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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 20:19–31   

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (NRSV)

Reflection
Thomas was alone. He missed the powerful community moment where Jesus appeared. I imagine him being so afraid after Jesus died that he retreated into isolation. Too afraid to go back to all the disciples, too depressed to ask for help, retreating into familiar loneliness for self-protection. In such loneliness how can one have faith?

Like stepping into church for the first time in a long time—using all your energy and courage just to get here, not even sure if you have enough energy to meet people and sow those seedlings of community formation, which you want in the first place. Loneliness and isolation. It sucks and drains the life, the hope, the courage, the faith out of us.

We often blame Thomas for doubting, but one of the first things Jesus did when he appeared to the disciples is show them his wounds. So belief can’t just be about individually seeing. Maybe Jesus was calling Thomas back into his community.

Another way to translate believing in the original Greek translation is “to have faith.” This seems to remove the contemporary emphasis on individualism and encourages the practice of faith in community.

In community faith holds the tension of doubt and belief. Practicing faith in community is collectively remembering Jesus’ breathing new life into us. It’s calling upon Jesus’ words “Peace be with you,” our faith anthem—a reminder of who we are and what we practice together. Not a peace that suppresses conflict or hides truth, but a peace that grounds us in our calling. A peace that brings courage. A peace that moves us to action. A peace that provides comfort and care.

Prayer
Holy God, may your comforting peace pull us out of our loneliness and draw us back into community. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident


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