I didn't preach last weekend, which is sort of unusual for me. I have come to identify the 2nd Sunday of Easter as "Associate Pastor Sunday", and Thomas and his story have gotten really really familiar to me. I have defended Thomas from allegations of doubting, and pointed out that if all of the other disciples got to see and touch Jesus for themselves, why should it be a big deal for Thomas to get to see and touch Jesus too? I have pointed out that Thomas was not with the other disciples on Easter Evening 1, but that he had returned to them on Easter 2. I have noticed how the disciples cowered in that locked room, and how ultimately, those locked doors could not keep Jesus out.
I didn't preach last weekend, but I was listening, and I was studying anyway. I got together with my Bag Lunch Bible study to read and reflect on this gospel reading. As we were reading, I heard Thomas' voice, saying, "I will not believe. Unless I see his hands, unless I can see those marks, unless I can touch them, I will not believe."
And I thought I could hear the whole world in Thomas' words.
There is a lot more skepticism in the world than there used to be. There are more doubters than their used to be. I know a fair amount of young people who say they are agnostics or atheists. Or they are skeptical of organized religion, if not the existence of God. Sometimes, it's hard to blame them. Look around at the world for awhile. Look around at the church, too. I know a lot of good people in the church, but I know there has been a lot of hurt too.
So I heard Thomas' words, and I imagined that the world is looking at us, bearers of Jesus' name, carriers of his mission. I imagined that the world is looking for marks, for some sort of sign. Not nail-holes, but some signs of love, that we are willing to do something, bear something, suffer something, for the sake of love: something real, something they can see and touch.
Sunday afternoon I was at a meeting at my church. It was a rainy afternoon and there were about 130 people in our fellowship hall, from about a dozen different churches. There could have been more, but people had many other commitments. Some were actually setting up for homeless families to stay in our church. But the meeting at my church was unusual for a couple of reasons. People were telling stories of their lives, hard stories of juggling jobs and trying to make ends meet, stories of foreclosures with no recourse, stories of people living in fear of being deported. There were representatives of both Latino and Anglo churches in the room, and they were leading together, and we were listening to each other, stories that could transform us, if we let them.
"Unless I see the marks, I will not believe."
Who can blame him? Who can blame them?
And where are my marks? That is what I am asking myself, while I am listening to stories, and praying that I will let them transform me.