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South Williamsport, PA
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Resurrection Life! Absent and Doubting

In this series of articles, we are taking a look at interactions Jesus had with people during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension. So far, we have discussed Mary Magdalene, the Disciples, and Cleopas and his friend as they walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Previous articles in this series

In this series of articles, we are taking a look at interactions Jesus had with people during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension. So far, we have discussed Mary Magdalene, the Disciples, and Cleopas and his friend as they walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Previous articles in this series are available at http://www.webbweekly.com.

Today we will discuss Thomas. Yes, Doubting Thomas. Actually, he should be called Absent Thomas. Let me explain.

Absent

Thomas wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them during the evening of resurrection day. Why? Did he feel abandoned? Was he feeling anxious and fearful? Was it disillusionment? Was he mowing the lawn or fishing at the lake? It really doesn’t matter. He should have been with the disciples. His absence resulted in him missing out on a major event intended to fortify his faith. Without that miracle, his faith faltered. I guess that’s why the nickname stuck. Had Thomas been where he was supposed to be, he never would have doubted.

Have you ever pulled away from your family of faith in the midst of a struggle or distraction? Why do we do that? Why do we pull away at the very moment we need them the most? Could it have something to do with our fear of transparency or being judged? Maybe it’s our way of giving up on hope so we can’t be hurt or disappointed again. Or maybe we’ve pulled away because we’re just lazy or selfish. Regardless, when we are absent, we end up missing out on the miracles God provides to fortify our faith.

Some of you have lost touch with your church family due to Covid. Long months of isolation and division have resulted in you feeling disconnected — and you’re not really sure how to get back into the swing of things. Maybe you’ve discovered that life without church actually seems better. That’s possible. After all, the Christian faith is one of selfless sacrifice, discipline, service and suffering, so staying away is certainly easier.

But let me ask you, is your faith strong and vital? Is your Christian life victorious? Is easier really better? I can’t answer those questions for you, but I’ll guess that if you’re absent from your faith community, then you’re missing out on the miracles needed to fortify your faith. Like Thomas, you may be absent and doubting.

Maybe absence hasn’t caused your faith to falter. That’s nice, but I can assure you that your absence has caused someone else’s faith to falter. Keep in mind, your faith community isn’t just about you. It’s a community — that means your faith is important to someone else. If you’re not there, your faith isn’t fortifying others in their hour of need. They are suffering because you are absent. Are you aware of that loss?

Present

A week later, Jesus again appeared to the disciples, and this time, Thomas was with them. Because he was present, he had the opportunity to hear Jesus’ voice and to see and touch His scars. That miracle fortified his faith and Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!”

I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t go to Thomas one on one. It was a week later when Jesus appeared to the disciples again. He had plenty of time to go to Thomas, but He didn’t. He waited until Thomas was in the midst of community before giving him the miracle that was needed to fortify his faith. I think Jesus did that intentionally to teach us something important.

Friends we need our faith communities. We need to be in fellowship. We need to be present. When we are absent, we miss out. And listen, it’s not just about us. Sometimes others need us and our faith to carry them through a season of abandonment and fear and disillusionment and doubt. This is why we fellowship in faith communities. We need each other. Yes, staying home or going to the lake is easier, but Jesus didn’t call us to easy. It’s time to get back to being present in your faith community. You need them — and they need you.
A Very Special Gift

Thomas and the disciples received a powerful grace-moment that you and I have not. They were given the blessed and miraculous opportunity to identify Jesus through seeing, hearing and touching. Jesus acknowledged the special nature of this grace-moment when He mentioned you and me to Thomas.

That’s right. Jesus mentioned you and me when He said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Unlike Thomas and the disciples, you and I must believe without the benefit of seeing, hearing, and touching Jesus. This is why we need each other. Grace-moments still happen, but they tend to be connected to community as we love and serve each other. In these grace-moments, we do get to hear and see and touch as we become and are served by the hands and feet of the risen Jesus.

When Heather and I suffered the miscarriage of our first pregnancy, our neighbors showed up on our doorstep with a freshly baked pie. They didn’t say a word. They simply handed us the pie and gave us each a big hug, then they turned and walked back home. We were hurting and doubting, but in that grace-moment, we experienced the hands and feet of the risen Jesus, and our faith was fortified.

Friends, the world is hurting and doubting. We need each other. Don’t be an absent and doubting Thomas. Engage your community of faith. Your faith will be fortified — and you will strengthen others!

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