Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thomas. Not Doubting, just Thomas.

2 Easter, Year C, 2007
Written by the Revs. Sarah Gordy & Fran Gardner

Poor old Thomas always gets a bad rap. He’s gone down in history as Doubting Thomas, but he’s just like the rest of us would be in that situation. And it’s not like any of his beloved colleagues completely understood the Resurrection and were waiting at the door for Jesus with their hands on their hips, saying, “Well, it’s about time. Where have you been?!?”

No, in fact, Thomas was no different from the other disciples; they saw and then believed. Thomas needed his own experience. It doesn’t make him a “doubter.” The truth of it is – none of us lives in a vacuum.

We’re all shaped by the things that happen to us, the things we participate in. This is profound because it means that we are NOT shaped by other people’s experiences, we’re shaped by our own.

That Thomas returned from wherever he was, and the disciples said, “This things happened to us,” – that’s not enough. We, like Thomas have to have our own experiences.

We can only deeply know, with that sort of knowledge that is in our bones, that knowing that comes from our gut, that knowledge that our hearts can totally embrace – we can only deeply know what we have experienced – somehow, some way experienced to be true ourselves.

You see this everywhere.

You see this in the situation that was SO funny when you were there first hand, experiencing it, and yet – as you try to retell it, recapture it, as you try to describe the experience to someone else – it’s not the same. It’s not as funny. Short of recreating the entire scenario for them, it’s one of those things that requires a lot of understanding based on previous experience, and humor itself is experiential. As they say, “if you have to explain the joke, it’s not funny anymore.”


Experience is the key to relationships as well. Take cousins, for example. I have a number of cousins, but I’m only close to one of them. That is because I’ve only ever had shared experiences with one of them. Now, the others are blood relations, and I’ve inherited a connection to them that few other people in this world are privilege to, but that doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t know them from a hole in the wall – I don’t disike them, mind, but neither do I care particularly. I don’t care, because we don’t hae a relationship together – we never did.

Relationship isn’t something you can compel. You can put yourself in proximity to it. If you want to have a relationship with someone, you spend time with them. If you want to have a relationship with someone, you make yourself available to them, you have fun with them. Bu that’s all about experience. And the surest way to kill a relationship is to cut off the flow of experiences – to neglect the relationship and the person, or thing you’re having a relationship with, be that a friend, or your studies at school, or that new creative inspiration you just had.

Now, bringing it back home, the implications for us, here, now, is that all the sermons in the world, all the stories, all the poetry, all the music only takes us so far. It’s one, or two, or four ways of coming into proximity with God but the rest is up to us. We need to experience God for ourselves, just like Thomas. At some level, for this thing to take, the same things needs to happen to us.

Now, this can happen in a variety of ways, and despite the fact that we need to have experiences as Thomas needed to have an experience, that doesn’t mean ours is going to look exactly like his. Depending on who we are and what we need, our experience of God is going to be different. It could be through the sermon, or the music, or the readings, yes. It could be through the bread and the wine. It could be at prayer, it could be in the eyes of the people we serve, when we get out into the community and help other people. It could be in the eyes of the people who help us, who show us spontaneous love, and when we least suspect it. It could be… anything. But it needs to be something, because we can inherit religion, but we can’t inherit a relationship with God. That, each one of us needs to forge for ourselves. There are relationships that come down through history and land themselves in our laps, but for them to be anything but in name only, that relationship needs to be backed by experience.

And the good news is that God, our Beloved, is ‘here with only a thin membrane between us, and all it takes is a call from our lips, a whisper with no sound, for that veil,’ that thin, veil, to disappear.


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