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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: doubting Thomas edition

Complete lections here
After all the intensity of Holy Week, it's all too easy to slump into exhaustion as soon as the final alleluias of Sunday fade into silence, but since Easter lasts 50 days that's really not an option, even for clapped out clergy! And of course for many in our churches, the transition from the pain and emptiness of Good Friday to the jubillation of Easter Sunday may just have been too abrupt. So though this coming Sunday is traditionally "Low Sunday", we need to give them an opportunity to share the joy...which, for me, is where Thomas would come in. Late to the celebrations, out of step with the prevailing mood, and, bless the man, needing proof. You have to love him (while being glad that we're not all branded for centuries on account of one aspect of our characters; you can so imagine it..."She's a bit of a panicking Kathryn, you know...")
The whole story is such good news for we who walk by faith rather than knowledge - there's much you could explore there I'm sure.

Or maybe you'll offer your congregation the challenge presented by the Acts community
4:34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. Dare we believe that there might truly be enough to go round, if we really tried to give in the same way that we have received? With many anxious souls in our congregations, that could be really transformative.

You know, I'm almost regretting that I have a Sunday off - do share the direction you're heading...and Happy Easter!


  1. I was struck by the words in Acts "great power...great grace" Acts it is.

    In my denomination it is also Earth Sunday and so I am hoping to weave the power and grace of resurrection and looking towards Pentecost.

    This summer I was in Colorado at the Garden of the Gods. The educational center had a great presentation on how these formations came into existence...the shifting of tectonic plates. My goal, at this point, is to look at how the shifting of tectonic plates (whether that be interior or exterior) makes for some mighty interesting times. And how we use the great power/great grace we crucial.

  2. There's an interesting theory that Thomas was actually John's "beloved disciple" and the reason he wasn't in the upper room that night was because he was ritually impure from being at the crucifixion. We are blessed with a brilliant theologian as an assisting priest in our congregation; he ascribes to this approach and has preached on it several times, much to the congregation's fascination. I toss that out there for anyone looking for something different to think about this week!

  3. I used the Acts PAssage a few weeks back when I preached on stewardship beign about building community not charity.

    This week it is John but not Thomas and his doubts (although there are wonderful sermons there in a denomination that encourages people to ask questions, I sometimes wonder how denominations that don't encourage questioning the faith or the tradition do with Thomas). Instead I was drawn to the wounds. BOth John and Luke make reference to the Risen Christ still bearing the wounds of the cross -- and both make it obvious that in other appearances the wounds are not visible.

    What does it mean to be resurrected but still wounded? ANd really, aren't all of us in that state?

    I think that will become a sermon later this week. Meanwhile I am out of town for 2 days at meetings.

  4. Here is a Thomas sermon if anyone's interested.
    I think Thomas' value (thanks for bringing this up, Gord) for many of us is legitimating the asking of questions, and seeing them not as a lack of faith. I don't think Thomas was looking for anything the others had not already had...and we do him and us a disservice by chiding or condemning him as "Doubting Thomas".
    So anyway, here's my 2 cents, for what it's worth.

  5. After five years of ministry, I've officially reached the "cringe & shudder" point when Easter 2 appears on the horizon.

    But Rolf Jacobson had a great point on the Sermon Brainwave podcast this week. He noted that Thomas isn't the only one who doubts. ALL of John 20 is, in Jacobson's words, "a continuum of confusion."

    Aficionados of alliteration like me leapt for joy at such a phrase.

    I think I'm going with another point made in the podcast - that verse 31 in the John text can be translated multivalently: "These things are written so that you may come/continue to believe..." The story of the Resurrection continues to impact us today, and we are called to continue believing.

  6. I am also leaning towards Acts and focusing this season on community as empowered by the Spirit to reveal the Risen our work together, our speaking, our celebrating, our sorrow...all aspects of our lives in community.

    If I were going with Thomas--and I am sorry I have to choose! -- I would explore a comment I heard in Marcia McFee's podcast for her Worship Design Studio. One of the guests, Rev. Grace Imathiu, pointed out that "the disciples are still trapped in a tomb of their own making", locked up in the upper room; Jesus had to "re-enter" their tomb and coax them out.

