Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. That is, I learn by seeing and doing. Reading is not my primary learning modality. Actually, reading is the primary learning modality for only about 10% of the population. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading but I am part of the majority, reading is for me a secondary learning medium. Which should have made me a perfect candidate to be one of Jesus’ disciples. For example, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus have the disciples memorize Luther’s meaning to the 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed (I actually know this one).
Okay, Luther is about 1,500 years later but you get the idea. Jesus has the disciples watch, listen, and do. Watch how Jesus welcomes sinners (really icky ones); listen to his teaching through parables (which generally make them feel like idiots); and go witness to God’s love, feed 5,000 and drive out demons (well, what’ya know, it actually works!). Nowhere do they have to read anything. So, I think I would have made a pretty good disciple and would have clearly been comfortable following Jesus. And then comes Matthew 28:16-17: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”
What? What did they doubt? They had just spent three years being “discipled” by Jesus. They had watched him perform miracles, raise the dead, heal the blind. They had listened to words of healing and hope. They were firsthand witnesses to Jesus resurrected, and now as Jesus is about to speak words of the Great Commission what does Matthew record? “And many of them doubted.” Sheesh, what’s a Savior to do?
I used to enjoy sharing the above scene from Matthew after asking the question, “Would it be easier to believe in Jesus as Lord if you were one of his disciples – seeing all his miracles, learning from him personally, put his dead cold body in a grave and then experience him resurrected – or now? Is it easier to be a Christian now or then as a firsthand disciple?” The answer is now. We have the benefit of the Holy Spirit, AKA the Spirit of Christ. The first activity of the Holy Spirit is to gift us with faith. Faith empowers us to hold to Jesus. Faith is stronger, more enduring than even our own senses because faith is evidence of the very presence of God. God or my senses? I’m going with God.
A long time ago, during one of my many faith crises, a classmate shared a thought by the French theologian Teihard de Chardin. It was something to the eﬀect that doubt is not the opposite of faith, rather doubt is a critical part of faith. The opposite of faith is not doubt but apathy. Doubt is often the evidence of the Holy Spirit challenging, shaping and strengthening a person’s faith. That thought continues to be a helpful touchstone in my life journey.
It is also consistent with the words of Matthew. Immediately following his commentary that many of the disciples doubted, we hear the words of the Great Commission… “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We are to make disciples, that is, grownup Christians. Disciples learn to live with doubt believing it to be the work of the Spirit aiding us in our growing up in Christ. A couple of days ago we voted. Is everything sorted out now? Is our country at peace, with everyone holding hands and vowing unity? Nope! Not by a long shot. Now more than ever we need Christ’s people, who in the midst of their own doubts and struggles are willingly deployed to be leaven, salt and light. For Jesus. Good thing we are not on our own out there.
God bless you in your service, witness and doubt,