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Thomas Sunday - 4/19/2015
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In the last few weeks, I saw a small video on Facebook that had got me thinking. It has lingered in my mind, and I wanted to express my feelings toward it. The video was an experiment that was performed on a number of women.
In a number of countries, two doors led into a building, over the one door a sign was placed that read average over the other door a sign that read beautiful. In the study it showed that many of the women ranging from, in my opinion from average to beautiful looking all chose the door that read average over the door.
Our outlook on ourselves is powerful, as well as our outlook on the world is it not?
Now, I would like to do the same experiment for us as Christians. I would like you to imagine two doors before you, one that reads believer the other that reads non-believer and ask yourself which one would I take? Now, before you jump to an answer I want you to reflect on what it means to be a believer. What it means to be a follower of Christ. What it means to pick up the cross and follow his example.
Now let’s take those same doors and place them before some of biblical figures that we have read about. Even though there are many examples that could be used, I have chosen only three.
Let’s us start from the very beginning of the Bible with Adam, and notice I am going to leave Eve out of this. He had before him two choices—the tree of good and evil and the tree of knowledge.
The question that is posed is question of trust. We often think about what the first sin was. Often murder is the first thing that comes to mind with Cain, but really the first sin was disobedience to God. Adam was given everything, and yet he chose the door of the non-believer and was forced to work the land instead of being given everything, and death was introduced into the world. He did not have to follow, literally everyone else that was in the world, he needed to trust God. Even though Eve failed, if Adam would have stood against the choice she made, both of them could have been saved from a life of hardship, as well as all of us.
Then fast forward to King David. Again, he was given everything. He was King of the most powerful army in the world. Our God was with them, and literally no one could have stood before them. But, when he was faced with the two doors of choice, believer or non-believer he chose poorly did he not. After sleeping with Bathsheba, having her husband murdered and then trying to cover it up, David found strife in his world that would never leave him. He suffered greatly for his choice, he could have lost everything. However, he was still called a man after God’s own heart because he repented so quickly, but the choice he made haunted him until he drew his last breath.
Now the third person we read about brings us to the Gospel reading in St. John, Thomas. Thomas was a man that lived with Christ, ate with him, sat with him and witnessed miracles. And when his friend Jesus was crucified, had just seen the sky turn black, felt the earth shake and I guarantee he had heard about the thousand pound vale in the temple splitting it two. He was witness to the most defining moment in history. He was witness to the death of death. He was witness to the downfall of the kingdom of Satan. But, when Jesus appeared to the disciples after he had been resurrected, Thomas was not there. And later when he returned to his fellow disciples and was told of the Lord’s resurrection he said: “Unless I put my fingers in the holes in his hands and place my fingers in his side—I WILL NOT BELIEVE!”
What a powerful statement that Thomas makes here.
Does this not resound true to today? We live life today in a very fast paced society. We want everything and most of the time we are not willing to sacrifice ourselves for it. Let us imagine now the two doors again before us. One says believer the other says non-believer over it. Which one would we pick? I know I have spoken to many people today that tell me, I really don’t know if I believe. The church has hurt me, they church has betrayed me, I am very hurt by this or that.
Now by definition, they are saying the church has hurt me, which is actually completely true—the Church, which is the people, has hurt them. And since people proclaim to be believers, and those people who follow God hurt me, then in turn I am going to turn my back on God!
How exactly does this equation work? God did not do anything to deserve their anger did he?
God did not force this or that person to hurt them. I have heard it many times before—the excuses, the bad attitudes, and the negativity. If God does not work fast enough, or in the time frame that we have set him to, we get negative and get bad attitudes toward everything. I myself am not immune to this behavior. I have had my share of bad attitude and negativity in the past few years. Many people in the church hurt me and I was ready to leave the church and call it quits. But in the end, my love for God kept me looking forward.
How many of us have been an Adam, King David or Thomas? How many of us have not trusted God about our futures? Can we honestly say, without a doubt—I will walk through the door of the believer and still doubt and not trust?
God’s love and generosity knows no bounds. Even though failure is going to happen, God turns evil into good. He finds a way for grace to abound in all things. He gave Adam the choice to follow after him. He gave him the free will to be obedient and to take the path to freedom, but Adam failed. He offered Adam a life free of servitude, free of strife and most of all free of death.
But, instead his choice gave Satan the deed to the world and we suffered with no chance of reward. King David, the lowly shepherd boy was brought into the world of royalty and became King of Israel. And Thomas, even though he was not there to see Christ the first time he appeared to the disciples, was forever used and an example of the pinnacle of doubt. “Thomas you believe because you have seen me—but blessed are they—[us]—that have not seen and still believe.”
Jesus was the deliverer that was promised. He was the one that the prophets had foretold would be coming. He was the one that everyone waited for, and because he took so long to come, many thrived on their ritual and used it as a weapon of condemnation on others instead of showing the grace they were shown. God the Father turned the evil of the crucifixion, the jealousy and hatred of man into something wonderful. God sent his son, so that those who would believe in him would have life ever more.
Can you see the correlation of what has happened, with what is happening now? We are again waiting for our deliverer to come. Unlike Thomas, we must believe in something we cannot see. Or can we? We were given ritual and tradition in our lives to keep our faith strong, but as I said, many times people of the church have a way of turning us away from our faith. We take things at face value instead of seeing what lies ahead of us.
What does Thomas teach us? We constantly take things on faith do we not? When we wake up in the morning and leave our homes, do we not believe that we will be able to return to our homes. When we get married, we believe that we are going to spend the rest of our lives with the person we so deeply love. When we start a business we believe that we will achieve riches for our hard labor. All these things, and more, we take on faith. Do we say: I do not see a happy ending to my marriage, so I am not going to get married? Do we say: Today I am going to get robbed, so I am going to stay home from work?
No, as Christians, I hope that we believe that God is going to bless us. As believers we take on faith that today will not be our last. As believers we take on faith the when we a baptized we begin our journey toward life eternal, when we confess we are forgiven, when we get married that we will find happiness and when we take communion that it is truly the body and blood of Christ.
We need to live everyday as if it were our last. We need to keep our faith on the forefront of our minds. As for the two doors I began this sermon about, the women when given a second chance to walk through the average or beautiful doors, they began to reflect on who they were on the inside. So, they all choose to walk through the door with confidence that they were beautiful.
How about for our door choices, the believer and non-believer doors? What door would you walk though? Will you live according to negativity and not believe that God is God or will you stand with confidence and say, I know who am, my identity is in Christ and I know he can do the unthinkable. I know he can to the remarkable.
Christ conquered death, through his death. If we follow a God that has done this, then should there be any question about whether or not the church will grow and prosper? Should there be any questions about how are we going to pay our next bill? Should there be any question about healings, miracles or wonders. Or has our deliverer lingered to long and had the strife and heartache of this world made us cynical and angry?
We all must choose what door we will take in our lives.
So, let me leave you the words of Joshua updated for us today: And, if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve, whether it be the gods which our fathers served…in the land that we dwell in…or the money we desire…or the world we lust after—but as for me and my house we shall serve the Lord.