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This week's sermon:

                      John 20:19-31  -  "Thomas"
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If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is doubtful that many of you would come up with similar words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word betray but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word faith, but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase Sons of Thunder, but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: "Doubting Thomas."

What we don’t remember about Thomas is when Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them, and it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don’t remember him for it. If we remembered him in this way we would call him "Courageous Thomas."

Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. Thomas was not present and when he heard about the event he refused to believe it. Maybe he was the forerunner of modern day cynicism. Maybe the news simply sounded too good to be true. Thomas said: Unless I feel the nail prints in his hands I will not believe.

Now I cannot help but notice that Thomas has separated himself from the disciples and therefore, in his solitude, missed the resurrection appearance. I think that john is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing his unique presence.

But the story doesn’t end here. The second time Jesus made his appearance Thomas was present with the disciples and this time he too witnessed the event. This time he believed. What can we learn from the life of Thomas?

1. First, we learn that Jesus did not blame Thomas for doubting.
2. Second, we learn that the most endearing things in life can never be proven.
3. Third, we learn that we must move beyond doubt to faith.

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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