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Apr 08, 2018

Proof

Proof

Passage: John 20:19-31

Speaker: Father Will Lowry

Series: All

Category: All

“Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. Doubt keeps faith awake and moving. Whether your faith is that Jesus is the son of God or that he is not, if you don't have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep.” -- Frederick Buechner

Frederick Buechner wrote, “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. Doubt keeps faith awake and moving. Whether your faith is that Jesus is the son of God or that he is not, if you don't have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep.”

Most of us require some sort of proof to believe something or someone. Whether it is a story of something as unbelievable as the Resurrection or something as menial as a big fish story. [Listen to the audio version of this sermon to hear Fr. Will's story about the catfish crossing the road.]

We use “Proof” to define many things. Proof can be an answer to a mathematical statement. We use evidence to provide proof of innocence and guilt in a court of law. When we hear a story - believable or not - we often listen for “proof”.

In many ways our society has decided we don’t need proof to determine what we believe. Take the internet or TV for example. Depending upon what news you watch, the “proof” of what has been said or done can be slanted several different ways - and in the digital age, the ability to manipulate photos, and create real-looking sources is as easy as writing your name.

We have adopted a saying in our family that you’ve probably heard. “If you saw it on the internet/TV, it must be true.”

Now, I hope we all realize the absurdity of that statement, but, probably most of us are guilty of not requiring much proof to believe a lot of what we read or hear out in the world today. But that kind of depends on what it is we want to believe about something.

Let me back up a minute and talk about how we prove things, how we get proof. To prove something means that we are using a test of some sort to determine whether or not something meets up with an agreed “standard”. Something that a majority can agree upon.

Of course, many of our tests are subjective. They presuppose that there are certain truths that are non-negotiable. Things that are believed to be true pretty much no matter what. There are always outliers or minor exceptions, but when we take those things away, we are left with a general set of almost all the time type answers - proofs. In other words, as Merriam-Webster says, M

Most proofs employ logic, but usually include some amount of language or understanding that usually admits some ambiguity.

Let’s be clear; no one can prove that the Resurrection happened. We don’t have a photo or live video or anything like that to confirm that it actually happened.

But what about the Bible you say? It’s proof, right? Well, that depends on who you ask. It depends on your perspective. People who are looking for reasons to critique or discount God and the Jesus story would say it is at best circumstantial evidence.

And certainly, even for people who profess to believe in Jesus and the collection of stories and experiences written about him, there are times when we have doubts about what we read and about the traditions we follow.

The Easter event and today’s Gospel as well give us one of those circumstances. A man who was dead for three days has disappeared from his tomb and now is said to be showing up in rooms with locked doors where he wasn’t - before the doors were locked. It surely brings images of ghostly presences to my mind.

And then, we have Thomas. Thomas is not so much unlike most of us, although we tend to give him a bad rap. The story of Thomas is probably where more of us tend to live than not. We want to see to believe - we need proof. Let’s face it, most of us would love to have the experience/proof of sticking our finger in the wound with Thomas.

But, we do not have that luxury. We weren’t there; not with Mary or Thomas or any of the others who saw and were able to believe.  

This is where perhaps those skeptics might have an upper hand. You know the saying, “If something sounds too good to be true… it usually is.” To believe such a thing requires proof. Thomas could not make the leap of faith based solely on the testimony of his friends - he needed to see, to touch - who could blame him or anyone else for that matter.

So, what is it that causes us to believe in God - in Jesus’ Resurrection without physical proof?

Is there something inside of us, something that we are born with, something that grows within us?

Are we simply more gullible than others? Have we not thought this through all the way? Is this some grand April Fools joke or magic trick we are all going along with, just in case?

Would it surprise you if I told you that I am not going answer these questions for you? Or pretend that I can?

The reason I can't is because just like any other thing that requires proof we have to decide for ourselves. Just like any other thing that requires proof you have to put the Resurrection through your own litmus tests. We each have to decide what we will accept as proof and what we will dismiss as an outlier - or understand as a possibility.

I can suggest many ways for you to go about testing the validity of your belief about what really happened on Easter Sunday and the days following that. They will inevitably require you to read the stories and to understand why in the world someone would make up such a story without much proof at all.

I would also suggest that you give credence to your heart, not just your mind.

Our hearts so often are forgotten when we seek proof. That’s not to say that things become true simply because we have great affection for them or want for them to be. But our hearts will undoubtedly point us in the direction of what we find truly important and call us to seek what we truly believe.

What we hold dearest and closest to us - what is in our hearts - is also most likely what we believe in or want to believe in the most.

Perhaps believing something does not so much require proof as much as it requires a need or a want to believe something - and proof is that subjective element that gives us courage enough to go ahead and believe it.

What I can tell you, is that I believe in the Resurrected Jesus because of experiences and circumstances that I have encountered in others, because of deep reflective prayer and questioning, and because of the “proof” in the stories of scripture. But, mostly I believe because of what is in my heart.

In the end, that is what I believe Thomas was working out when he required physical proof of the resurrected Jesus. He was figuring out what was in his heart. And Jesus gave him what he needed.

I believe Jesus does this for each of us, too. He gives us what we need when we need it most. The promise that we will not be alone, the strength to go on, forgiveness when we can’t fathom it and love beyond any possible measurement of standard that we can imagine.

What proof do you seek? What is in your heart?

Amen. +