Those two things seem to be related to one another.
Our 9th graders are preparing for their confirmation this weekend. I was with them last night and this morning as they did some serious work, completing Spiritual Gifts Inventories, reading stories out of the Gospel of Matthew, doing some initial thinking about the Faith Statements they will be writing.
Our evening devotions last night was called "Stations of the Resurrection." It's based on a now-out-of-print book for teens with scriptures, prayers and reflections for different of the resurrection stories. They move around to different stations and read the stories and think about the experiences the apostles had.
Their favorite story? Thomas.
This morning one of the confirmands was looking for a scripture verse about doubt, or even questions. She has faith, but she has questions, and she wanted to choose a confirmation verse that told her it was okay to have questions. I told her questions are definitely ok, even courageous, sometimes.
Later on, we were talking about confirmation day, and the promises they will be making. I told them that when they were baptized God chose them to be one of God's people, and that they had gifts to share with the church. I told them that now they had the opportunity to publicly say that they wanted to be part of the people of God, part of God's mission in the world, and that they promise to "live among God's faithful people, to hear God's word, and share the Lord's supper...." (among other things.)
We talked about faith.... and doubt. How some days when one of us is doubting, another one of us feels strong in faith, and how, when we gather, we help each other to keep going, keep following Jesus, even when we have questions.
Tomorrow, when I preach, one thing I will say is that we come to church to hear the Word, but I don't think that's all we come to church to do. I think we also come to church to see Jesus. We come to church to see Jesus, if not in our own lives, in one another's lives. We come to church because we want to know, again and again, "is it really true?" Is forgiveness possible? Can enemies really be reconciled? Is Love really stronger than death?
I think that is what our confirmation students want to see, too. They are looking at church leaders, their parents, the people they see at church, and they are not asking for perfection, but they are looking for Jesus in our lives. Do we sing like we mean it? Do we know mercy and do mercy? Are we honest about our own questions, and our own failures, because we know that there is someone greater than our failures?
Tonight, I imagine those 9th graders sitting around the campfire, eating s'mores and telling stories and seeing each other's faces reflected in the glow. I imagine that tonight they feel strong and committed to follow Jesus, even though they have questions, and even though they still (after three years) don't have any idea of all the places where Jesus might lead them.
Tonight, I believe that it is still Easter, and that Jesus is alive. Forgiveness is possible. Love is stronger than death.
Even if you doubt, join us tomorrow.
Especially if you doubt.