The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Conjoined twins: faith and doubt (Readings for March 30, 2008)

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CarvaggioWhen Jesus appears to the disciples, that first Sunday eve of the resurrection, Thomas is not around. Later, hearing the story, Thomas is skeptical, refusing to accept the possibility without direct evidence—including, he insists, a DWE [“Digital Wound Exam“—you may not get that unless you’re a middle-aged male].

A week later, Jesus suddenly appears through the locked doors. I wonder if Thomas, remembering his reluctance, thinks “Eeyow!” and slips to the back of the group. But Jesus looks past the crowd into Thomas’ eyes, and says, essentially, “Here you go. Check me out. I’ll be your lab rat, if that’s what it really takes.”

It’s a moving story, to me. Jesus’ rebuke to Thomas is pretty light, and he merely offers a “blessed are they” (rather than a rebuke) to people like us who “believe without seeing.”

Isn’t doubt what makes faith, faith? This machine on which I type – its reality (at least to my western mind) is beyond question. No faith needed there. But our memories, our ethics, our conviction of what is or is not real beyond that which we see … are not those things that we choose to trust? I wonder if every atheist’s credo (or a-credo) is a little bit faithey. And if every Christian—dare we admit it?— is yet part agnostic.

We believe—God knows, we’ve seen plenty—but there are times when all that has seemed so clear is again hard to grasp.  And in those times, the resurrected Jesus does not condemn, but beckons.

Thank God.

Second Sunday of Easter March 30, 2008
John 20:19-31; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16

John 20:19-31
To Believe
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!” Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Peter 1:3-9
A New Life
3-5What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Peter Speaks Up
14That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: […]
22-28″Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.

29-36″Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—’no trip to Hades, no stench of death.’ This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 16
A David Song
1-2 Keep me safe, O God, I’ve run for dear life to you.
I say to God, “Be my Lord!”
Without you, nothing makes sense.

3 And these God-chosen lives all around—
what splendid friends they make!

4 Don’t just go shopping for a god.
Gods are not for sale.
I swear I’ll never treat god-names
like brand-names.

5-6 My choice is you, God, first and only.
And now I find I’m your choice!
You set me up with a house and yard.
And then you made me your heir!

7-8 The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake
is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I’ll stick with God;
I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.

9-10 I’m happy from the inside out,
and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
that’s not my destination!

11 Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I’m on the right way.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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Written by Monte

March 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

2 Responses

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  1. really enjoyed reading these pieces. will use these in my studies as i m training to be a minister

    Monte says: Thanks very much, Anne! Glad you could use it.
    By the way, one of my friends here in SE Iowa is a woman by the name of Ann Williams! Best wishes for your studies!

    very interesting reading

    September 11, 2008 at 9:51 am

  2. “We believe—God knows, we’ve seen plenty—but there are times when all that has seemed so clear is again hard to grasp. And in those times, the resurrected Jesus does not condemn, but beckons.”
    Even in the 21st century, when we doubt and are unsure Jesus supplies His Presence. We find clarity and surety in Jesus. Perhaps he rebuked Thomas, but it seems he blessed him more loudly by showing up and meeting his need for the truth. I rejoice that He is faithful when I am not and does not condemn me in my frail doubt.

    Monte Says: You’re talking my language, maryanstro – thank you! His lack of condemnation is ever heart-warming, you’re so right.

    maryanstro

    March 28, 2008 at 2:31 pm


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