Doubting Who?

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Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here on the website where you found this audio file. For the nerds in the know, this is the second Sunday of Easter, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, April 16, 2023. 

Good morning! Did you know that every year – every single year – on the Sunday after Easter Sunday, we hear the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 19-31? Now, we’re on a three year lectionary, which means that we read a fair chunk of the bible every three years. But the creators of the lectionary decided that Doubting Thomas’ story, as told in the Gospel of John, was so important that we need to read it over and over again every year. Few stories are so important, and this sort of thing only happens a few other times in the lectionary.

So what’s so important about this story? Well… how much time do you have? There’s a lot of important stuff in here.

First of all, in the Gospel of John, unlike Matthew and Luke, Pentecost doesn’t happen 50 days after Easter. While Matthew and Luke have the coming of the Holy Spirit happen on Pentecost, fifty days after Easter (which is May 28th, this year), in the Gospel of John, Jesus appears to the majority of his students the evening of his resurrection, breathes on them, and gives them the Holy Spirit for their own. And this is one of those inconsistencies in the bible that you don’t get to say it happened both ways. We read both ways, and the church chooses to honor Matthew and Luke’s version, because after all, Pentecost is the third most important festival of the church, right behind Christmas and today… is not a festival. Today we tend to focus on the last half of this reading, the Doubting Thomas part.

But you know, his nickname during his lifetime wasn’t ‘Doubting’. We added that later. His nickname was ‘The Twin’, because he looked just like Jesus. And in the Nag Hammadi cache of documents found in Egypt in the forties, we unearthed the Gospel of Thomas, and it was this guy, whom we call ‘Doubting’, and that document written by Thomas the Twin is just a long listing of sayings of Jesus. Some of those sayings are the same as ones we have in our four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and some… are brand new to us. But they do all sound as confounding and life changing as anything we’ve known he’s said before archeology and goat farming unearthed the long lost version from Thomas.

And you know, Thomas, the Twin, traveled long and far after Jesus’ left the final time, when he Ascended to the Father, just before Pentecost. It was just a legend, for a thousand plus years, that Thomas made his way all the way to India, preaching and teaching and converting people who found the good news of Jesus to be compelling enough to want to change their life. It was just a legend that he got all the way to India before he was martyred, as all the first generation of Jesus’ students were. It was just a legend… until the British started to colonize India. And when the British, and their missionaries, got to South India they discovered that certain villages… were already Christian. Oh, they didn’t worship anything like the English did, they didn’t have the same style, or the same scriptures even, but they knew Jesus Christ. And they remembered, over countless generations, sixteen hundred years or more, who had brought them the good news. Thomas. Their teacher, their apostle, was Thomas. 

I don’t know much more about the story, and I’ve never read about it in a book, but there’s an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York whose parents were from that village. And her family has been Christian for two thousand years, and counting. And they remember.

So let’s not get too down on Thomas for rolling his eyes at his anxiety-ridden friends and fellow-students. He came to it in his own time, wrote down a priceless record unlike any other, and changed lives. And that’s a good model to follow for our own lives; we don’t have to get it all right all the time, to have gotten it right by the end.


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