Sermons 2005
"Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Easter 2A 2005 John 20: 19-31

I would like to begin today with a story about a man named John Crabtree. John Crabtree is an army veteran who was wounded in the Vietnam War. As a result of his injuries, he received benefits from our government for his disability. One day, John received notification from the government that he was now deceased.

John wrote a letter to the government, insisting he was very much alive and expressing appreciation for their continuing to send his benefits. The letter did no good.

Then John tried calling the government—have you ever tried calling the government? John’s phone calls didn’t remedy the situation either.

Growing frustrated, John contacted a local television station and convinced them to run a human-interest story about his situation. During the interview, the reporter asked, “How do you feel about this whole ordeal?” John laughed, “I feel a little frustrated by it. After all, have you ever tried to prove that you’re alive?” (1)

Saint Thomas the Apostle, called the Twin, is listed as one of the inner circle of twelve disciples in all four Gospels. In the Gospel according to Saint John, from which we read today, he appears in three stories: as the small band made its way to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, he offered to die with Jesus; in Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples, just as our Lord finished saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Thomas interrupts with, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going – how can we know the way?” and in today’s lesson, appearing as one who will not believe until he has actually seen Jesus and touched his wounds. He wants proof that the Jesus he knew died on the Cross was alive.

These are three significant events in the life of Jesus for Christians of any age and they raise important questions: What price are we willing to pay for discipleship; how do we know the truth, the way, and the life, and finally, the third, although not obvious, is ‘what is the most important thing in our lives?’ And the first two will have to wait for another sermon at another time. The third will be our focus today.

But a little bit more about Saint Thomas himself: the tradition has it that Thomas was also one of the Apostle Evangelists who spread the Good News across the Near East to India. The tradition also has it that he was martyred at Mylapore, near the city of Madras. People who have visited India have found Christian churches in the Syriac tradition which date their founding to Thomas in the First Century AD and whose people call themselves the Christians of Saint Thomas.

Jesus challenges Thomas. The Greek is stronger than the modern translations: “Do not be (or become) faithless, but faithful.”

The Early Church Fathers disparaged Thomas for his lack of faith while at the same time thankful for his skepticism because it the occasion for reassuring future generations of Christians through his confession of Christ’s divinity: “My Lord and my God!” he exclaimed once he saw Jesus. He was the first of the Apostles to do so.

Nevertheless, Thomas has been stuck with the label of doubting Thomas or Saint Thomas the Doubter since the earliest days of the Church. The term “doubting Thomas” is a fairly common idiomatic expression for the reasonable skeptic.

Down through the centuries, two views of Thomas have held sway: one that that his doubt – and therefore the doubt of any Christian about Jesus is the antithesis of faith; the other that such doubt is the mother and nourisher of faith. (2) I myself incline to the second in my own personal experience although my ordination requires that ultimately I uphold and be a guardian of orthodoxy.

But to many modern Christians, especially of the Center in these uncertain times in the Church, Thomas’ honesty and straightforward questioning is comforting and encouraging in our own faith journeys.

But this story of Thomas the doubter leads us to question what is important in our lives. Two stories and then I’ll summarize:

Years ago, when he was an intern in the lower-Manhattan section of New York, a doctor was summoned on a blustery and cold winter evening to give assistance. A little girl had come to his apartment, banging on the door, asking his help. He threw on a jacket and followed the child to a stinking one-room tenement apartment, where a little boy, the girl's brother, lay terribly sick. His parents were hovering over him. Despite the doctor's best efforts the boy died moments after the doctor's arrival.

The doctor was shivering, not only because of the death of the child, but because there was no heat in the apartment. The boy's father took off his coat and gave it to him, saying, "Here, you are cold. Thank you for trying to save my boy." The doctor realized immediately that this was the only means the family had to say thank you, and so he did not refuse the gift.

Now that he is a prominent physician and quite wealthy, the doctor has other, finer coats. But on two special days he still wears the coat the boy's father gave him; he wears it on the anniversary of the boy's death and the anniversary of the day he graduated from medical school. He wears the coat to remind himself what life is all about.

The second story: On another wintry day, a middle-aged woman heard a knock on her door. She peered through the window and saw two children, a little boy and a little girl, huddled inside the storm door in ragged coats.

"Any old papers, lady?" they inquired. The woman was about to say no when she looked down and noticed the children's shoes, thin sandals sopping wet from the snow and slush.

"Come in," said the woman, "and I will make you a cup of hot cocoa." There was no conversation, but the soggy sandals left marks on the hearthstone. The woman provided toast and jam with the cocoa to fortify the children against the severe elements outside. The girl held the cup of cocoa in her hands, admiring it from all sides. Her companion asked, "Lady, are you rich?"

The woman, looking at the shabby slipcovers on the couch where the children were seated near the fire, responded, “Mercy no, child.” The little girl, however, rejoined, “But your cup and saucer match.”

Her words struck the woman powerfully. It was plain blue pottery, but the cups and saucers did match. The children thanked the woman and they left, returning to their task of collecting old newspapers to sell. The woman returned to her tasks. She tested the pot roast and potatoes for dinner and stirred the gravy. Pot roast, potatoes, and gravy, a roof over her head, a husband with a good and steady job; these things matched as well. The woman tidied up a bit and noticed that the muddy footprints of the small sandals were still wet upon the hearth. She decided she would leave the marks when they dried in case she ever forgot how rich she was. (3)

There’s a luminous and lovely passage in today’s reading from the First Letter of Peter that speaks to us: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Who could ask for anything more?

But we have seen him. One Third World bishop observed that in his country during the exchange of the Peace, what is said to others is not, “the peace of the Lord be with you,” but rather, “I love the face of Christ I see.”

And it’s true when you think about it. If we want to see Christ we don’t really have to look any farther than the faces of those we love and our children and grandchildren, our neighbors, the lady at the checkout counter and those in line there at TriStar or Food Lion, or the person next to us in church. Love the Christ that you cannot see, and also love the face of Christ you see in each of his brothers and sisters. This is the Summary of the Law in action. (4)

There’s a banner that a woman made for her husband. It reads "Faith is walking to the edge of all the light you have and taking one more step."

And that commentator has said that faith is coming to that point where we are standing on the edge of doubt and we can see no clear path ahead, but we go on in faith. We go on in spite of doubts. We go on in the faith that God is with us. (5) And that is what is important about Thomas the Doubter and about us.


1. in a sermon by Haydn McLean, Have you ever tried to prove that you’re alive?, on for Easter 2A 2005.

2. compiled form The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 2d ed; Saints Galore, 3d ed; The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, revised.

3. adapted from Proclaim, 24 March 2005, Parish Publishing, LLC, 2004

4. Adapted from Barbara Beam, Selected Sermon for Easter 2A 2005, Worship that Works,

5. Adapted from Let Me See Your Hands, a sermon by Robert L. Allen in His Finest Days: Ten Sermons for Holy Week and the Easter Season, CSS Publishing Company, 1993

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579