The gospel reading this week provides the closing "bookend" to the "octave" of Easter and to the story of Thomas. As Delmer Chilton wrote, "Thomas was not so much a doubter as he was an empiricist; that is, he is something of a 'scientific man.' Thomas was looking for empirical data, facts, hard and sure evidence, measurable and quantifiable upon which he could base his decision as to whether or not to believe in Jesus' resurrection. In this, he is no different than most of us are about most things, most of the time."
How, then, do we talk about "faith in a believable way to those who don't believe" in a culture that "has separated fact from faith" and that has "relegated religiosity to the category of taste or personal preference"?
Chilton answers this question: "Contrary to both science and traditional wisdom, seeing is not always believing. Something besides an informed, reasonable decision is going on here. Some who saw the risen Christ still doubted [Matthew 20.17], while others, who have never seen him believe fervently."
"Our problem is not a lack of information...our hesitancy is more a product of what we do know than what we don't know. We know that to commit our life to Christ is to commit ourselves to following Christ and the gospel wherever it might lead...We know that the one calling us [was] crucified... executed in the cruelest way possible. We know that the one calling us revealed himself by showing his wounds and suffering for the world and that we will be called upon to show our love for the world by being wounded and suffering for those whom the world has hurt and rejected. We know what it means to believe in Jesus, and our hesitancy to believe may be rooted in our hesitancy to risk taking up that cross...Do we consider the joys of following Christ worth the risk?"
Perhaps, as Taylor Burton-Edwards suggests, it is time to turn the tables on the question of our hesitancy and doubt. If we do consider the joys of following Christ worth the risk--even with our doubts, then "How might we act like Jesus in this story, going out of our way to offer ourselves and our witness to those who doubt?"
From Delmer Chilton, "Serving the Word" and Taylor Burton-Edwards, "Welcoming the Word" in Homily Service, 41.2 (2008): 119-121. Chilton is currently pastor of Holy Family Lutheran Church in Highlands, North Carolina. Burton-Edwards is director of worship resources with the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.