“...believe without seeing” - April 11, 2021

by Rev. Doug Martindale


John 20: 29


It is hard for us to have Thomas' direct experience because we have 2,000 years of history, beliefs and theology about his experience. We all have strongly held beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs get changed or even shattered because of direct experience. And that has certainly happened to me.


For example, I once thought that divorce was acceptable for other people although I had little empathy or compassion for people who went through divorce. I believed they should just get some counselling and resolve their problems. This belief affected my relationships and affected one friendship in particular. One of my classmates in theology was divorced and then had two more partners. Although I visited my family in Toronto and he lived there, I didn't look him up. In fact I avoided him. Then I became separated and divorced. My belief system went out the window. I gained a lot of empathy, compassion and humility for other people, including my friend from Emmanuel College in the 1970's. In my experience of humility I realized how pious and judgmental I had been. We visited once at his church in Toronto and then I lost touch. Through a mutual friend I tracked him down. About a month ago we had an hour long visit on Zoom and plan to continue doing so regularly.


What changed for me? I had a direct experience. Divorce was no longer something that happened to other people. It happened to me and it was incredibly painful. It totally changed how I saw it, based on my own direct experience.


How do people come to believe in God?


Sometimes people come to belief through Scripture, like Augustine. Some time in the year 386 Augustine heard a child singing a song, the words of which were: “Pick it up and read. Pick it up and read.” He realized it may have been a command from God to open and read the Scriptures so he opened his Bible and read a passage from the Letter of Paul to the Romans and felt as if his heart were flooded with light. It totally changed his life. (Augustine's insincere prayer was: “Make me chaste and continence, but not yet.”)

Sometimes people come to belief through Tradition, such as words in hymns, liturgy or creeds, that stir the soul. Or perhaps the family tradition is Christian and it carries on for another generation.


Some people may come to faith through reason, although I doubt that many do. Nonetheless, there are still popular authors who write about proofs of the resurrection, and for some that may be enough.


We may be familiar with experience as a way to belief. John Wesley, although an Anglican clergy person, had what he described as “a fair summer religion.” He wrote in his journal of his famous conversion: “In the evening I went unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street... About a quarter before nine while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.”


He could better be described as lighting his heart on fire, since he traveled widely to preach, riding at least 250,00 miles on horseback, gave away 20,000 pounds sterling, preached more than 40,000 times and founded the Methodist Church.


I invite us this morning to cherish our beliefs and open our hearts to the direct experience of God's love, through singing new words to a familiar tune.

Fran and I wrote new words to the tune Jesus Loves Me. I invite you to listen we hear the song or, join in singing along with the words:



Jesus loves me this I pray,

Touch me with your love today.

Clear my eyes that I may be

Wrapped in awe and mystery.


Jesus loves me this I pray

Touch me with your love today.

Fill me up with warmth and art

Child like softness in my heart.


Jesus loves me this I pray

Touch me with your love today.

Help our souls to feel your earth

Carry our weight and give new birth.


(Pause)


Fran sings “Jesus love me,” putting herself in the place of Thomas-frightened, traumatized and desperately alone. I sing “Jesus loves me”, knowing the resurrected Christ already loves me.


Imagine for a minute what happened to the disciples and Thomas after the crucifixion. All the disciples were bereft-sad and lonely without their master. According to John, they were fearful and had locked the door. Perhaps they were huddled together, in their trouble and doubt.


And all the more so for Thomas, who was not even with the other disciples according to John, when Jesus appeared. When the disciples told Thomas that they saw the teacher, Thomas said he would have to see the nail holes in his hands and stick his hand in Jesus' side, before he could believe. In other words, he needed a direct experience of the risen Christ in order to believe.


A week later Jesus appears to the disciples. It is quite possible that Thomas was by himself that whole week. Imagine Thomas, huddling on the flat roof of a house, hugging his knees, staring into the darkness. Imagine his isolation and loneliness. After the crucifixion, he was heartbroken. Thomas just wanted to be with his grief, to face the suffering and sorrow alone. That's why when Jesus returned and the other disciples saw him, he wasn't among them. In his absolute terror and grief he wanted to be alone. For three years he had seen Jesus go into the hills to be alone and connect with God. Thomas too, needed to be alone and, in silence.


If Thomas was going to believe in the resurrection of Christ he had to see and touch to believe.

We don't actually know if Thomas touched Jesus. He was invited to touch Jesus' hands and put his hands into Jesus' side. The next thing we hear is that Thomas believed. “My Lord and my God” he said.

What happened? We don't really know. We do know that something profound happened. I believe he had an experience of being invited by the living Christ.


What about us? We can try to believe through Scripture, tradition, reason or something else. There is no substitute though for experience.

We all have the healing power of love, which we have experienced through our grandchildren, our partner or a dear friendship.

Let us feel our heart, as we sing these words together:


Jesus loves me this I pray,

Touch me with your love today.

Clear my eyes that I may be

Wrapped in awe and mystery.


Jesus loves me this I pray

Touch me with your love today.

Fill me up with warmth and art

Child-like softness in my heart.


Jesus loves me this I pray

Touch me with your love today.

Help our souls to feel your earth

Carry 'r weight and give new birth.


(Pause)


Fell free to copy these words and, more importantly, use them as a way to experience the touch of love today and every day. I invite you to write your own verses and to find your own way or ways to:


Come and find the quiet centre

in the crowded life we lead,

find the room for hope to enter,

find the frame where we are freed,

clear the chaos and the clutter,

clear our eyes that we can see,

all the things that really matter,

be at peace, and simply be.


Sources of Inspiration:

Shirley Erena Murray, Come and Find the Quiet Centre, Fran Jasiura

Heart felt listening

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All