it.  It is bringing a life lived in darkness into the light. 

Thomas carried the gospel the furthest and over the largest area.  Much of the world considers him the greatest apostle.  Carried gospel through Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, India.  His first converts carried the faith into China and even Japan by 70ad.  That is the same year the Temple was razed by the Romans, and before the Gospels were all composed. 

Thomas had a career many times more far-reaching than Paul. 



He is the first to address Jesus as “God.” 

Benefit of the doubt is that it engages us in theological thinking.  It deepens and enriches our faith to  IF it is an off limits place, it can get murky and stagnant.  Faith needs to be stirred up, it needs to be flowing and active. 

It needs something to prod it along.  The benefit of the doubt is that doubt and questioning makes a faith vibrant and living.  If you put faith and belief behind a locked door, you may forget to feed it and it will die of starvation and neglect. 

The experience of doubt has for me been the experience of honesty.  It is when I am most honest with myself and others that I feel as though I’m “living in the light.”  And it is when we live in the light that we find ourselves in the presence of Christ—the Light of Lights! 

I usually think of our lives lived as stained glass windows.  We all have our own colors, and God’s light, which is Pure Light, is made up of all our colors.  When we live in the light, we reveal an aspect of God to the world.  I think a reason our tradition and expression of Christianity involves stained glass windows is because of this truth.

When we let the light shine through us, God reveals Himself to the world through us.  A window displays the light, and when we participate in the community of faith through an active belief, we form a wonderful picture of God.

Imagine a person coming in to a church with beautiful stained glass windows only because it is the place where the feel the warmth and beauty and security of the love of God.

St. Jerome, another Church Father, tells us that John constantly repeated one refrain in his old age: "Little children, love one another."

So may we “live in the light,” which includes being open about our doubts and misgivings.  May our doubt activate attention to our faith life.  When we profess our faith, may it seem redundant, due to our lived life,  to the world around us.  As my mom always told me, “Actions Speak Louder than Words.”  

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