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Doubting Thomas in 2020

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

April 19, 2020

Easter 2, Year A

John 21

This is one of the gospel readings we read on the same day every single year.  Surprisingly we don’t have many of those.  We read variations on the Christmas story, the resurrection stories, the Passion narratives.  But this story, along with John’s Passion narrative on Good Friday, are the gospels we read each year without fail.  

One of the side effects of this familiarity is that there are some years where I am at a loss on how to make Doubting Thomas come alive.  We’ve just come off Easter, and there’s only so much that one can say about the dynamics of doubt and faith.

In most years.

Then there’s this year.

THIS year, Thomas lands right where we live, doesn’t he?  The image of the disciples huddled together in the upper room, the doors locked for fear of what lurked outside.  Worried and fearful about what the future held.  Wondering what they could believe in, who they could trust.  And then the Risen Christ shows up in their midst.   Just walking through the walls.

Thomas misses this initial appearance, and we aren’t told why.  But it would seem that Thomas has picked up the overall aura of fear and distrust, because when the other disciples tell him that Jesus appeared, he is not on board.  “Look, unless I touch the marks of the nails on his hands, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

It’s also striking this year how much touching there is in this story.  There is a lot of touching.  Also a lot of people getting breathed on.   I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Thomas wants not just to see Jesus, but to touch the physical proof of his suffering and death.  He wants to more than see and believe; he wants to touch, see, and believe.  

And sure enough, the next evening, the disciples are again all together, all sealed off from the outside world, and Jesus appears to them again.  Twice now, and he offers his wounds for Thomas to touch.

—point of connection still available, even as connection in general is shut down (to outside world)

—Jesus shows up for Thomas alone

—Jesus gives us what we need, what ever that is.  Connection?  Accompaniment?  Companionship?  Jesus shows up.  Even in quarantine.  

—It will probably look different than we expect, and there will probably be a weird Jesus-y twist.  

—But Jesus provides for the disciples all of that tangible contact even as they are shut off from contact with the outside.  He provides their point of connection.

—So too with us.  Jesus will provide for us what we need; we just have to ask.  Even for hyper-specific things that we feel incredibly dumb asking for.  Often, with our prayers the problem is less Jesus’ response and more that we have trouble figuring out exactly what we want and asking for it.  And so we go vague “Jesus, I just want what’s best for me.”  ok, but there’s a way in which that request doesn’t build trust.  The reason we ask for things is not to be whiny, but so that we remember that God provides all we have in life, and indeed, our life itself, and to strengthen our relationship with God.  To build that relationship with God.  So, ask for what you need.  Get specific.  “Jesus, I would really like to feel the joy of Easter, even in this lock-down.”  “Jesus, I need a solid 5 minutes of quiet in my house/i need someone to talk to today.” And see what happens.  Watch for Jesus to show up.  Watch for the risen Christ to stroll through some walls.

Christ wants very much to give us what we need, Christ wants for us to feel comfortable enough in our relationship with God to casually make requests for whatever we need, the way we would with a trusted friend we know would help us without a second thought.  And Christ will, most of all, show up no matter what sort of locked room we find ourselves in.  

Amen.

About megancastellan

Episcopal priest, writer, wearer of fancy shoes.

One response »

  1. Nice. I bet a lot of us made the connection with the pandemic! Miss your preaching! Peace, Julia Sent from my iPhone

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    Reply

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