Archive for April, 2009

On Believing

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

  April 16, 2009

Thursday in Octave of Easter

Acts 3: 11-26; Luke 24: 35-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

Lot’s of people, even so-called Christians, Deny Christ. 

Both readings today give us a glimpse of that.  Peter tells how the people were blind to the Old Testament prophesies.  They were blind to Christ when he came.  And even the Gospel story hints at denial.  The Apostles couldn’t believe their eyes when Jesus stood before them in a resurrected state.  Reading their minds and hearts, Jesus told them they were not seeing a ghost.  And if they had believed in Christ, then they would have expected his resurrection, because of all the scriptures that pointed to the events that led up to and happened during Holy Week. 

We can be the same way.  We can believe, but not really believe.  We recite our creeds, and we can celebrate the cycle of the death and resurrection of Jesus each year in the Church’s liturgies.  We can pray constantly to the Lord in an apparent act of Faith.  But do we really believe all that we profess?  And, do we recognize that whatever comes, is God’s answer to those prayers? 

God’s ways are not our ways.  They are different and can be very hard to imagine.  And yet, our all loving God means the best for us who believe. 

So, in this season of Easter, make your best effort to recognize the risen Christ.  Make your best effort to recognize that God does answer your prayers.  Try to see God’s will for you in all the clutter and difficulties of life.  Sometimes it’s hard.  But when you believe, you know that God is there with you every step of the way. 

Dealing With Doubt

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

  April 15, 2009

Second Sunday of Easter

Jn 20: 19-31

Westminster Tower

Dc. Larry Brockman

The great English Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote:  “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, ten in half the creeds”.  And yet, every time we hear this Gospel, we usually jump to the conclusion that Thomas’ faith was weak because he doubted.  So how can Tennyson be right? 

One thing that generally unites us Christians is our Creed.  No matter whether you are Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, or any of most other Christian denominations, you believe in the Nicene Creed.  That’s because it summarizes our belief in the Trinity, Jesus’ Incarnation as true God and True Man, and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  So, how could Tennyson possibly be right?  How can a doubting Thomas have more faith than people who profess the Creed? 

Well, first of all, sometimes we just recite the Creed without really thinking about it.  It becomes second nature, repetitive- in other words, It looses it’s life, its meaning.  We can recite the Creed, but do we say Amen to it, and really mean that word?  Contrary to popular belief, Amen doesn’t mean “the end”.  No, Amen means- Yes, Absolutely. Certainly, I do believe with all my heart.  When you recite your Creed, is that the way you believe, with a big “Amen”? 

Now the Gospel we just heard is something that occurred on the first Easter Sunday.  Put yourselves into the scene as one of the Apostles.  You are huddled in fear, locked in a room, waiting for the danger to pass.  You see, your hero, Jesus, who had spoken so long and often about the coming Kingdom of God, and his role as the Son of God, had been snatched like a thief, treated like a common and dangerous criminal, and hung on a Cross.  You didn’t see any miracles when they tried and convicted your hero; when the flogged him, and led him away; and when they crucified him.  Nothing- but you expected miracles because you had seen the water turned to wine, blind and sick people cured, and even dead people rising from the dead.  So, what happened?  He was gone in a flash, that’s what happened, fulfilling His father’s will. And He had left them all in a state of disarray.  It all happened so quickly, and the crowd and authorities were so angry.  Could it happen to you?  Would it happen to you, as an apostle?  Would the authorities come and round up the rest of the Jesus crowd.  After all, Jesus was the ring leader, but there were still those other guys- the Apostles out there.  So- they all hid, locked in an upper room, waiting and hoping for the danger to pass. 

All that is, except for Thomas.  He wasn’t there.  Now Thomas, it seems, had the reputation of being a pessimist.  But if you look behind the surface, it wasn’t that he was negative, or that he didn’t love Jesus.  It was that Thomas had vision.  Let me explain.  When Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem for the Passover, the Apostles expressed fear- they were afraid that the Jews would come after Jesus.  And it was then that Thomas said, sarcastically, “Let us go that we may die also”.  Pessimistic, yes; but at the same time, Thomas is just showing that he thinks things through.  He tries to see and think like a chess player, making sure he sees all the moves coming, never to be surprised.  And he did see the whole terrible scene coming- that was true.  But he loved Jesus enough to follow after Him even when he expected the coming disaster. 

I can relate to well to Thomas.  I was an engineer for 35 years before I retired and became a Deacon.  People used to think I was a pessimist, too.  But part of it was just the ability to see things coming.  It was that analytic mind that God gifted me with.  And frequently the disasters I dreaded happened too.  “If only others had listened”, I would think.  I’ll bet lots of you think that way also.  Likewise, Thomas doesn’t just blindly accept things on Faith, either.  He had to think things through to be convinced. 

