April 19, 2015 Easter 3, Year B, 2015 Br. Kevin Colum, A. F.
In the name of our Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen.
How many of you have ever doubted that it’s going to be ok? To some degree, that’s a pretty common
experience I think. Sometimes it’s little doubts and sometimes it is downright despair. We live in a broken world and it seems like a casual watching of the evening news provides us enough to worry about daily. Some of you can remember significant events of the past that were points of great doubt, September 11th, 2001, or perhaps November 22nd, 1963, or even for some of you December 7th, 1941.
These were all days, events, which gave us great doubt, disorientation, perhaps fear, and maybe even despair. We can only begin to imagine how the disciples felt, following Luke’s narrative today in our Gospel lesson, as they gathered to discuss what had happened to their Jesus, to the Messiah who was to bring forth a new Kingdom. Someone they had believed in, and now, crucified. Laid in a tomb. Their world must have been shattered. As they gather they are bound together by a common feeling of doubt. There were only whispers beginning to be heard about an empty tomb. The women had found it empty, Peter had gone to look for himself, and then there were the two who were on the road to Emmaus encountering the Risen Lord. Those two ran straight to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples gathered there.
As those two are recounting their experience, Christ appears amongst the group and quiet simple offers them the Peace. Peace be with you he says. And they were terrified. I mean, I understand where the disciples are coming from here. They’re probably already a bit on edge hearing these stories, and then there he is. The Messiah. The one they thought they had lost, standing in their midst. And in what I have to imagine was a deafening silence, he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ It surpasses my ability to fathom the emotional rollercoaster that the disciple’s hearts and minds have to deal with at this time. They were terrified.
In this moment of confusion, terror, Jesus asks them two incredibly important questions. The first, Why are you frightened? And the second, Why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Why ARE we frightened? Why DO doubts arise in our hearts?
Is it simply our nature to doubt? To be frightened of those things that make us despair? We have the benefit of a couple thousand years of tradition, theology, belief, and faith practice to remind us that we are a Resurrection people. We know where the story ends for the disciples, for the Gospel narrative. We know our Christ is triumphant, is ascended. We know our Lord is Risen! We have faith that God is with us, is watching over us, some of us can say that God may have laid a path for us to follow, and ultimately we should never be frightened because we know in the end, it will be all right. Brazilian author Fernando Sabino gives us the ever popular saying, “In the end, everything will be ok. If it’s not ok, it’s not yet the end.” We are given a promise from Christ, the same one he gave to the disciples. And yet we doubt anyway. We fear, especially the unknowns. The parts of life we can’t control, or the outcomes that can be contrary to our plans. Instead of trusting God; having faith that everything will work out for us in the end.
Last week we heard of Doubting Thomas, and Mother Nancy preached a great sermon where she told us that we shouldn’t be ashamed of doubt. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is the sister of faith and living with our doubts can bring us to question, to reflect, to imagine and to wonder. All of these are necessary for faith to take hold in our hearts and grow. And I think she’s right. Doubting is not inherently bad, but where we fail is allowing doubt to remove our trust in God. Allowing our doubt to cloud our minds fully and letting despair grow, fester, blossom until we lose sight of our path.
Last Friday I was fired from my job. A very comfortable corporate job that I have held for the last 7 years. Now, I volunteered for it, because they were reducing head count, and this allows me to leave with a severance package that is admittedly very nice. I volunteered because I am leaving for Berkeley in August to begin seminary as a postulant for priesthood. Leaving behind a livable corporate position where I am well liked, where management has given me an open road to build a career, leaving to go back to school (it’s been about 10 years since I’ve been a student) and pursue a vocation, a life, where jobs are few and the pay is, well, not quite the corporate standard. I. Am. Terrified. I have my doubts; I am not ashamed to say it. I have fears. But. I also have faith, I have hope, I have the Resurrection to guide me. I lay my doubts, fears, and worries into the loving hands of God. There was a moment, as I was going through the discernment process, trying to figure out how in the world I would get the finances to enter seminary debt free, and also to pay the rather large expense of seminary itself. I still remember that moment when I shrugged my shoulders, lifted my eyes to the heavens and said, “Alright God, if you’re calling me to this, you better figure out how I’m going to afford it.” Last Friday I was able to be fired from my job with a severance package. I’ve recently been notified that I was awarded a full tuition scholarship for all three years from the seminary. When we get out of the way; when we let God take the wheel as it were, it will all be ok. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.
What we do with our doubt is what matters most. In John’s first epistle today we are reminded that we should be called the children of God. As children we doubt, but we are to have that trust, that newness of vision. When something comes up in life, whether big or small, we are not to immediately begin doubting, begin worrying, wringing our hands over the details and the ‘hows’. Which, trust me, as a planner, as someone who’s only clear indicator on the Meyers-Briggs is the ‘J’ or Judging, that’s not easy. I know it’s not easy. I plan for every outcome so that I know how to respond when it occurs. It’s a wonder I was never involved in the Boy Scouts, it seems like my motto is ‘be prepared’. It’s been a steep learning curve, to let go and let God. To know that there are practicalities and I will work on those, but God has the bigger picture, and I will let go of trying to be the best at lining up all the dominoes. I strive to trust, like a child, that God will provide, that everything will be ok, that Christ is Risen and we have no fear of what is to come.
In this celebratory Easter season, when we are rejoicing in the resurrection, our lessons have so far focused in on the doubt that many have had. Not even the disciples were able to push it out of their minds. I’m not telling you not to always strive to improve life, I’m not saying to stop trying to better those things in this world which keep it from becoming the Kingdom of God. It is our work to strive, to better, to seek continually the Kingdom. But we must do so with the ever present trust and faith in God, in the Risen Christ, that what we have been told will be, truly will. Be.
I think the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of our Psalm today ends best, “Safe and sound, I lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, keep me secure.