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Full Pistis

2 Easter

24 Apr 2022



When a label is applied, it is hard to remove. How would you like to be remembered as Thomas, the one who doubted, the one we do not want to imitate? If I were Thomas, I would be very irritated. Thomas was the one who rallied the disciples to go back to Judea after Lazarus had died. Remember? He was so loyal to Jesus he was willing to risk his life and head to an area where there was a price of Jesus’ head. Thomas, by the way, is also (with some credence) thought to have gone to India and established a church there which persisted, or better put persists, into modern times.

What Thomas exhibited was not doubt, but rather trust. You heard me: trust. You see, the Greek in which the New Testament was written was not and is not English. “Pist” has multiple English equivalents; perhaps trust rather than “belief” is closer to what Thomas needed.

The women, or perhaps just Mary Magdalene, had found the tomb empty and been the first witnesses to the resurrection. Yet it seems that everyone who had been a follower of Jesus was in hiding; fear is an enormously powerful master. The disciples remained hidden behind locked doors; they were afraid of those who had killed their teacher. It is easy enough to be fearful that your own life would be taken. It makes all sorts of beliefs and assumptions fall by the wayside. It seems that no one, save the Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus, thought that this was indeed God’s son and that there was Good News. No, they were hidden behind locked doors. Despite what had transpired that morning, they were afraid of the authorities. You huddle somewhere, keep the door locked, and occasionally give a quick glance outside. What did they think had happened? What did they think might happen? Were the women there with them? I would like to think they had gone elsewhere; but, despite their witness, they may have been afraid as well.

Then Jesus showed up and dissolved some of their fears. I don’t say all; for humans will always be afraid; it is what we do despite our fears, it is trust that carries the day. To say you believe is to use your brain; to say you trust is to use your gut. It was not their brains that needed convincing; it was their gut. You need trust to accomplish anything worthwhile. I can remember playing a trust game where you would stand in a circle, and someone would be blindfolded and then told to fall backward, and your companions would catch you. Believing that they would catch you didn’t help; you had to trust them. I may believe someone I do not like; but I will never fully trust them. And it is trust that opens doors, that builds relationships. I do not believe in the Bible as literal truth; but I do trust in the deeper truths. I remain uncertain as to what I believe about the life and death of Jesus, but I trust in him completely. As a doctor, I knew that scientific facts about a disorder and recommended therapies were not what drove people to follow a plan of treatment; it was their trust in me and, in this case, themselves.

So Jesus walks into this room and he does not say, “Hey, look, its me and I am alive so you can believe now!!” Rather, he says, “Peace be with you.” He desires their trust, not a statement of belief. And the trust is reciprocal. He then breathes the Holy Spirit on them; he trusts them to spread the Word!!

Next week, Thomas is with them. He is skeptical; but more importantly he is not ready to trust. Change the dialogue just a bit: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t trust.” And then Jesus responds, “No more mistrust. Trust!”

I want to follow Jesus with my entire being; trust allows me to do that; belief only pulls in a part of me. We don’t have the risen Jesus the way the disciples did, obviously, so trust must come not with a direct encounter with the resurrected Jesus, but through our experiences in worship, mediation, and prayer, and sometimes through a true religious experience unique to us; our own theophany. We can because of those experiences assent to Jesus as Saviour, but until we do so with our full being (heart and body as well as mind), for which I am using the word trust, we remain incomplete disciples.

Peter and the other apostles were preaching and teaching Jesus all over Palestine and getting themselves in a hot mess because of it. Jesus was the Savior of the world, not Caesar. They healed, they spread the good news, they shared their goods, and they preached a radical equality unlike anything anyone could remember. Did they do so based on intellectual assent to belief, or because they trusted in Jesus? How often has your heart leapt for joy when you recited the Nicene Creed, one of the foundational statements of our beliefs? At the time it was forged, in blood and tears I might add, a fixed set of beliefs was the goal. We all need to think and “believe” the same. Trust was not part of the equation. The history of the Christianity has shown that uniformity of belief is an elusive, in fact impossible, goal.

It is not until we restore trust that we will reach the full potential of our faith. Mystics understand this. Jesus understood it more fully than any human; his trust in his Father is what sustained him through the horror of death on a cross.

You have, I hope, decided to put your trust in Jesus. As a community of faith, we do not have to believe the same way. We do not need to believe the same things. What binds us together is our trust in what Jesus taught us. I trust in Love; I trust in a God who holds the smallest and weakest with the same, if not more, devotion as the strongest.

Let every living thing praise the Lord!

Amen


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