Those church groups which adhere to the Revised Common Lectionary always have the same Gospel lesson for the Sunday after Easter, now over a week ago.
The lesson is John 20:19-31, the story of Doubting Thomas, as this honest and forthright disciple has been dubbed. This is the story that takes place on the evening of the first Easter Day, when the disciples are gathered together fearfully. The risen Christ appears among them and shows them his wounds and reassures them.
Thomas was not present that evening and refuses to believe the accounts of his fellow disciples, stating that he would need to see the risen Lord himself before he could believe.
The next Sunday evening, Thomas is with the others, and Christ again appears. Thomas confesses his faith: “My Lord and my God,” he dramatically declares.
That pairing of the joyful news of resurrection with the struggle to believe and accept the resurrection so shortly thereafter is certainly appropriate in the lives of most believers. “Faith attracts doubt," one of my seminary professors used to say.
And most of us know all too well what it means to move between faith and doubt, particularly in times like those in which we are living now. I believe there’s no reason to feel badly about that; doubt is really a part of faith, the part where we work through struggles and issues that deepen our beliefs and understanding. Thomas, throughout the Gospels, is shown to be blunt, courageous and practical. In this text, he helps all of us voice our doubts and affirm our faith when God shows up.
Because God does show up! The very night of the first Easter, Christ comes into the locked room where the disciples are huddling together in fear for their lives. We may find some ironic parallels between their situation and ours. We are also staying behind doors, locked or not, and have some fear of what lies beyond those doors — in our case, possible contagion of COVID-19. We can easily understand what it means to see an uncertain and even alarming future.
But in spite of the locked doors on that first Easter, God — in Christ — shows up.
First, for all the disciples gathered that first Easter evening, and then specifically for Thomas the following Sunday evening, since Thomas had missed the first appearance of the risen Christ. God shows up! A stone-covered tomb couldn’t prevent the risen Christ from leaving, and locked doors can’t prevent the risen Christ from entering. Certainly this is good news for us, as we sit in our homes, waiting and wondering! However our future unfolds, we can trust that God shows up!
And there is more good news. Along with meeting the disciples where they are at — as he does for us, too — Christ gifts them with an invaluable treasure: Peace. Three times within John 20:19-31, he says, “Peace be with you.”
The seven-week season of Easter, of all the weeks and seasons within the church year, is marked by a sense of deep peace. The peace that comes from knowing God shows up in our closed rooms and homes and gives us what we need to overcome our doubts.
All of us need the peace of Christ right now, and it is gifted to us by God. Each of us might imagine ourselves sheltering behind closed doors, experiencing the presence of the risen Christ and receiving his gift to us. Peace be with you.
“On Faith” is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.