Thursday, April 09, 2009

St Thomas the Doubter: lift up your hearts

I just read a sermon by the 19th centrury theologian A B Bruce on St Thomas. Wow! what a sermon!

Basically he says that Thomas' lack of faith had little to do with being a rationalist. (Heck, I always thought so. None of the other disciples believed until they saw Jesus either.)

He basically states that Thomas tended to despair. When jesus said they would go to lazarus, Thomas said, "Let us go that we may die with him." This is a disciple prone to great pessimism and who is readier to believe sad news than happy news because his spirit is so linked to despair and pessimism of great causes.
He starts it by saying "Jesus came to the disciples but Thomas wasn't there."

Now, why wasn't Thgomas there? Because he was indulging that melancholy which goes off by itself and leaves its friends to despair in isolation The disciples tell him they saw jesus and probably gave him a gist of the exposition jesus had given to them about his resurrection. And it was probably a great sermon but Thomas couldn't see through ... because even if they gave him all the theological truths his personality was not so inclined. When Jesus told him "Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen" it is a challenge to all doubters but it's a challenge to Thomas and those like him to consciously change minds that tend to despair into minds that choose to be joyful. The act of will that trains the mind to expect good and not to sink into kneejerk despair is an act of belief and renewing the mind. It's not really a mind doubt but a heart doubt.

This really spoke to me. It spoke to me. I have faith, but there is such a pessimism
in my soul at times. Remember when Jacob said, "i've had a lot of sad things happen in my life." It must have taken so much belief to believe that his son was alive
He believed in God and yet.... to expect great things to expect joyful things. A god of joy in addition to a god of holiness and miracles. joyful outcome is hard to believe. For I know the thoughts I think of you...thoughts of good and not of evil to give you a future and a promise The word translated promise can mean a "looked for hope" or "an expected end."

We can accept promise but when we see that promise. We can even accept hope. But when we think that it means a looked for expected end that you'd be happy to have...it gets unbelievable. Like the gospel. Too-good-to-be-believed news. It's not the miraculous we can't believe; it's the joy. It's not, "Am I gullible to believe this weirdo miraculous supernatural crap?" It's "Dare I be happy?" and "Dare I believe that God could make me that happy?"

There are a lotta folks in the Bible who have faith but who simply cannot believe that something good has or can happen. Like Jacob being told his son Joseph was still alive. Took a while to believe that. Like the church praying for Peter's release from prison. Poor Rhoda. Trying to tell all the spiritual giants that their prayers had been answered and they didn't believe her. Sometimes we have faith, we simply don't have the capacity to believe our life can be filled with joy. I think that might be a kind of double-mindedness. At least, we must work to renew our hearts and spirits as well as our minds.

I really am pondering the joy of the lord now. The meaning of joy is coming closer and closer to my spirit. I'm almosting it. As the psalmist says in 139, "It is 'high' I cannot attain unto it. I hope to attain to it. Heaven is about the capacity to receive and accept joy. Life trains us to be like Thomas...not of two minds but of two hearts. No wonder his nickname was The Twin. But he was not double-minded, he was double-hearted. A sad hopeful heart joined to a despairing heart. Lift up your hearts!
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