I’m not an optimist by nature. I tend not to believe anything unless I see it for myself. This isn’t the typical statement made by a pastor, but in my case it’s true. I know that life is hard, people aren’t always honest, and weird things happen. So when I’m told about things that people have seen or heard or experienced, I’m very skeptical. If I were among the early disciples, I’d have been like Thomas. No way was I going to believe in the Risen Christ unless I could see and touch him myself.
I’ve been thinking about this while on vacation this week, and today especially. I spent quite a bit of time on the beach today. I can’t walk a beach anywhere without searching for sea glass. I thought I’d have good luck today because of all the storms that New England has had this season. I found a few pieces here and there, small and mostly brown. Just before leaving the beach, I was picking through piles of small rocks and shells left behind by the receding tide. And I was rewarded for my searching with a large piece of nearly glowing glass. Years ago, it might have been part of a Coke bottle – thick and slightly green. I knew that if I kept looking, I’d find a prized piece. I just had that feeling.
Faith is like that for me. There are days when I’d say with Thomas, “Nope. I don’t believe unless I can put my hands in the wounds.” Then there are other days when I’m absolutely certain that if I keep waiting, keep searching, keep listening, keep watching, the Holy Spirit is going to show up and do her thing. I don’t know what makes the difference exactly, but I suspect it’s me and not God.
Having grown up on Cape Cod and having spent hours on the beach, I know what storms can do to a beach. My belief that I’d find an excellent piece of sea glass was based on previous experience. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my wavering between faith and disbelief. Previous experience says that I always find God when I am searching, waiting, or seeking. However, there are times when I am certain that God is no where to be found and isn’t going to show up.
God knows me better than I know the ocean, though. God shows up all the time and has the patience to wait for me to notice. And, trust me, sometimes I can keep God waiting for quite some time. Those disciples who witnessed Jesus without Thomas were pretty lucky. If Thomas hadn’t been so adamant that he needed to see Jesus the same way that the others did, he might not have had to wait a week. It’s possible that Jesus was hanging around, waiting for Thomas to recognize his presence. Maybe Jesus waited a week and then decided to give Thomas what Thomas thought he needed.
Just a week ago we were singing Alleluia and believing in the power and presence of the Risen Christ. How long did it take before we all forgot that Christ is with us all the time – in friends and neighbors, family and strangers? We keep thinking that Jesus needs to show up in a certain way and insist on only recognizing Jesus in the way that has been described by others. What if Jesus has been with us all along, waiting for us to recognize him?
I had no trouble persisting in my search for the perfect piece of beach glass. I thought I was looking for red or blue, or even a sizable green. What I found was clear with a hint of green. We might all be looking for the Risen Christ to show up with nail marks and proof that he is who we think he is. What if Christ shows up in the most vulnerable among us and our response is the only proof needed?
RCL – Year B – Second Sunday of Easter – April 8, 2018
Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe