A Strange New World


“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” – John 20:25b NRSV

The words of Thomas come up in the lectionary every single year on this, the second Sunday of Easter.  Every year we get the tale of “Doubting Thomas,” and perhaps the most regularly preached sermon as it relates to this particular scripture is a sermon about doubt as intrinsic to having a life of faith.  It is preached countless times – not to fear having doubts in your own faith life but to embrace those moments as moments of calling you deeper into your own life of faith as you walk your journey of discipleship.  While I do not discount the validity of the message, I do question if it is the best way for us to move forward in the contemporary era, and I question it as a way forward because that line of thought assumes a comfortableness with the Easter story – something that I think is, perhaps, deadening to our growth as disciples of Christ.

The interesting thing about the way that Easter is preached in the modern era is that we understand it first as a story of consolation.  We enter into it with a sort of jubilant expectation.  The story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection should be completely startling to us.  It should be a story that, when told, invokes a sense of fear of a certain sort.  It is the sort of fear that happens when our current systems of language, of processing the material world, of being able to understand what is taking place in front of us fail.  The ways that we have, as creatures, to cope with the reality in front of us are short circuited, and we are left speechless because the information is too incredible, too impossible to be true.  The fear that the story might create in us is the same fear of which Paul speaks when he admonishes us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  In other words, the fear will seize us for a moment until we are able to come to the realization that God has taken the ultimate action for the salvation of creation by virtue of the nature of God’s self. Continue reading

Leaning into the Uncomfortable

You know, we Episcopalians tend to be a fairly ordered group of people. For example, how many of you sit in, approximately, the same spot week in and week out? I know that I always had “my pew” that I sat in every single Sunday unless I was serving at the altar. It was my place in the congregation, and I expected to sit in that place. I left little to chance when I was going to church. I always got to church early enough to secure my spot and to settle into my pew before worship began. And like many of you, I appreciate being able to go to just about any Episcopal Church in the nation and immediately recognize the form of worship and the prayers being used. I like having the comfort of the prayer book and being able to turn to the well-worn pages towards the center.

Yes, we Episcopalians are ordered people, and we tend to like things in measured ways. We are less likely to shout out an “Amen!” in the middle of a sermon being preached or while a prayer is being offered. Obviously, we will wait for the appropriate time – that is – until the end of the prayer or sermon to utter our “Amens” just barely above a whisper but enough to be heard. It is our way, and if I am being honest, it is something that I absolutely love about our church. It brings me a great sense of comfort to know that I will be able to easily recognize worship no matter what parish I attend – although there are some exceptions to that rule EVEN in The Episcopal Church. Continue reading