Why Do Doubts Arise? April 19, 2015

Why Do Doubts Arise? April 19, 2015


“Why do doubts arise?” April 19, 2015

Scripture: Luke 24:36b – 48 (38)

Unison: Ps. 4

Hymns:1) 484, “O Come to Me, You Weary” 2) 468, “The Care the Eagle Gives Her Young” 3) 494 “We Who Would Valiant Be”


Leader: People of God, the Lord has called you here today!

People: We have come, seeking love, hope, and healing.

L: Rejoice, for the light of Christ shines on us.

P: Our hearts are full of gladness and praise!


God of creation and renewal, in Jesus Christ you walked among us proclaiming love, mercy, and repentance. You died, and rose, and lived again, so that we might believe and truly live. Inspire and empower us today, so that we may be your witnesses, showing and sharing the good news of your unconditional love. This we pray as Jesus taught us: “Our Father…”

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE after the Lord’s Prayer (Message in A Bottle – CROP Walk Educational resource)

Message in a water bottle: Every one of us has muscles, don’t we? We need them to help us walk and run and climb and carry things. If I said, “Show me your muscles,” what would you do? (Encourage them to participate by flexing arm muscles, and then responding, “Wow! You’re strong!” when they do the same.) Our muscles grow strong when we eat healthy food and drink clean water. But in some parts of the world, children don’t have healthy food to eat or clean water to drink. So they don’t grow strong muscles. Instead, they can get very sick. (Hand out a water bottle to each child.) Look at the top of your water bottle. Do you see how little that is? (Make a circle with your finger and thumb to simulate the size of the circle.) For sick children without healthy food to eat, that’s the size of their upper arm – where their big, strong muscle should be. Now look at the middle of your bottle. It’s about this big. (Wrap both hands around the bottle to “measure” the circumference, then slide hands off and look through the circle of your hands.) That’s about the size of your strong, healthy upper arm. You know, muscles are good for a lot of things. And helping people who aren’t as strong or healthy as we are is one of them. Jesus asks us to help feed hungry people and make sure they have water when they’re thirsty. That’s why our church is walking in the CROP Hunger Walk and raising money to help end hunger. You can help, too. Tell your parents you want to join the CROP Hunger Walk – so your family can help kids around the world get the nutritious food they need to be strong like you. Adapted from an activity by Carolyn Self, Church World Service


How many of your hearts broke when I described the standard way of determining five year olds who do not have safe water and adequate food: their upper arms are not the diameter of a water bottle. In fact, their upper arms are the diameter of the cap of the water bottle. It is difficult to even comprehend such a degree of need. It makes us feel helpless, to see things that are so wrong with the world, so many things, so much wrongness. I’ll be back to this idea shortly.

Today, we have Luke’s version of Jesus appearing to the gathered followers. Instead of the doubts of Thomas, we have the group digesting the news from the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus….not knowing who he was, not recognizing him until he blessed the bread and broke it at the evening meal. They run back to Jerusalem that night, and told the others what has happened. It’s like they are gathered at a command central, and the reports are coming in…Jesus here! Jesus NOT there! He said this! He did that! It’s hard to take in, and it’s all happening so fast. After the worst thing, that terrible Saturday when they thought it was all over, something NEW and VERY BIG is happening.

And all of a sudden, he’s there. Jesus. With a blessing, “Peace be with you.” I bet they felt anything BUT peaceful. Full of questions. Full of….well, the Bible tells us. Full of fear. They think he’s a ghost. They are startled and terrified. In this account, they are all invited to touch Jesus, to see he’s not a ghost. He even calls for some food….can a ghost do this? He eats the broiled fish. Whatever he is, he is not a figment of their imagination or a ghostly manifestation. But they feel lots of fear and doubt.

I want us to stay at that fear and doubt for a moment. Last week, I talked about belief in these stories as alignment with God and God’s purposes. Not merely subscribing to certain opinions, but coming alongside and letting God and God’s purposes guide. It seems like the apostles and others who were in that room should be able to do this, right? They’ve seen all the miracles, heard all the parables, reacted to all the prophecies. If they have trouble, what does that mean for us? Jesus’ question is one for us too, “Why are you so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”

That question has been on my mind all week, in the midst of rummage sale, and pastoral care, and revisions on my thesis, and all the day to day stuff. It came with me to a meeting at the Superintendent of Schools’ office on Friday afternoon, where a group of 40 community leaders from Farmington and Farmington Hills gathered to consider ways that we might respond to the reality that, even in our community, in Farmington Public Schools, there are 168 homeless students, and more whose families are teetering on the brink of homelessness. The schools have a liaison officer, who works with the families of these students, ensuring that they do not disappear out of the schools and begin a terrible cycle of poverty.

