Sermon – 060423
(Set up: Time Hack request with music minister --
Check watch at start of sermon, tap it a few times then ask music minister the following:)
“What time is it?" (No matter what answer is given say:) "Naw, that can’t be right. (walk over to her to look) Let me see your watch….”
(As you walk back to the pulpit, without looking at the congregation yet, ask them:)
How many of you checked your own watches, even after you heard the time? This grown woman looked at her watch, analyzed the data, and gave us the answer, and yet many of us, somewhere in our brains, doubted her ability to correctly perform a skill mastered by the average 7-year-old child.
I. Thomas Had Doubts
a. The other apostles didn’t hear about Jesus’s appearance second hand like Thomas did: they saw Jesus in the room with them!
b. Remember that on Easter morning, when the women told them that Jesus was risen, they didn’t believe what they heard. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.
II. Other People in the Bible Had Doubts
a. Mark 9:14-24
i. Father with a son who was possessed by evil spirit. Disciples couldn’t cast it out, so he asked Jesus to have mercy on them and help, “Do something if you can.”
ii. When Jesus says, “Anything is possible for one who believes” the father says, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt.”
b. Matt 28:16-17 (Page 85) – Almost the Great Commission
i. “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”
ii. That’s SOME, not ONE. Thomas isn’t the only one of the disciples who doubted the risen Christ, even when Jesus was standing right in front of them!
III. Thomas Actually Faithful
a. When Jesus told his disciples they were going to Bethany following the death of Lazarus, Thomas tells the other disciples, “Let’s go with him, so that we may die also.” He knew the danger that faced all of them, since the authorities wanted to kill Jesus, but he was willing to go anyway.
b. When Thomas saw the resurrected Jesus he said, “My Lord and my God.” He was the first apostle to call Jesus “God.”
i. Peter had recognized him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, etc.
ii. But no one else had referred to Jesus as God until Thomas.
IV. Doubt Leads to Questions
a. When we have questions about our faith, we can trust God, take him at his Word, and read his Word.
b. God has spoken consistently to more than 40 different authors over about 1,500 years, compiling his story in the Old and New Testaments
c. The Holy Spirit has also guided theologians over the past 2,000 years in various commentaries.
V. Let Your Questions Lead You Closer to God
a. Carl Rogers, famous American psychologist was in seminary
i. Attended a seminar designed to explore religious doubts
ii. He later said, “The majority of members...in thinking their way through questions they had raised, thought themselves right out of religious work. I was one.”
b. Thomas, on the other hand, let his doubts lead him closer to God through his faith
i. Trust God
ii. Seek him in prayer
VI. Prayer Builds our Faith
a. Not just asking God for things
b. It’s also listening for his voice
VII. Prayer has Amazing Results
a. LT Carey Cash, Navy Chaplain with Marine Corps
i. Witnessed miracles in the desert of Kuwait and in Iraq
ii. One battle in Iraq was April 10, 2003, as they captured the presidential palace by the Tigris river. His battalion was ambushed by about a thousand Fedayeen at four in the morning. The close-quarters urban battle lasted nine hours, with between 1,000 and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades fired at his convoy.
iii. Cash expected mass casualties and many dead Marines. But when he got to the presidential palace, he found they had lost only one Marine, and that the battalion was behaving like they’d “just walked through the Red Sea.”
iv. Over and over stories were told to him: “Chaplain, let me tell you what God did for me; Chaplain, the angels that we have been talking about for weeks, preceding this war, shielded me and protected me.’ It was amazing.
b. Cash’s Marines didn’t physically see any angels. But they did see that rocket-propelled grenades would come at them, and then literally curve in mid-air and go around them.
c. Others saw rockets coming at them which then literally dove down as if they were batted by some unseen hand.
d. One rocket went through Humvee passenger-side window, exploding in the compartment. It should have killed every man in that vehicle. But instead the explosion just blew out the front windshield, and not a single man was injured.
e. Over and over, the accounts of that day were so tremendous, that Cash realized he’d stumbled upon something amazing. That consistent, devoted prayer works.
f. They had prayed Psalm 91, the soldier’s Psalm, daily and also Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Be not afraid. Be not dismayed, for I will be with you wherever you go.”
VIII. Great Commission (Matthew 18-20)
a. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
b. If Jesus is not risen, he can’t be with us even for a moment, much less until the end of the age
IX. Strength through Faith (illustration)
a. Illustration of three farmers praying for rain during drought
A rural farming community was devastated by a drought, so the town council decided to send three farmer from the three most affected farms to pray to God for rain. So they went to an open field in the center of town and started to pray.
The first farmer held his hands toward the sky and asked God to bring rain. As he was doing this, a stranger came by and asked them what they were doing.
They told him they were praying for rain, and he replied, “Doesn’t look like it to me.”
So the second farmer fell to his knees and reached up to the sky, begging God for rain for their crops, so this agricultural town might not starve any more. Then they asked the stranger if that was any better. He replied, “I don’t think so.”
