Unbelievable Faith

John 20:19-31

 

Jesus was dead and the disciples had fled. Now they huddle in the Upper Room wandering what next to do. But the Resurrected Jesus appears them and proves that he is really Jesus. Now they believe that Jesus was resurrected.

Thomas, though, was absent and he didn’t believe their report. After all the disciples didn’t believe Mary Magdalene’s report of her encounter with the Resurrected Jesus. Why should Thomas believe them? A week later, Jesus appears again and provides proof to Thomas that he is the Resurrected Jesus. And now Thomas believes.

But Jesus says to them, “Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.”

And that’s us … has anyone seen the Resurrected Jesus? But do you have faith that Jesus was resurrected? And faith it is … not belief.  For faith is the belief in what cannot be proved.

Do you have faith? Do you have faith that God is real and personally interested in you? Do you have faith that there will be a better tomorrow?  Do you have faith that there is an afterlife? Yet, none of these can be proved.

Our faith is not a childish invention to comfort our primordial selves. Faith is not some crutch used to get us through the hard times. Faith is not the resort of ignorance or primitive fear. Faith is the child and the gift of our sacred cosmos.

‘Sacred Cosmos’ is a term we use to describe the structure we use to make sense of reality.  Our sacred cosmos helps us to understand the meaning of life and reality, of the nature of the divine and how the divine interacts with the material world that we touch, see, hear, and smell. It helps us to describe and imagine the spiritual aspect of reality.  It’s a structure inasmuch as it fits all of these meanings into a coherent whole.

Each religion promotes a sacred cosmos. And as in Christianity a religion’s sacred cosmos may have variations. For example Progressive Christians tend to shape a sacred cosmos around a loving, understanding God that embraces all of creation, whereas; more traditional Christians tend to shape their sacred cosmos around a judgmental God overseeing a fallen humanity.

From our sacred cosmos we determine right from wrong, we derive moral behavior, and a vision of the improvable, but yet necessary aspects of our sacred cosmos, such as the afterlife and God.

Our sacred cosmos helps us understand tragedy and hope. It will or will not make “faith” an acceptable and expected position in dealing with tragedy and in having a vision of the better life.

I say “or will not” because not every sacred cosmos has to embrace the divine or the spiritual or the supernatural. A sacred cosmos can restrict our reality only to the material. These sacred cosmos typically put Darwinian evolution in the center of its understanding of reality and see that there is nothing beyond what science can describe and make sense of. Often there is no overall purpose or direction associated with reality. We simply are the result of random processes and that’s it … faith has no place in such a sacred cosmos.

But in our Christian sacred cosmos … and in every sacred cosmos based on a religion that I knew of, faith is central. And this is primarily because our sacred cosmos teaches that there is something bigger and greater than us, something more important than our individual lives, something that transcends earthly meaning and invites us into a cosmic epic full of meaning and story.  We are never alone, but a part of a greater, more wonderful whole. This is the underpinning of faith.

But so what? This is all very theological, but what about trying to live a life in this age or in any age? Every generation and every person faces suffering and joy, often alternating throughout their lives. Some suffering is nigh on unbearable and left to our own devices, we may very well not survive it in tact.

And alone we may not rejoice in the wonders around us. We can see the world has an instrument of our survival and prosperity and nothing more. Or we can see the world through the eyes of faith, seeing its beauty, its diversity, and its mystery anew each and every day.

Faith requires us to be citizens of a sacred cosmos that enriches our world not only with what our five senses can detect, but also with what our sixth, neglected, faith sense can detect: to sense the mystery of life and the seasons, to sense the movement of the spirit in the wind and passing strangers, and to sense the improvable, ineffable God roaming the world. We must accept … have faith … that we have this impossible, indefinable sixth sense.

But without this sense, without faith, we are bereft of the depth, the poetry, and the enchantment of life.

Every Spring I plant a garden. Over the past few years, I’ve expanded my garden to include more plants and my planting techniques. Every Spring I till the soil and plant the flats. I grow tomatoes and peppers (of course!) and other vegetables, such as tomatillos, eggplants, and beans.

But I also invite the fairies into the garden. I have fairies displayed all over the garden. Now a word about “fairies.” I am disinclined to promote the notion that there is some separate order of creation out of which roam creatures called fairies. Rather I see a “fairy” as a mythic vision of God’s spirit in nature. A “fairy” is a visual image of that spirit. We are embodied creatures and our five physical senses are very powerful. I find it helpful to use them to bring out my sixth sense. So I “plant” images of fairies, gnomes and crescent moons in the garden to remind me that God’s spirit flows and grows in the garden.

Laurie put up a saying on our refrigerator this Spring: gardening is a way to showing you believe in tomorrow.

Really we cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but we can have faith that tomorrow will come and be a new opportunity for betterment. We can have faith …

In the book of Jeremiah, God orders Jeremiah to buy a plot of land in the city even though the city will soon be conquered by the Babylonians [Jer. 32.6:15, 25]. God tells Jeremiah that purchase is an act of faith that God would return the people to the city a free people [Jer 32:37ff].  Jeremiah buys the field, but he will never have it as he along with much of the rest of the population will be exiled. But his descendents will have that field … his faith is a down payment on the future.

The disciples in the Upper Roomthought there would be no tomorrow. But then the Resurrected Jesus appeared and they knew tomorrow held wondrous things. Faith in God is faith in tomorrow.  When the world seems to be closing in on us, God still proclaims the Resurrection.  When our children struggle and go awry, faith carries us through, knowing that we did our best, and there is a tomorrow. When our personal economy fails on us, our faith in God will can point us in a new direction and there will be a tomorrow. Our lives may fall apart, but faith is the promise that God will raise us from the ashes and give us new life. It is faith in God and in the promise of Resurrection that can sustain us through thick and thin. It is faith that gives us the energy and the vision to push pass our traumas, our struggles and our fears, to see the Spring bloom into new life and know that we are part of that Spring.

It is faith in the improvable God and the impossible Resurrection that gives our lives depth of hope and wings to soar.

For where there is no faith, there is no hope. Where there is no faith, there is no tomorrow. We there is no faith, there is no vision … and where there is no vision, the people shall perish.

But if we keep the faith and lean into it and all the promises of God, we will have hope. We will have a tomorrow. We will have a vision and we shall not perish.

Think about it.

God’s grace and love be with you …

Amen.