Sunday, April 19, 2009
I didn’t preach this morning. I am still in TX following my mother’s funeral so I was ready to hear a sermon and be ministered to by the sacraments. It is always good to hear a sermon from someone else. And the story of Doubting Thomas had good points for me to hear.
All too often I preach on how important doubt is to the faith process. I preach this because it was important in my journey of faith. But I have been assailed with all kinds of questions this week by friends and family.
The southern culture has a religious component to it that demands a rather mindless sense of faith. It also contains an idea of the afterlife that is tiresome for me—“well, your mother is in a far better place.” Your mother is just up there looking down on you… or “Your mama is up there with your daddy…” etc. So I was surprised when an old friend—a 90 year old friend at that, said “Do you really think your mother and father are together up there? I don’t.” Now, I have known this friend for 60 years and my first response was to think “Oh, God, I hope they aren’t together for the sake of Heaven!”
But Ruth’s doubt needed to be answered. “No, I don’t think they are up there. I have no idea what heaven is like and neither does any body else. I am not sure that there is a heaven either. But one thing I am certain of is that the God I know and who loves me will make whatever is next good. I trust in that. My mother didn’t believe in the southern religious culture either. She said “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” What she meant by that is that she did not believe in popular religion’s portrayal of heaven. I do believe that my mother is REALLY surprised these days, though. I do not know by what or how. But I trust that she is where there is no sighing or crying and she knows that she is loved.
Doubt needs to be addressed. Thomas addressed his doubt. He checked out what he could and couldn’t believe with his experience of Jesus. Do I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? I don’t know that either. But I do know that I am content with the metaphor of Christ’s resurrection to sustain me in my grief and my joy in my mother’s death. I can test my faith against the God of history and the God of always to know that I am loved and will be loved for as long as is necessary.
So I thank Thomas for his doubts, for the temerity to allow his doubts to be known without fear and the ability to come to that confession of faith that led him to embrace the Risen Christ. I am grateful to my friend Ruth and the boldness of her question. And I am overwhelmed with the love that God has had for me and my mother all these years. That’s all that is important. Alleluia, He is Risen. The Lord has risen, indeed. Alleluia!