Ever noticed how we don’t talk about something’s in church.
There are just something’s that never ever get mentioned.
I mean when was the last time you went to church and heard a sermon about pain, or grief, or doubt.
It seems like somewhere along the line we’ve lost contact with these feelings.
To ask these questions is to face up to something that we probably thought we’d buried.
Or it may be that old Kiwi thing,
the she’ll be right attitude,
Whatever it is it seems that in Church we often fail to look beyond excatsy of worship
And see the pain and disbelief that is often a part of so many people’s lives.
I want to break with the tradition then,
And look at one of these hard subjects.
So why Doubt?
Well I guess if you were to look at the gospels,
you would see that doubt is a recurring theme
In John we have the story of a guy called Thomas, who developed the nick name doubting Thomas.
Luke seems to have a doubt theme running through it
And Matthew begins his final few lines of his report with the words
“When they saw Jesus, they worshipped him, but some doubted.”
Matthew then said the spiritual equivalent to a dirty word,
He said Doubt!!!
I say that because that’s often how doubt is treated, like four letter word
To many Christian the word doubt is offensive because Christianity is all about faith.
And because it’s all about faith and so to many people think talking about doubt is like playing with fire or a live grenade
drop the pin out of it and it might well go up in your face.
And Its because of this volatile nature that people don’t talk about doubt.
But yet here it is in the gospel
in the middle of a worship service some are doubting.
It has often been said that the Church is the only palce in the world where failure is permissible.
Well if we allow failure, then what about doubt??
Chances are when a person has doubts we start a witch hunt, and drive them out
because doubt to many people is too difficult a question to deal with.
Belief in Jesus hangs by a thin enough thread in this world without doubt too.
So because it’s such a difficult subject to talk about our questions often go unasked,
As people of God we are often even to ashamed to say that we have doubts.
All the questions then tend to get left unasked and therefore unanswered,
the fear is that people may look at us and see that we have doubts.
Well this evening I want to come clean,
I want to come out of the closet and say
“My name is Michael and I have lived with doubts“.
But this isn’t some self help therapy session, meant to make us all feel better and own up to our feeling that we may or may not have.
It’s a time to see whether we can learn anything from the doubts of the disciples.
See my doubts are nothing compared to the doubts that must have been part of everyday life for the disciples -
Try for a moment to imagine what it would have been like to view the crucifixion with the eyes of one of Jesus’ close mates,
The scene -
you’ve got eleven disciples scattered in and around Jerusalem,
its early in the morning Saturday,
in between all the tears and the grief some have been able to sleep
There best mate Jesus had just been nailed to a cross the previous day
hung out to die in the mid day sun,
tortured, beaten and crucified.
The friend the disciples left everything to follow was no more.
Now all the eleven disciples had was doubt,
Was he just a fraud, ?
were the miracles he performed all a part of a cheap side?
show act to woo the crowds ?
And were the words he spoke of this new kingdom just a
load of baloney?
These question and more must have sprung from the disciple’s doubt.
For the disciples it was a hard journey to take
from the doubt of Friday to ........
well, they didn’t know what lay ahead
an uncertain future was the best they could hope for especially if the authorities found them.
If there was ever a time to doubt your faith then it was then, in the face of the crucifixion.
If there was ever a time to doubt Jesus then it was
when Jesus was nailed out on a couple of pieces of wood-
If there was ever a time to doubt God then it was here as he watched his only son die-
If there was ever a time for the world to stand by and say there is no God then it was at this time.
Satan must have thrown a party in hell on the Friday afternoon invited all his minions and demons to come and celebrate, VG day, Victory over God day.
Satan at last must have thought that he had the opportunity to roast a dead Jesus over a spit.
If ever there was a time to doubt it was here...
The rest of the story we know,
We’ve relived it every year since in one way or another,
we know that come the Sunday
some people will go to find the graveside to do some weeping, continue the tangi
and plant a few flowers of remembrance.
and when they get to the gravesite
We also know that they’ll be a hole in the ground where the body should be.
And that when they see this hole their doubts will leave.
And because we know what happens next we can not experience the disciples doubt.
The feeling of utter emptiness,
the feelings of an empty dead faith.
The feeling of utter and total loss.
For us people today the most realistic we can make it is to see it as looking at a cheesy TV drama,
We cannot fully understand what the disciples felt.
because we know that the hero will win in the end,
good will triumph over evil....... and all the other stuff.
