Honest Doubt, Honest Faith

CALL TO WORSHIP: Come let us worship the Lord our God.
He keeps us safe, and gives us all we need.
Our future is in His hands.
He showers us with wonderful gifts.
He will show us the path that leads to life;
His presence fills us with joy and brings us pleasure forever.

Lord, we thank You that we can come close to You without being afraid.  In the life and death of Jesus, You have shown us how much You love us.

You raised Him to new life, life that will last forever, and this shows us that Your love for us will never die. How wonderful it is to come into our homes, knowing that You
love us so much.

Fill our hearts with love for You, and may that love overflow as we worship You, so that our homes will continue to be filled with joy that you bring that no one can take away. Amen 

HYMN 136: MORNING HAS BROKEN-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION

Gracious God, Father of the Lord Jesus,
R: We praise and worship You.
Through Jesus, You have given us a new start, and we can live our lives full of living hope.
Gracious God, Father of the Lord Jesus,
R: We praise and worship You.
You have good things for us in this life; and one day we shall be with You in heaven, in a place that will never be spoiled or damaged.
Gracious God, Father of the Lord Jesus,
R: We praise and worship You.
Because our lives are precious to You, we can be happy and content, even if we sometimes have problems. You know when other people make our lives difficult because we believe in You, and You don’t forget about the times when we stand firm for You.
Gracious God, Father of the Lord Jesus,
R: We praise and worship You.
Through Your Holy Spirit, we can know Jesus and love Him, even though we have never seen Him. We can rejoice and celebrate because You care about us so much, now and always.
Gracious God, Father of the Lord Jesus,
R: We praise and worship You. Amen

TALK FOR ALL - A Word of Peace (John 20:19-31)

Let’s talk about the word “peace.” When you are peaceful you feel relaxed and free from worry.

Where or when do you feel most peaceful? It may be when you are comfortable in your bed, drifting off to sleep. It may be when you sit with a special person and read. It may be when you are running with your friends, or sitting quietly listening to the rain, or lying on your back in the sunshine looking at the clouds.

Before Jesus went to be with God, he appeared to his disciples and three times he said to them,“Peace be to you.” Peace is an important word and an important idea. It is even more important than that; it is something that Jesus offers to each one of us.

Peace is so important that people living all over the world and who speak in different languages have a word for it. Let’s look at some of the words people living in different countries use to say “peace.” (Use globe and locate each country listed as you pronounce and show the children each word. Pick and choose from list below.)

Country

Language

Word

France

French

Paix

Germany

German

Frieden

Israel

Hebrew

Shalom

South Africa

Zulu

Ukuthula

Spain

Spanish

Paz

Netherlands

Dutch

Vrede

China

Mandarin

He Ping

Egypt

Egyptian

Hetep

Denmark

Danish

Fred

Italy

Italian

Pace

Japan

Japanese

Heiwa

Australia

English

Peace

We could list many more examples, but the important thing to remember, however we pronounce the word, is that Jesus gives us the Spirit of Peace. Find times during your busy days to think about God’s Spirit of Peace which is with us always.

HYMN 247: I DANCE IN THE MORNING-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING

SERMON: Honest Doubt, Honest Faith

Today is sometimes called Low Sunday. This term has a perfectly respectable origin. We can think of Easter Day as the start of an octave, a period of eight days that runs through today and thus contains two Sundays. The first of these Sundays is Easter Day, the greatest of all Christian feasts. Today, the other Sunday in the Easter Octave, is by comparison Low Sunday.

But the term has gained another connotation referring to church attendance. Attendance on this Sunday is not as high as on Easter Day. It is by comparison low, hence Low Sunday.

The name I prefer for this Second Sunday of Easter is Thomas Sunday. The Gospel read on this occasion is always the story of how Thomas came to believe in the risen Christ. While this Sunday is sometimes known for its low attendance, so its featured apostle Thomas is frequently dismissed as a doubter, “Doubting Thomas.”

