Do you believe in something you cannot prove? This was a question posed to listeners on National Public Radio, a few days ago. As callers phoned in they told their stories of belief. One woman said she absolutely blieved in the emotional connection between her cat and herself. When she was ill her pet appeared to sense that and would lie next to her, comforting her. When feeling emotionally distraught or lonely the cat would curl up in her lap and as she stroked the animal she relaxed and her personal world settled into place again.
Anther caller said she believed she had some kind of unusual power that caused street lights to go out as she approached. This person worked late shifts and it was usually dark as she walked home. Time and time again just as she came near to a street light it would suddenly go dark. It happened so often she came to believe that she actually was the cause of this unusual phenomenon.
A young mother spoke of the time their infant son was in the Critical Care unit following surgery and he was not doing well. A nurse asked her if she had faith. Her reply was No, I don't believe in a God or a higher power who decides whether my son will live or die. The baby required a second surgery and medical expenses became a serious concern. A group of friends organized a fundraising dinner and auction. During that evening there were overwhelming gestures of generosity and support for this young family. The outpouring of love shown to them touched them deeply, uplifted their spirits and gave courage through the long days of their son's convalescence. The little boy is now 2 years old and able to lead a normal life. The mother said she would now answer that question differently.
The conversations continued and ten this same question was asked of a scientist. Do you believe in something that canno be proven? He said, "Yes." His answer surprised the talk show host and she replied, "But you're a scientist!" "Yes, I am a scientist and I do believe in things I cannot prove. I believe there is a huge body of human existence that is beyond more than what we can ever know, understand or prove."
Our Christian faith is based on a truth which we cannot prove. In one of Paul's letters to the early church he seaks of the foolishness of the message of the cross. He says, "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." The scriptural stories of the crucification don't explain the event but do reort what was witnessed at that time.
The four Gospel stories agree on the essential elements: Jesus died on the cross, his body, wrapped in linen was placed in a tomb. The tomb was sealed with a large stone. The following morning women came to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Jesus made several post resurrection appearances to the women and the other disciples.
Where do we find the disciples in today's Gospel reading? Scripture says it is now the evening on that day, the very day when the tomb was found empty. Helplessly they huddle together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. What will happen next; will we meet the same fate as Jesus? Their faith in Jesus is shattered, their mission as disciples is finished. It's all over. Suddenly Jesus appears right there beside them, he comes to them, speaks to them, "Peace be with you." Then he breathes on them the Holy Spirit. But Thomas was not with them and when he heard what had happened he said, "Unless I see the marks of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." Easter had not happened for Thomas as it had happened to the others. He wanted to see and touch Jesus for himself. He wasn't asking for anything the others hadn't already experienced.
Then a week later, Thomas got what he asked for. Jesus came again, and this time Thomas was present. In response, Thomas made a profound confession of faith, "My Lord and my God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Jesus is not going to do for us what he did fo Thomas seven days after the first Easter. If you and I are going to believe we will have to do so without actually seeing and touching Him. Jesus didn't condemn Thomas for doubting, he merely said, "Do not doubt but believe." Even Jesus had doubts. On the cross he cried out, " Father, why have you forsaken me?" Faith is not the absence of doubt, it is overcoming doubt. Questioning and seeking can help to deepen faith.
One week later, where are we in our journey of faith? What is the evidence on which we anchor our faith in the resurrected Christ? In what do we believe but cannot prove?
Last Sunday the pews were nearly filled, the church wa decked in its finest with spring flowers and white brocade altar hangings. There was overflowing joy in Jenna's baptism as we participated with her and her family as he became the newest member of our church family, a beloved child of God. Alleluias rang out as we welcomed the new light of Christ coming among us again.
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to belief." We have the evidence of the eyewitness accounts of those that did indeed see. We have the tradition of the church and creeds as our Statement of Faith. And we have the powerful stories of those first disciples, those same disciples who were most often bewildered at Jesus' teachings and failed to see the significance in his miraculous acts. Look at them now as they came together and believed with one heart and soul. "With great power the disciples gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all," the book of Acts tells us.
They practiced resurrection. In the power of the Holy Spirit they were sent out to do the work Jesus gave them to do. The early church leapt into existence when those first disciples realized they had an unbroken connection to Jesus Christ. Enlivened by the connection they began living in their world with such passion, love, and grace that the only possible explanation was the presence and power of the risen Christ.
In the book of Acts we find this remarkable description of their life together: "Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all."
The early church was a vivid demonstration of the new life in Christ. They were living in the resurrection.
How do we practice resurrection? As we gather together, break the bread, tell the stories, sing our songs, pray our prayers, bear witness to the good news, care for those in need, struggle for justice, and seek peace, let us discover anew that Jesus is alive among us and that great grace is upon us all. It is in the simple and ordinary practices of the church that Jesus becomes real to us and to the world.
Let us live in a way that shows forth the evidence for the truth of Easter. Let us be signs of new life made possible through the gift of the risen Christ. Let each and every one of us practice resurrection.