This morning we consider our encounter with the resurrected Jesus through the life of someone called Thomas, who has gone down in history not for his faith but for his doubt. So this morning Thomas, as our fellow journeyman reminds us of this .. that ours is a journey of both faith and doubt. And that we too will doubt from time to time on our journey.
As our fellow pilgrim Thomas teaches us that we shouldn’t feel ashamed or confused by our doubts? For the Christian message is that doubt is not something that shows us to be weak or unfaithful.
In his play Measure for Measure Shakespeare writes “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” But I am not sure I feel like this about doubt .. that it is the opposite to faith and as such a bad or negative thing in our lives.
Much of our modern engagement with the world is based on the philosophy that we should in fact doubt everything. Rene Descartes was the man behind ‘I think therefore I am’ which brought this idea to the world .. he argued “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” ―
What Descartes is saying is not that doubt is bad but rather that without doubt we cannot know truth… the theologian Paul Tillich puts it in more religious language… “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
Thomas therefore reminds us that we all face doubts .. sometimes even a complete loss of faith. Perhaps you have known times or are in a time where your faith is lost. What might God want to say to you this morning at this baptism?
Jesus appeared and showed doubting Thomas his hands. This action is about strengthening the inner self through an action in the material world. It is a vital theme of Christians faith. It is what Jesus affirms when he says to Thomas in his doubts .. look, feel, see, I am here with you. Faith requires a little help from time to time. It is in a sacramental approach to life that we find Jesus is again stretching out his hands to us and saying … look, feel, see .. I am with you. I am with you not just in an unseen way but in these physical things. In the people around you, those who pray for you, those who care for you. I am in the water of baptism which refreshes you, I am in the bread of communion that sustains you. These outward things are for the strengthening of your inner selves.
So let us never forget the importance of loving those around us practically. Of being the physical manifestation of God’s love in the world. The importance of the sacraments of the Church is that they are the answer to our doubts. When we doubt Jesus says come, feel, see, eat, touch. Be baptised. Take communion. Do these things in order that your faith might be restored and like Thomas we might journey on in that pilgrimage of life which leads to an eternal home if we allow God to be our guide.