    They also talked about the skeptics among us and how this passage (and the others that speak of doubting/not believing) can be helpful for those who are having a hard time with the mystery aspects of faith.

  7. So much from which to choose!!!

    Last year I went with the "locked up" part of the John passage, similar to what RevSis pointed out. I feel so smart! Or maybe I heard it somewhere. :)

    I was really drawn into the Xian Century lectionary piece the connected the wounds and the peace, and then also the passing of the peace in worship. I have been chewing on that since I read it Sunday afternoon.

    But then I've never really delved into Thomas in a sermon that I can remember, although Easter 2 was a regular for me in my last call as an associate pastor. Go figure. Might have to do some digging.

    I, too, feel like Thomas gets a bad deal in popular church history. Taking up his part of the story might move well from what I did on Easter. My take was the silence and fear of the women could have been a sign of their belief and TRUE understanding, instead of disbelief as it so often gets played out. Their fear was because they knew the resurrection meant EVERYTHING changed.

    So, maybe it would be a good move to go from lifting up fear as belief to lifting up doubt as faithfulness - - better said "a questioning faith is a living faith."

    I swear I've preached that before. Time to go look through old ones! It would have been at my previous church, so I'm game for repurposing it if it still works!

    Or back to that wounds and peace stuff. Hmmmm...I think I have more praying and reading to do!

  8. After the darkness of Lent and Good Friday, Easter was marvelous. And since I'm the associate that means I finally get to have my Easter sermon on Bright Sunday. Last year I introduced the concept of "Holy Humor" Sunday, so this year I'm taking it a step farther and I'm going to add some additional celebratory touches to the service. Lively music, Easter eggs in the pews with jokes inside, all adding to the "Risus Paschalis", the Easter laugh. I'm still trying to decide which text to preach on...maybe "making our joy complete" by sharing the good news or "Living in unity" which requires a lot of good humor!

  9. Femystic

    Any chance you could email me with info on Holy Humor Sunday? I'm planning my first one this year...

  10. I am preaching. Of course the Lutheran church here (which has asked me to preach) uses a lectionary of their own.

    The readings are Lk 24:36-49
    and Acts 13:23-33.

    Still Jesus' words 'why are you troubled. Why do doubts rise in your minds'? echo Thomas'

    so there's plenty of scope!

  11. Lots of great ideas and exciting directions-- thanks, everyone!
    For me, the captivating element is Thomas' elemental need for the re-affirmation of embodiment. I don't think of him as a foolish "doubter" at all, but rather another example of those who, in their challenge, help Jesus step more fully into his own vocational identity. Thomas speaks aloud the basic human need for reassurance that God is "there for us." In his interaction, he becomes a prism to focus and spread/scatter the ultimate truth of the incarnation.

    My reading of John & Acts this week is coloured by the book I'm reading: Parker & Brock's "Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire." I'm only a little ways into part two--it's a weighty tome and dense with challenging information--but I'm so excited by my new understanding of the vibrant, creative life of the Ancient Church! There was an enthusiastic embrace of sensory experience as an avenue to spiritual awakening. This ties in wonderfully with both the Acts passage and the story of Thomas. Juicy, earthy stuff!

  12. I'm with RevScott. Six years as an associate, plus intern years, means I have preached on poor Thomas way too many times. It's not that I can't find anything to say, it's just that I'm bored with him. And when I'm bored, that comes out in the sermon.

    Having said that, i think I'm focusing on the double "peace be with you." SheRev--where is that Christian Century piece you're describing? That sounds like it would be helpful.

    Still trying to recharge after last week...

  13. esperanza - - It's in the magazine itself, so probably not on the website. It's in the April 7 issue in the Living by the Word article, p. 19. I just pulled it out to read again to see if anything jumps at me.

  14. I too have been motivated by the Christian Century piece. I am thinking about how we are all the walking wounded and our experiance of God's grace doesn't take away the pain in our past any more than the resurrection took away Christ's wounds.

  15. I'm looking at the idea that the community of faith (the Body of Christ) is the proof that those who are seeking or dealing with unbelief need. If seeing is believing, then what do they see? Are we living out our lives as an act of worship, so that no matter where we are seen, we are indeed the Body? Are we living Resurrection lives- wounded by sin, but brought back to glorious life?


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