I have been told by my brother that I have inherited all of the faith in the family as an explanation to why he doesn’t believe. Then I have been told by others throughout the years that I am leading people to hell because I have asked questions instead of taking the scriptures at face value. So to some I am very faithful and to others I am a doomed sinner. Yet no one has ever asked me what I thought of my faith, or how I would identify my faith. The first thing I would say is that my faith, like everyone else’s, doesn’t come from a vacuum. There is absolutely no genetics for faith. It is not something you are either born with or not. It’s not like having brown eyes or blue eyes, curly or straight hair. It is something that grows over time and through experiences.
I was not a minister out of the womb. Next I would say that yes I ask questions and sometimes I find answers that work for a little while before I find myself questioning again. But why would God give me an inquisitive mind if I weren’t meant to interact with him and the scriptures through it? And how can thought and searching be evil? I refuse to be told how to grow my faith, or how to believe, or how faithful or sinful I am. I am like you and Thomas, an average person of faith. Thomas’s faith is like the average person. We can identify with him because Thomas unabashedly asks the questions that we all want to ask but are perhaps too afraid to. Questions that we have been told, throughout time, are somehow bad to ask. My brother thinks he and I are different because he questions and somehow he has determined that I don’t. But I say we are more alike than he thinks. We both ask our questions. The difference is I have found some comfort and rest in the answers I have received through prayer and scriptures whereas he remains skeptical.
Faith is not always easy. Faith will and does falter in the face of adversity. Questions will arise and there will be times when we are skeptics. Thomas is known as the “courageous skeptic” because he didn’t silence his questions in the face of peer pressure. When all of his friends told him that Christ had risen and that they had seen him, he was not so willing to believe based purely on word. He was not afraid to demand proof. He, like everyone else around him, had seen Jesus die for his message. He was not about to follow him to his death without knowing for certain what he was following Christ into. His questions, though admonished, lead to an experience of Christ that profoundly shaped his faith and life forever.
Unlike the others, he needed to physically interact with the source of his faith. He needed to live his faith through his questions, through skepticism, through personal experience. I see myself, as being a lot like Thomas. I ask my questions and it is through my doubt, my experiences of God, through my experiences with humanity that my faith grows, deepens, and becomes more useful to me and how I live into the Easter message.
Modern day theologians and lay people alike have had many discussions about these types of questions. The reticence and reluctance that we all feel occasionally isn’t necessarily bad or something to feel ashamed of and it certainly does not mean that we are not faithful. Jon Meacham, former editor and vice president of Random House Publishing, wrote “One of the earliest resurrection scenes in the Bible is that of Thomas demanding evidence – he wanted to see, to touch, to prove. Those who question and probe and debate are heirs of the Apostles just as much as the most fervent believers”.
Our faith journeys are unique to each of us. Our relationship with Christ is unique and grows in different ways and as any relationship there are the questions, the hardships, the moments of disbelief, the times of doubt and debate. This is natural and should not be hindered because for those who have questions this is how we interact with the Holy and God knows this and values it. Thomas’ story wasn’t included to show how he was somehow a lesser Apostle, somehow foolish in his approach to the resurrection. It was included to show us how every type of faithful person has a purpose and a place in Christ’s mission and God’s plan for the world. Thomas would become very important as an Apostle working for the message of Jesus and I guarantee you that he never stopped asking questions. And each of us is just as important to Christ’s message of love in this world.
Eugene H. Peterson, a 21st century theologian, said “Wonder can’t be packaged, and can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement”. So, interact with the resurrection. Engage the resurrection in a way that makes it meaningful to your lives. If you are like me ask your questions and do so unabashedly. Don’t let the teachings of the past or the judgments of others deter you from your quest to understand and make meaning.
Remember that just as the resurrection turned Christ’s Crucifixion from tradgey to triumph for Thomas, so too can our tragedies and questions be turned from disbelief to faith from sadness and into transformed lives. Jesus didn’t say to Thomas “O you of little faith.” He didn’t chastise any who searched through questions. But instead Thomas’ story and other signs were recorded so those who question had someplace to turn for answers and faith. Remember John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”.
So go forth and ask your questions and seek your answers as Thomas did, engage with the resurrection and the scriptures and allow for the resurrected Christ transform your faith and you lives today. Last week we talked about being the Easter people, this is how we learn the Easter message we are called to live. Learn, listen, pray, look and see and experience the wonder of the resurrected Christ for yourselves and let his love and goodness shine forth in all that you do.
 Jon Meacham, 21st century.
 Eugene H. Peterson, 21st century.
 John 20: 30-31, RSV.
(based on John 20: 19-31 and 1 Peter 1: 3-9)