Doubt, Faith and Honest Thomas

Doubt is not the opposite of faith, that is certainty.  In a world where everything is governed by what is certain, there is no room for faith.  But that’s not the world we live in.  I remember upsetting someone at a youth group suggesting that those who did not have any doubts about their faith whatsoever were really kidding themselves and if they would want to grow in faith then a good deal of doubting would suit them down to the ground. Oh!  Much like the child with their fingers in their ears and their face screwed up into a ball yelling la la la la la I can’t hear you – actually I think a few adults might behave like this as well.  We remember Thomas today, often called doubting Thomas, but I prefer Maggi Dawn’s image of ‘Honest Thomas’.
“Our Thomas was a man of integrity; he didn’t pretend to believe things that he really didn’t; he didn’t say the words just to feel part of the crowd. It’s much harder to own up to being the odd one out among a group of friends, and it was brave, when he found that he was the odd one out, not to go off and be by himself.  For a whole week he stuck it out, he went on meeting up with the other disciples. Their faith and stories of visions must have made him feel uncomfortable and left out. But he still hung around. Eventually, Jesus came and met him in person. His integrity paid off; when faith came to him as a gift, it was his own and not someone else’s.”
God sneaks up on each of us in different ways.  Each of us must meet God for ourself in our own way.  If we doubt the faith that others offer us, then we must wait patiently for it to come to us, some may miss it if there are not those around them to help them to see Jesus for themselves and to offer them the opportunities to experience.
My faith is not your faith, and can never be.  What it is to each of us is born out of our experience.
That gives me comfort because if faith in God was only about writing in a book then I’d probably not be here.  The second thing that gives me comfort is that there is disbelief and wonder and uncertainty.  Not everything was understood.  Not everything was easy.  Not everything was immediately plain to the disciples.  They had to work it out from what they experienced.
If a tree falls in the woods, but no-one is around,  Does it make any sound?  Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there!  It may have made a sound, it may not.  But that is not particularly important.  What is important is that when I then go into the woods and see the tree on the ground, I can say that this tree has fallen down.  Why?  Because I can experience for myself the tree lying in the forest, it’s roots lifted up from the ground.  From that experience I don’t go back and say to others I’m really not sure whether that tree made a noise falling down or not.  What I report is that there is a tree fallen.  This is the problem we often have.  We need to get the experience right.  We need to experience the risen Christ for ourselves rather than to hear about it.  I can tell you about it, or you can read about it in the bible.  But it really doesn’t capture anyone’s imagination until it is experienced.  Now if you then go out into the woods to look for the tree that I discovered, I doubt that you will wonder if it made any noise falling down.  You might however marvel at the sight.  The opening in the canopy perhaps where the tree stood.  The other trees that were damaged as it fell over.  The space that was created by this one tree falling.  The possibilities for new life as one life comes to an end.  Just so, we need to go out and experience the risen Christ for ourselves.  I can point you in the right direction, and for some this may be a tree fallen in the woods, for some this may be amongst refugees and homeless.  For some it may be in kind words from a stranger.  The risen Christ continues to be experienced and whether in broiled fish or in bread and wine or in conversation or even in a forest, we need to be on the look out for the Christ and be prepared as thomas was to recognise what was before him and say My Lord and My God.