It was a great meeting. It was, I am convinced, the beginning of something big. We’d never all come together like that—churches, the community foundation, the after school program, people from the school system, people from Neigborhood House and the St. Alexander Food Pantry. We talked about the situation, the kinds of needs. And then someone asked, what can we do that is deeper than just meeting immediate needs, as important as that is? How can we join forces to help them move beyond homelessness, back into work, into a house? There were many thoughts. You’ll hear about these as this plan develops. About mentoring homeless families, providing access to certain social services, lots of things. It was pretty exciting. I was full of enthusiasm, it’s so needed……and also, I felt some fear, and doubt. What a big problem this is, is there really any solution? How can we really make it happen? What kinds of resources will this take, how will we ever afford it? Do we have what it takes? Do I have what it takes?

And there was that question, with a whole new meaning all of a sudden: “Why are you so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”

This is what happens to us. It is, I am convinced, what happened to them as well. It isn’t that we are rejecting the situation; we just don’t know what to think, or even how to respond. It’s so new. And we default to the place of safety, we take refuge in the familiar. But when God is at work…safety isn’t the main thing! And so they felt afraid, not sure, full of reasons why this can’t be happening, full of reasons why this can’t be done. But we know it did happen, and it was done.

The other thing about that question is the tone that our minds assign to it. You could hear it as a reprimand—WHY are you SO FRIGHTENED? And WHY are your hearts SO FULL OF DOUBT?—or, why oh why are you still like that? We’ve all heard that reprimand. But it’s pretty burning, coming from Jesus. And I don’t think that was the tone. I also don’t think he was mystified. He knew quite well, as he demonstrated in the next moment. Instead, I think he says it to them, and to us,Why are you so frightened? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? in a tone that invites insight, a tone that causes us to say, huh, what am I afraid of? What am I doubtful about? I think this because in the next moment, he offers himself for examination, and when they are still afraid he eats with them. And then, he “opens their minds” to the scriptures, to the deeper meaning of what has happened, and then goes on to what they should now do: be witnesses to these things, to the possibility that people could turn their lives around, that is, repent, and find forgiveness—grace—when they do. You are witnesses of these things, he tells them. You’ve seen it in your own lives—right here! That there is nothing that will stop God, that God’s purposes are righteous AND loving, that God wants all people to be restored and renewed and to live in the light of love.

Which brings us back to the homeless project and the water bottle story. If God wills something, God will see it done. That is one of the overall stories of the Bible. We are witnesses to those things when we tell about the resurrection, and we are also witnesses of those things when we do more than tell: when we show what a life renewed by God’s love can look like. When we manifest God’s love and care by our own acts of love and care. We are not to hunker down in the sanctuary and be in that room apart, like the followers of Jesus in this story. God will not leave us alone. Jesus will appear. And he will ask us, again and again, “Why are you so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” There is always something we can do in service of the good news.

Here are some things. Those children who are starving? Whose upper arms are impossibly tiny because they don’t have enough nourishment to develop muscles? We can provide nourishment. The CROP Walk on May 3 is happening to raise money for hunger relief around the world, not only emergency food, but creation of drip irrigation and development of farming techniques and creation of jobs for the parents of these children so that they can provide. And 25% of the money raised by the Walk will come back to our community. To the groups which are working to relieve hunger: Yad Ezra Kosher food pantry. The Salvation Army.Baldwin Center of Pontiac. And, to Neighborhood House, to St. Alexander Food Pantry, who are sitting in the group of 40, imagining solutions that will move people out of homelessness and back into productive fullness of life. So, for starters: sign up to walk. Go online and make a donation to the North Church walk team. Make a pledge on a walker’s envelope. Ask friends and neighbors to give some money—it doesn’t take a lot, if we work together.

And that is the key. We are working together. I know this is not the last time I’ll mention the work of the group of 40; it is a need in our community, and we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus did not berate his followers for their fear and doubt, he encouraged them. And the community of encouragement he created, and into which God breathed the Spirit, is this, the church. We are called and inspired, not because we are perfect, but because our hearts, even full of fear and doubt, are willing to love and serve Jesus by doing his work in the world.

Our Savior meets us right where we are, as we are, just as he met them, and gently, kindly, asks, “Why are you so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Let the answers rise up in the presence of God’s lovingkindness, in the presence of the community of Christ, and then discover your courage, and your faith, to go forth as the Body of Christ for the world.