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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Friday, November 17, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

More to the Story

More of the Story

John 20:19-31

We have quite a few things to have doubt about!  Stories and eyewitness accounts abound regarding the possibility of a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Loch Ness Monster and other illusive creatures lurking in forests and oceans.  But one of the most fascinating ideas to ponder is the possibility that there is life on other planets.  We hear numerous accounts of sightings of UFOs and stories of alien abductions.  We seem not to be able to verify these accounts beyond a doubt.  No undeniable proof exists for the possibility that we may have visitors from other regions of the universe.  I personally do not rule out that possibility, but like many I would like to have proof.  I would like to “see” one for myself before I commit to believing there are creatures from other worlds.  Millions of dollars are spent every year by scientists and amateurs attempting to prove or disprove the existence of alien creatures.

Likewise people spend much of their hard earned money looking for proof about the truth of the Bible stories.  Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant have been “tracked down” by many theories about where those artifacts or pieces of them might be found to prove once and for all that the Biblical stories are true.  Scientists have studied geological evidence that a great flood occurred around the time of Noah. 

Some biblical scholars spend hours looking for “Jesus” relics and writings that prove that Jesus existed and performed his miracles.  Or they spend hours trying to explain away some of the miracles written about in the scriptures.  So does it seem any wonder that Thomas wanted proof too after his friends had reported actually seeing Jesus.  In fact, I wonder how many others who had followed Jesus or had encountered him at some time, literally doubted that he could have come back to life.  Possibly some of us gathered here have times of skepticism and doubt.  Some of us may “believe” in Jesus because of what he had to say.  We see in his teachings echoes of what we would like to be true about human behavior.  If we can model the most important of his teachings about how to relate to God and our fellow human beings, then life will improve.  And if we are at that level of faith, that’s good.  But There is a deeper level of faith that belongs to those who believe without the constant need for proof.

Note that Thomas still hung out with his disciples even though he doubted that Jesus had appeared to them or that he was alive.  Obviously they were all excited about it.  So Thomas stayed perhaps wishing and hoping they were right.  And Jesus did appear and give him the proof he wanted.  Thomas’ faith was restored by the proof he received and he was able to rejoice because he had been blessed by that proof.  Yet, Jesus says that those who believe even when they have not seen are blessed. 

In a special way believing without seeing carries a unique quality of belief that the disciples may not have known.  They had the privilege of first-hand experience and that experience itself carried their faith through times of trouble and turmoil in the early days of Christianity.  They had the “remember when” memories that sustained them through difficult days of persecution and sometimes ridicule by unbelieving crowds. 

But the person who comes to belief through the working of the Spirit, through their own experiences of God, their heart and mind experiences, has a deeper faith.  They rely on their own experiences of struggle and pain, of joy and indescribable mountain top experiences, of the risen Savior to sustain them in faith.  Faith for those of us who have not physically seen Jesus, becomes the certainty of a knowing-ness that answers our deepest longing and fills our sense of emptiness with hope, comfort and strength.  For centuries people have relied on their unseen faith to lead them through life.  And that faith is something that cannot be manufactured or replicated through any other means, because it is born of the working of the Spirit within us.  That does not mean it’s necessarily a smooth, easy, steady faith.  It comes with ups and downs and doubts and questioning.  It comes with peaks and valleys and constant change as we study and learn and experience the unseen risen savior for ourselves. 

The wonder of faith is that if we experience it as fully as we can and believe as deeply as we can, it stays with us and becomes the most important aspect of our lives.  We begin to see how our faith changes things around us and in us.  Believing in aliens or undiscovered creatures in our world becomes interesting but unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  After all what God has created, He has created.  But what God is doing in each one of us has impact on everything else. 

So how does faith work in us?  What difference does it make that we believe in an unseen, risen savior?  One of the best examples of how faith works was experienced Friday night as our kids spent the night in a sleep over here.  It was faith that supplied our needs as you, the gathered people of God, responded to the call for donations of food and sleeping bags.  It was faith that prompted adults to volunteer time and talents so the kids had activities and opportunities to interact.  It was faith that bonded adults together in cooperation so that our kids had a good interactive experience.  It was faith that settled us all into air mattresses scattered all over the floor with various patterns of snoring through the wee hours of the morning.  Because we loved our children in this atmosphere of faith we were able to provide a meaningful experience for them.  Because we had games centered around pinning the children near Jesus and cooperating in taking turns at games and making symbols of faith to put on the Easter tree, we were able to give them a little of our faith in reminding them about what happened at Easter time.  Faith works in how we teach our children and interact with our children.

Faith works in the ways we share it with each other, the ways we comfort each other, the ways we support each other, because we have the love of the living, unseen Jesus in us.  The Holy Spirit constantly prompts us to do acts of love and compassion to those around us. 

So what difference does it make that we believe in an unseen, risen savior?  Can we imagine living without faith?  Where would hope be?  Where would we turn if we become shattered in life’s difficulties?  How could we find joy in believing that our meager existence is all there is to life?  We are born, we live and we die, most of us not accomplishing great things, just making it through lives, not knowing how long we have, just knowing that at the moment of death we cease to exist.

Faith tells us a different story.  Because Jesus lived after death, we are capable of doing that as well.  We believe in life after death and that makes this life worthwhile, I recently read a little meditation to my husband about heaven.  (Read Max Lucado devotion)

The heart of our believing in the unseen Jesus is that we live life now as fully as we can so that we are prepared to live with him in heaven, but more importantly we live life now in belief so that we are already doing what God needs to have us be doing in preparation for the transformation of the world.  Living our lives so that we shine the light of Jesus through us matters to others who God may be working with to bring them to belief and deep faith.  

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