The label is an unfair one. The Gospel we heard this morning recounts a remarkable trajectory, like that of a meteor flashing across the night sky. Thomas moves, in the space of the Easter Octave, from discouragement, disbelief, a wounded heart, and an outcry against the other disciples to a confession of faith in the living Jesus—”My Lord and my God!’—that remains unexcelled throughout the entire New Testament.

Easter Day, which was but a week ago, amounts to a debunking. It revealed as mistaken the view held by many that Jesus was dead and would stay that way. Jesus did not stay dead.

Today, this Second Sunday of Easter, also amounts to a debunking. It reveals as mistaken the view held by many, perhaps once held by Thomas himself, that Thomas was simply unable to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas does not remain dead in his unbelief. He does not remain faithless—if he ever was. He experiences a resurrection of his own.

Often we compartmentalize people, including ourselves.

We designate some as living, others as dead.
Some as good, others as bad.
Some as believers, others as skeptics.

But reality is more complex, more promising. Lives are never static; lives are in motion. What matters is not anything so simple as do you believe or do you doubt. The quality of doubt or belief must be considered.

Belief can be marred. How? By such things as fear, close-mindedness, lack of trust, pride, laziness, and ingratitude. Belief like this is stuck. It can turn toxic. We don’t have to look far to find toxic belief in today’s world, some of it with a Christian label.

Doubt can be marred as well. It can turn out as something less than honest doubt. It also can be marred by such things as fear, close-mindedness, lack of trust, pride, laziness, and ingratitude. Doubt like this is stuck. It can become toxic. In today’s world, among people who call themselves secular, or say they are spiritual and not religious, you don’t have to look far to find dishonest doubt, some of it claiming the authority of reason.

But there can be honest doubt as well. People with honest doubt may, perhaps, want to believe, but struggle at great length with hard questions, hard circumstances. They will not accept a belief unworthy of the troubles of the world. Sometimes the doubter has been hurt, perhaps severely, and honours the reality of the resultant pain. The honest doubter refuses answers that are too easy, that do not recognize the dignity of the questions. In many of us there may be at least some of this honest doubt, this hesitancy to believe, this unwillingness to commit too easily.

Yet the honest doubter is not a closed person. By such a person as this, even doubt can be doubted. So the doubter remains open to belief. This person is available to move from honest doubt to honest faith—perhaps once, perhaps more than once. This person remains open to receiving the gift of faith, and perhaps even open enough not to allow faith to become a fetish.

All of us are on the road. None of us is home yet. Both the close-minded doubter and the close-minded believer are mistaken. All of us still have a distance to travel.

The signs directing us forward are there for us to recognize. They do not appear when we find them convenient, but when it is time for them to direct us.

Thomas moves ahead when it is time for him to do so—eight days after the other disciples saw the risen Lord. Jesus appears among them a second time, radiantly alive, and Thomas is present. Jesus graciously invites Thomas to satisfy his need for proof, to examine the glorious scars and believe.

There’s no evidence that Thomas touches the scars—he may or may not have done so. What’s clear is that he moves ahead in faith. From honest doubt he moves like a meteor to honest faith, a faith open enough to recognize that the man standing in front of him, this man he knows, this once-crucified, once-dead friend, is also his Lord and his God.

Others move ahead in faith for other reasons. Mary Magdalene believes when the risen Lord called her name. The disciples assembled on Easter night believe because they saw Jesus alive; they did not ask to see the wounds.

What’s required for us to move ahead, we who do not see Jesus as any of them did, yet believe, or at least want to believe? We may be motivated by the wondrous complexity and beauty of creation, the witness of other Christians, or an event in life that indicates God is at work. Any of these can lead us from honest doubt to honest faith.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” These blessed ones have come to belief. Jesus does not require perfect faith from the start. What he asks for is an open heart, one not closed to belief, but not closed by belief either. He asks for this open heart so he can lead us, and keep leading us, from honest doubt to honest faith.

HYMN 217: AT THE NAME OF JESUS-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: JENNIFER

HYMN 503: LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING-StF