Trusting a response will come. Demanding it? Associate Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, Cameron B.R. Howard, wrote a thought provoking reflection “Demanding that God Show Up”. It sparked in me a new way to view our friend Jesus’ disciple Thomas' faith. Faith can be expressed in many ways. Remember two weeks ago when Thomas said “Let us go that we may die with him” (John 11:16) before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This same Thomas. Thomas who faithfully followed Jesus into Jerusalem. Thomas there at the Last Supper. Thomas who then gets defined by just one moment and attached to his name is “doubting”. This week let’s take a look at Thomas from another angle. We can reflect upon how faith and trust in God can take many forms.
Years ago, when I was taking a course in Couple’s Therapy, the trainer spoke of how it wasn’t — anger, fear, frustration, doubts, anxieties ….. it was along list of emotions and responses to distress in a relationship — that would indicate that this relationship was unlikely to survive the distress/disconnect/challenge in a relationship. It was apathy. Disregard, unwillingness to invest or engage, a lack of interest, - checking out- this was what would most likely- determine if the relationship would survive. It was not the anger, despair, fear, frustration- those we could engage with- it was apathy-which signaled the likelihood that this relationship would not endure.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is noted for sharing the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). It has over time been supplemented to include a first stage of Shock and between depression and acceptance the addition of a stage trust.
The 7 stages of Grief are:
Reading the post-resurrection accounts of Jesus’ followers we can view the variety of emotions and the varying stages of grief. Deep grief comes from deep love.
As we live in a time of COVID19, social distancing and self-quarantine, collectively we are experiencing grief. Looking at Thomas’ response as a grief response sheds a different light upon this well known scripture. Thomas' faith response looks different than that of the others. Every year on this week following Easter we read John 20:19-31. Every year we hear the description of “doubting” inserted with Thomas’ name. This year consider how Thomas’ care and connection with Jesus lead him to deep distress and anger, frustration and fear and ultimately creates for us a role-model of how faith can take on many forms.
Thomas wasn’t there the first time the Resurrected Christ appears. Thomas didn’t run to the tomb. Thomas didn’t hear an angel or angels proclaim that the one they are seeking was no longer there. Yet his anger, his doubt, his fear, his demand to see the Risen Christ with his own eyes resulted in his own experience of Jesus. He believed and trusted Jesus would respond. He asked and he received. He risked to share doubts and fears, frustrations and despair and Jesus showed up. Jesus can take it- all of it. Shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, trust, and acceptance- these stages don’t necessarily go in order nor do they go away even with time. Jesus shows up for Thomas in this vast array of emotions and his fear-filled frustration.
Faith takes many forms. During this season of Easter we will be reading the appointed Psalm in worship each week. We will be listening for and looking for signs of the Risen Christ, Resurrection, new life. The Book of Psalms also called the Psalter contains 150 prayers, songs, liturgies and poems. It includes:
Prayers for help, Hymns of praise, Liturgies, Instructional psalms, Songs of thanksgiving, Royal psalms, Trust psalms, Acrostic poems, Festival psalms and Historical psalms
This weekend we will read Psalm 16- a Trust psalm. In the pleas and cries, in the laments and rejoicing, in the questioning of and seeking for God, the Psalms show how faith takes many forms. It it shouts of praise, cries of despair, questions of God's power and presence, pleas for help, songs of celebration. Faith takes many forms.
One aspect of a “community” of faith is that we get to share our faith with one another and our doubts. We get to share how we are navigating the challenges and share the ways Jesus is being revealed to us. We get to be in this together, even as we are behind closed doors. The Risen Christ is showing up, coming through doors closed for fear, doors closed for safety, doors closed for protection of ourselves and our neighbors.
As we seek new ways to be a connected faith community in this time of Social Distancing my plea is that you will be gracious in allowing your faith to take many forms. Allow for the anger and the fear, the frustration and the disbelief. As we re-orient to a new way of life God is with us. God can take all of our emotions, all of the stages of grief. Jesus comes through every locked door. Even as so much seems to have changed and is so different -God’s steadfast love for us remains.
We have some new programming we are launching this coming week. Love, Serve, Grow Wednesdays will allow for a mid-week re-boot. For faith take on some new forms and practices. We will celebrate Holy Communion every Wednesday evening at 7pm on Zoom and provide a variety of ways for all ages to be connected before our mid-week worship. Keep an eye out for more information.
We also get to continue to grow in our faith. On Tuesdays at 10am we have a group who practice Contemplative Prayer. Quieting the mind and opening the heart are invitations to let in the Peace of Christ. The Centering Prayer app introduced me to this prayer. I invite you to offer up this prayer each day this week.
A prayer by Rev. Dr. Peter Traban Haas
Trusted Source of Security, I wish for total freedom from all forms of destructive fear. In its place, lead me into the freedom of surrender. You hold me while I grow, and in this confidence I release anxieties about my life - it’s survival and success and trust you with my unfolding story. Amen
Here is a link to the story of Rev. Dr. Peter Traban Haas and his journey with Contemplative Prayer.
Rev. Haas speaks of "Resting in the Love of God" that resonated with me especially for a time like this. This week may you find some peace and rest in the love of Jesus whose love for you knows no bounds. Faith takes many forms and we trust our faith to be a gift from God.
p.s. there is a music video link in the photo of this blog post- we will be singing that hymn during our Zoom worship services this weekend Saturday at 5pm, Sunday at 8am and 10:30am. No matter where you are in your faith journey I hope you will join us for worship.