Believing is not Seeing
Sermon for Low Sunday (Easter 2) – 11 April 2021 – St John the Baptist Felixstowe
Text: Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20v29)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
For centuries it was taken for granted that the saying ‘Seeing is Believing’ was unerringly true. Based on the story of Thomas in the Upper Room, who refused to believe until he could see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands it became a self-evident truth.
As the human race grew out of the darkness of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and Reformation, from the Age of Enlightenment through Modernity on to Post-Modernism, scientific exploration and reasoning built a worldview in which the proof of the pudding was in the seeing and touching as well as in the eating.
This has been a cleft stick for the faithful as tables have been turned by those who, thinking they are being scientifically rigorous have become latter day Doubting Thomas’s. Evangelists of a somewhat flawed scientific method, they proclaim all faith futile as none can be demonstrated or proven by experiment. Perhaps one of the most famous of these incidents was when the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after orbiting the globe from Space proclaimed on his return to Terra Firma ‘I looked and looked but I did not see God.’
But wait, those who for whom ‘Believing is not seeing’, those for whom faith is, to those who belittle them, more important than fact have unexpected allies. In an age of Fake News and alternate truths it seems that conspiracy theorists and the likes of Climate change Deniers and extreme anti-vaxers are giving scientific fact a run for its money. For people of this kidney just because something can be proven doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean that it has to be true. Seeing doesn’t mean that you have to believe anymore.
Mind you did not Jesus Himself, foretelling His own resurrection, say that belief was not dependent on proof and that people would not change their beliefs ‘even if someone rises from the dead?’ (Luke 16v31).
Enter the beloved Thomas, forever wearing the pejorative adjective of Doubting Thomas, he was in fact the first of the disciples to proclaim the divinity of Christ when he said to Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas, despite his label, is our gateway to faith.
The whole of John’s Gospel is distilled down to this encounter between Christ and Thomas, the absent disciple. It is here at the very end of the story (Most Biblical scholars believe that Chapter 21 was a later addition) that Thomas the Doubter becomes our shining light. Thomas ‘doubt’ allows the Evangelist to add this personal note to you and to me and to all who hear these words;
Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20v29)
Thomas stands before Jesus for those who never made it to the Upper Room.
Thomas stands and calls to faith all the disciples who were not present – there were far more than twelve who followed Jesus and not all the women had yet to see the risen Lord. (Later Paul reminds us that Jesus appears to more than 500 believers (1 Corinthians 15v3-8))
Thomas calls to faith all those for whom John wrote his Gospel beyond the 500.
Thomas cry of ‘My Lord and my God!’ echoes down the centuries to all those who have been nowhere near the Upper Room and, like Paul on the Road to Damascus or Julian centuries later in her Anchorage in Norwich, have not had a vision of the Risen Christ.
Thomas speaks today and becomes the eyes for those who cannot see to believe.
So it is that Thomas speaks to all those who are not able to be here in this place sharing the sacrament with us in this Victorian Barn of an Upper Room.
Thomas speaks for those who are watching this service on the internet.
He speaks for those who sit here quietly every day during the week with nothing but the light of a flickering candle to hold a fragile faith.
He speaks to tourists and pilgrims, people seeking food for their bodies and clothing for their children, and those who stand in uncertainty (even doubting perhaps?) outside the church weighed down by a guilt that gnaws at their souls telling them they are too unworthy to approach the throne of grace.
Thomas is the one who calls you and I and all people to the light and life and love of the Resurrection. Knowing that Believing is indeed all about not seeing, the final words of today’s reading are spoken to Thomas but are to be heard by all those who feel they have nothing but doubts on which to build a life or a faith.
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20v30-31)
There you have it.
This is what it’s all about.
This Gospel is not for those whose belief became easy to hold onto because they were in the Upper Room able to see nail marks and touch wounded side.
This Gospel is for those who were not there.
This Gospel is for those yet unborn.
This Gospel is for those who would hear a story passed down from apostle, to church leader, to the person in the pew.
This Gospel is for you and I, we are the ones who were meant to hear these words.
…these are written so that you [you and I] may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
It’s not about seeing, it’s about believing.
It’s not about doubt, it’s about faith.
It’s not about death, it’s about life, light, and love in the Name of Jesus.
Believing is not seeing.
Believing is living differently
Believing is about living a transformed life in the light of the resurrection.
(Which really means that believing is about living a life that laughs at death).
Believing is about taking the fact of the resurrection and turning it into the joy that inspires a new way of living.
Believing is about living a life for others and for God.
Believing is not seeing,
believing is doing.
[This blog ‘Seeing is Not Believing’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2021 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]