The third farmer lay face down in the dirt and pleaded with God for rain for the fields, so their families would again have food to eat, and produce to bring to market. Again they asked the stranger’s opinion, and again he said, “I don’t think so.”
One of the farmers then said, “OK wise guy, what would you do then?”
The stranger said, “I would have brought a umbrella.”
i. Do we doubt God will answer our prayers as we pray them?
ii. Or do we bring an umbrella?
In our world today we face doubts all the time. Doubts in our ability to be salt and light. Doubts in God’s ability to use us for his great plan. Doubts about our worthiness to God.
We see Christian clergy, even bishops, preach their doubts about the resurrection; however, unlike Thomas, they let their doubts lead them away from Jesus instead of closer to him.
Episcopal Bishop John Chane, former Dean of St. Paul’s cathedral preached on Easter Sunday 2002, six days before his consecration as Bishop of Washington D.C. that “the Easter story...the event of the resurrection, which defines the core of our Christian theology, is, at best, conjectural, based upon what we are able to read from the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts.”
John Spong, former Bishop of Newark, N.J., wrote the following comments: “Does anyone really think, for example, that a physical resuscitation of a body dead for three days is actually possible? Would anyone believe it if someone today made that claim? If it is not possible today, can we seriously argue that it was ever possible? …
Before we can begin positive speculation about the meaning of Easter, we must clear the debris of literalism and the fanciful claims of pre-modern people. Let me be specific about the following parts of the resurrection story: An angel did not descend from the sky on the wings of an earthquake to roll away the stone from the door of the tomb in order to make the resurrection announcement. A deceased man did not walk out of his grave physically alive three days after his execution by crucifixion. The risen Jesus did not walk, talk, eat, teach or invite the disciples to handle his physical flesh. Jesus did not literally defy gravity and ascend to the top of a three-tiered universe. These legendary aspects of the Easter story are no longer viewed as literally true in the academic world of biblical scholarship.”
Poppycock —— That’s a theological term used in explaining Jack Spong’s arguments. It’s interesting that those with whom Spong agrees are called "biblical scholars," but those who actually believe in the resurrection are "delusional pre-modernists."
We have left the Episcopal Church, but the Episcopal Church still has a national pulpit to espouse its views and lead others into heresy by using doubt as a way to push people away from the Bible rather than toward it.
Contrast Spong’s position with that of The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon, editor of The Anglican Digest.
In an editorial in the Easter 2005 edition Harmon wrote, “‘Just over a year ago, the person I love most in the world was diagnosed as having cancer.’ So began an article in 2003. I bet it got your attention; it certainly did mine.
As a result of his personal crisis, he had one question which pierced his heart like none of the others: ‘Will I see her again?’
To that crucial query the church gave no helpful answer, and so he wrote a plea:
‘We, the troubled doubters, the open-minded agnostics, beg church leaders not to present us with watered-down dogma; not to pretend that it makes no difference whether the resurrection was Jesus’ actual return from death, or a transformation of the minds of the disciples.
‘In the past 20 years, I have not heard a sermon preached about Easter, even on Easter Day. This suggests a general fear of discussing the resurrection, in case such discussion would indicate that it did not take place in a physical sense.
‘Did Jesus die and then come back from the dead? Answering this question, not with a straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but with: ‘It depends what you mean . . .’ will not help. The next question, ‘Will I, or will I not, meet my loved ones again after death?’ cannot be watered down.’
He is right, and this brings us to a crucial truth about Easter. The reason the early disciples had such faith that they would have a future life in the next world is that they saw Jesus resurrected in this one. His Easter assured them of theirs. His new and glorified body was the beginning of a whole new creation in which they shared.
‘This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). And as he will come in the same way so we will be resurrected as he was. THIS was the faith the early disciples had burrowed into them because of Easter; THIS bed-rock reality sustained them through horrible deaths such a crucifixion upside down.
‘He is not here; for he has risen’ (Matthew 28:6)! Therefore we can say with firm clarity to a grieving friend who has lost a loved one, ‘you WILL see her again in glory. Jesus rose to new life and so did she.’ Alleluia and thanks be to God.”
We can go along to get along because we doubt that taking a stand is worth the effort. We can water down our prayers to avoid controversy because we doubt that preaching the Gospel will be accepted by everyone. Or we can preach Christ as he has commanded us to do.
A Kansas preacher held fast to his faith a seized the moment to show Christ. The Reverend Joe Wright, pastor of the Central Christian Church in Wichita, was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate in January 1996. Everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to Those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Oh God, forgive us. Search us, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”
We can doubt that a single prayer can have any effect, but 10 years later people are still talking about this one.
We can doubt that God loves us and wants us to be with him forever, even though it’s clear through his own sacrifice.
Or we can move past our doubts, through faith, and realize that in everything we do, everywhere we go, and every time we breathe, God is with us, loving us, and supporting us.
And once we’ve felt the Spirit and heard the Word, we, like Thomas, can proclaim to Jesus without any doubt, “My Lord and my God.”
God bless you all.