It’s kind of hard for us to appreciate the doubt that they all must have felt.
Its hard for us to realize
that in the middle of this are eleven disciples and there mates trying to live with their doubts,
trying to make some kind of sense out of all the stuff that’s been happening.
For these doubting disciples this is not a re run of their favorite TV drama
Jesus is dead to them, really dead,
For three days the disciples must live with doubt
and their faith great though it may be cannot see beyond that.
To the eleven and their mates doubt is a reality, something they’ve got to live with and face up to.
That then is the dark side of doubt.
But believe it or not doubt like the cross also has a sunnier side.
If the disciples could see behind the scenes
then they would have known that their doubt would pass.
The doubt that was symbolized for the disciples in the cross
was not a dead end street,
but a crossroads for the disciples in their journey to faith.
Because Jesus’ apparently pointless suffering had a purpose,
Through dying Jesus gave us the opportunity to really live
To understand what it means to be children of God.
God then was never really absent
he had never just deserted Jesus to die on a cross,
but he was working behind the scenes
transforming the hopelessness to hope,
the helplessness to joy
and the doubt.........well that had become a means to strengthen the faith of the disciples.
Can you imagine the fright Satan got as he sat down to party with his mates.
and that dead symbol of victory got up, and began breathing.
For the disciple Journey in Faith,
the path led through the darkness
and desolation of a desert wasteland that is doubt,
But this desert of doubt
was also a place of passage for the disciples
they left this desert wasteland transformed,
they had gone from an adolescent faith into an adult faith.
So doubt is not always the enemy of faith,
but doubt is the enemy of weak, shallow, superficial faith.
You see when faith is shallow it is purely based upon emotions
Now there is nothing wrong in having a faith that is based on your emotions.
We are called to love God
and you need to use your emotions to do that,
But when the emotions run dry it runs into difficulties.
But that’s not all because emotions also lie
remember how barren the cross felt,
remember how the disciples looked upon it with total despair.
yet never has God been so at work
Our emotions can and do lie to us.
So if our faith stays purely in the emotional realm than before we know it we will lose it.
And see that what we took for faith is nothing more than emotion,
pure and simple emotion.
Doubt though can call our emotional faith to a different level,
I guess you can view doubt as being like spots, teenage spots
we would rather they weren’t there,
but fact of the matter is we get them, we have all had them at times.
So what do you do with them
HIDE-Well the first attack is usualy to hide them
put on a little extra make up or something (yes guys do this too).
So like doubts we try to hide them,
but what usualy happens.
They get bigger and bigger until they finaly explode.
SQUEEZE- Attack number two involves squeezing, my favourite.
But when we try to squeeze our doubts like our spots not only do we splat the mirror but we usually spread the infection too.
FACE UP TO THEM- Approach three involves fessing up to the fact that we have spots and doubts, when we stop ignoring them we can treat them, address them
and who knows they may even go.
But more importantly we need to see that like spots doubts can be a sign of growth.
We would rather not have them .
but just as spots are part of being a teenager and growing inot an adult.
so doubt can take your faith to the next level.
Because our doubts cry out to God for answers.
Nor am I saying that Doubt is the same as belief
so please don’t confuse the two.
And doubt may not even lead to belief.
To embrace out doubts is like playing with the live hand grenade,
so we run the risk of not only loosing our belief
but our faith also if the pin falls out.
But faith that is not able to take a risk is not faith at all,
faith that will not face up to the difficult questions is likely to die a slow and painful death,
suffocated by the questions that life brings.
Doubts like Spots will come and go,
but as followers of Christ were going to need to stand up
stare doubt in the eye and say I am not afraid of you,
In many ways the Easter Story represent the whole of human history.
The Friday when Jesus died represents life after the fall.
- God in his absence.
But it’s also a day of promise.
The Sunday, represent the hope and fulfillment of the promise that in Jesus’ death
we may find forgiveness and see God put everything back as it should be,
in our lives and the world where we live.
It is so easy to believe the the Sunday will never come when we look at our world and see people starving in the two thirds world while people in the western world increase in weight by one gram a day.
It’s hard to trust God when we look at our lives and see how much more work God needs to do.
So I guess in many ways we live in that dau of human history which represent the day between the death and the ressurection.
The Saturday, and liek for the disciples it is a day of confusion and doubt for many.
But as we face up to our doubts