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JOURNEY TO FAITH

Date: 
April 23, 2017
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
John 20: 19-31

THEME: “People have differing needs and find various routes to faith.”  <Donovan>

 

INTRODUCTION

  • During the season of Lent I wore my “Journey Stole,” the purple stole with the colorful footprints… many of you commented on it and some asked questions about it…
  • I often describe faith as a journey… rarely is faith something you find all of a sudden… more often faith is something you move toward…
  • The journey to faith is not always a smooth path… it’s more like a roller coaster ride or maybe like a children’s board game where, depending on the roll of the dice, you take one jump forward followed by two jumps backward…
  • The journey to faith should be unending – our faith should always be growing…
  • If we each described our journey to faith, we would discover that our stories – our journeys – are all different because our experiences are different and every experience we have impacts our faith journey…
  • Today’s scripture reading was from the 20th chapter of John’s gospel is a continuation of the Easter narrative – we read the first part last week…
  • “The Gospel of John shows us that there are different kinds of faith, and that faith comes in different ways and with different intensities to different people…
    • The ‘Beloved Disciple’ believes upon seeing the empty tomb (John 20:8)
    • Mary believes when the Lord calls her name (John 20:16)
    • The disciples must see the risen Lord before they believe (John 20:20)
    • Thomas says that he must touch Jesus’ wounds in order to believe (John 20:25)
    • People have differing needs and find various routes to faith.”  <Donovan>
  • Today we are going to look closely at Thomas’ journey to faith… Thomas believed, lost faith, and then returned to even greater faith – one step forward, two steps backward, and one huge leap forward…
  • There is something of Thomas in every one of us… we struggle with faith and we struggle with doubt… that’s quite normal… like Thomas, people of faith have often had to struggle with doubt…
  • Thomas has gotten lots of bad press for his unbelief… we call him “Doubting Thomas”... but honestly, Thomas was not alone in his doubts…
  • “One of Thomas’ great virtues was that he absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or that he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about Thomas – he would never still his doubts by pretending they did not exist.” <Russell>

 

THE EASTER STORY – CONTINUED

  • Today’s scripture reading (John 20:19-31) begins on Easter evening… the disciples were gathered together in the upper room, hiding out… the doors were chained and bolted, for fear that what happened to Jesus might also happen to them… the disciples were more fearful than they were faithful… as they gathered in the room that Easter evening, discussing the events of the day, the power of fear gripped their hearts… they had not yet experienced the power of Easter… they had not yet met their risen Lord… and so they remained powerless, and full of fear.
  • They were all their except Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, and Thomas…
  • Then suddenly Jesus was there, standing among them… he greeted them: “Peace be with you”… and he breathed on them the breath of the Holy Spirit, and gave them the keys to the Kingdom of God…
  • But Thomas wasn’t there… he missed the roll call that evening… the rest were there, cowering in the upper room, out of fear… but not Thomas.
  • “Thomas was not a coward… remember, when Jesus first decided to go see his friend who had died – Lazarus – in Bethany?... His disciples begged him not to go, because Jesus had revealed to them that, if he went, it would mean certain death for him… the religious leaders were waiting for him, so the disciples did their best to convince him not to go… but their convincing wasn’t convincing enough… Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem… and it was Thomas who, when the rest of the disciples cowered, said, ‘Let us then also go to Jerusalem, that we might die with him!’
    • For Thomas, life meant little without his Lord…
    • If his Lord should die, then Thomas wished to go to the grave with him…
    • He wanted to walk all the way with his Master…
    • He was no coward – not then, not now.”  <Roth>
  • “Then came Good Friday… and what Jesus had warned them would happen did happen… And in the confusion of the moment, in the events swirling about them, and in the face of things happening that he could not understand – Thomas was separated from his Lord… he also ran, with the rest of the disciples… The events of the day quickly swept over them all… and suddenly Jesus, their Master, was dead… and the disciples retired to the upper room for fear of the Jews… but Thomas was not with them… Thomas – dazed, confused, bitter – took a walk… he went off by himself to think, and to grieve… For Thomas, that was what Saturday was all about… it was the day after his Lord and Savior and friend had died… It was the day that God became silent for him.”  <Roth>
  • Without Jesus, everything was confused… Thomas didn’t know where to turn… Saturday was a day filled with doubts… and Thomas thought, unless I see the marks of the nails in His hands, unless I put my hand in the wound at His side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.
  • Thomas asks for what he needs to move forward in his faith journey… Thomas speaks up… he says, “I need to touch Jesus’ wounds to believe.”
  • Then one day, Thomas decided to come back and visit the disciples… it was a week later… the others were still together and Thomas was with them… though the doors were still shut, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
  • Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
  • And Thomas fell to his knees at the feet of Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God!”… the last words of Thomas recorded in the Bible are words of faith.
  • Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  (John 20:26-31)

 

STRUGGLING WITH DOUBT

  • Dr. David Rogne… suggests that being familiar with Thomas’ story can help each one of us as we journey to faith…
  • Rogne makes three points:
    • “The first thing Thomas experience suggests to me is that it is normal to struggle with doubt… people of faith have often had to struggle with doubt… this has been true of many Biblical heroes… they discovered that strong faith is born through the agony of doubt.”
    • “The second thing I learn from Thomas’ experience is that if we are going to deal with doubt, it has to be brought out in the open… Thomas did that… he was not afraid to acknowledge that he was skeptical… he had an honest mind… Paul Tillich, the contemporary theologian once said, ‘Sometimes I think my mission is to bring faith to the faithless and doubt to the faithful.’ It was Tillich’s contention that faith does not thrive where there is too much certainty. A little doubt can help us to hold our beliefs in humility, and it is in humility that we become teachable. To be helped, doubt has to be brought out into the open.”
    • “The third thing Thomas’ experience says to me is that, at its best, the Christian fellowship – the church – helps us to deal with our doubts… it was when he was in fellowship with the other disciples that Thomas’ faith was re-ignited… once he was back in their company, Christ became real to him again.“   <Rogne>

 

CONCLUSION

  • What doubts do you have? … What questions of faith are you wrestling with? … What do you need in order to believe?
  • Maybe we all need to be more like Thomas and ask for what he need that will move us forward on our journey to faith…
  • Someone once said that open doubts make for open minds and opened doors… <Hummel>
  • My prayer for you today is that the Spirit of God will give you faith and will bring you peace. Amen.

 

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • Is It Easter Already? – a sermon by Gary Roth
  • Dealing With Doubt – a sermon by David Rogne
  • Peace Be To You – a sermon by Cynthia H. Hummel
  • Doubting or Courageous Thomas? – a sermon by Susan Russell
  • Sermonwriter.Com – sermon materials for April 15
  • Daily Study Bible – John – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary – published by Tyndale

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