So, maybe Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the Apostles because he was doing just that.  He needed to be alone, and think things through.  And when you think things through, one of the things that plagues you, is doubt- real doubt.  It’s kind of like when you decide to get married, as I think about it.  If you didn’t go through a period of doubt before you got married, then you didn’t think very hard about it.  Be honest about it- when you thought about getting married, you had to work through the doubt, didn’t you. 

Now I say all this because it is important to understand that there is, in fact, more belief in doubt than in half the Creeds.  Tennyson was right.  Because there is a big difference between really believing by saying “Amen” in the true sense of the word, and just reciting the Creed.  In fact, we can’t say “Amen” to our Creed truthfully unless we work through the doubt. 

Now, there’s a curious thing about Jesus way of dealing with people.  Jesus was very patient with Thomas.  Jesus just very lovingly asks Thomas to do what Thomas requested in his own words.  Contrast that with Jesus attitude about hypocrites; or when Peter admonished Jesus not to talk about dying on a Cross, or when Jesus encountered moneychangers in the Temple.  Jesus got angry in all three of these cases.  Yes, Jesus said that those who did not see, and believed, were blessed.  But, Jesus was patient with Thomas.  Thomas stood before Him undoubtedly waiting for the scathing words and a tongue lashing for his unbelief.   But, they never came.   Rather, Jesus was patient with Thomas, and just gave him the facts   And Jesus is patient with us.  He gives us a lifetime to put it all together; to gather the facts, and to resolve our doubts.  Once Thomas believed, he made the clearest statement of recognition of Jesus as God in the Gospels.  Without touching, as Thomas had requested, Thomas said “My Lord and My God”.  Thomas said “Amen” in the true sense of the word. 

Unlike the Apostles locked up in that room, who knew Jesus first hand, and lived the events of the First Easter, actually seeing the resurrected Christ, we have the dilemma that Thomas had.  We are challenged to work through our doubts, and to believe, with a great “Amen”, that Jesus did rise from the dead without seeing Him.  To do that, we will experience doubt- recurring doubt. 

In today’s world, there are many who try to explain away the significance of the resurrection; many who don’t really believe it happened.  They refuse to believe- they believe only what they can see; only what science can “prove”.  They don’t go through a cycle of doubt and resolution, but rather, they just choose not to believe.  In the end, Faith is believing without seeing.  Real faith and belief is based on the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior to us.  It’s saying “Amen” to all the things we believe in our Creed.  It is fine honed by recurring cycles of doubt, resolved by that inner voice inside of us, God validating his Presence over and over again. 

We are in the peak of the Easter season.  If you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he died for you, was resurrected from the Dead, and that you will be saved, then rejoice, and say after me: Jesus Christ is risen; He is indeed!- “Amen”. 

Good Friday Morning Prayer

Friday, April 10th, 2009

April 9, 2009

Good Friday Morning Prayer

Isaiah 52:13-15

Ponder it!  All of us gathered today are called to ponder it.  The prophesy Isaiah foretells in this reading will be played out in the next 3 days. 

And what are we asked to ponder?  First, that God became man.  No other faith believes that the transcendent God shares his Divinity so intimately with humanity.  But God so loved us that He did send his Son, fully human and fully divine.  And so, we can ponder how God sees human life lived to the fullest, and consistent with His divine will. 

Second, that Jesus, and hence God, humbled himself by accepting humiliation and suffering.  Even to the point of a horrible death on a cross.  We have all been exposed to the reality of that- the passion story read just last weekend.  And it will be repeated again today.  The total humiliation of Jesus- and yet done with love, all to fulfill Jesus commitment to His father’s will.  So, we can all ponder whether we are willing to bear humiliation for God’s sake. 

And thirdly, that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, in a glorified state.  A glorified state that God said he will share with all of us who believe.  Yes, rulers and common folk alike need to ponder what it means to be in a glorified state like Jesus. 

Ponder that and you will experience the coming Joy of Easter. 

Holy Thursday Morning Prayer

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday Morning Prayer

Hebrews 2:9b-10

Suffering!  It’s something that we all try to avoid.  And yet, Holy Week Liturgies constantly remind us of the suffering endured by our Savior for us.  There is something very sobering in the message, that, as Paul says:   “God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering”. 

And yet, right up until the very end of his life Jesus was a very happy person, just living life to the fullest.  He is depicted as very social, and part of a crowd.  He accepted everyone, loved greatly, and was loved by his disciples. 

It’s just that Jesus got it- the need to do the Father’s will, even when the going got tough.  So Jesus preached repentence, and the Kingdom of God.  We are all called to do the same, live the life we’ve been given- happily, but hang in there when the going gets tough and shoulder our share of the sufferings that entails. 

In today’s world, a world of economic uncertainty, with many folks out of a job, many losing financial security, illnesses, older parents, and all kinds of trials that’s what our lives entail- living cheerfully and accepting the cross we’ve been given, whatever it is.  Why?  So that we are made perfect through suffering, and brought to glory through Jesus Christ.