The eternal dance of doubt​ and faith

Earth Sunday / Easter 2C
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
28 April 2019

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Already it has been a week.

It seems a lot longer, doesn’t it since Easter? Was that really just a week ago? It has been an odd kind of week with ANZAC Day in between and all the other stuff that has happened. It seems a lot longer than just a week ago.

Like the disciples in the first week of Easter we have made our way through our first week of Easter, wondering how we make sense of it all and what difference—if any—it makes to our lives anyway.

As we gather in church today to reflect on all that, three major spiritual streams are converging:

Earth Sunday
Easter 2
Baptism

And all of this in the context of a Eucharist when we gather around the Table of Jesus, take bread made from grain which the earth has given us and drink wine made from the vine sustained by Earth herself.

 

Gathering at the Table of Jesus also features in the Gospel readings that we hear during these first weeks after Easter Day.

The Table of Jesus is a place of identity: who we are is on display here.

The Table of Jesus is a place of transformation: things of Earth become sacraments of heaven.

The Table of Jesus is a place of encounter: The earliest disciples recognised Jesus alive among them in the breaking of the bread.

The Table of Jesus is also a place where faith and doubt dance eternally: They are not either/or choices, but the dynamic of discipleship as we seek to discern and embrace the risen Lord active in our midst.

 

So here we are, like the disciples in that Gospel reading which we have just heard, gathered around the Table of Jesus a week after Easter.

We are a mixed mob. So were they.

Some of us have faith that is so strong it seems nothing could ever break it. Some of us have doubts that are so strong that faith seems unreasonable. Most of us, perhaps, are somewhere in the middle: partners in the eternal dance of doubt and faith.

Some of us will think that baptising Jace and Rylee is one of the most important things we can do for them. Others may think it is a quaint old family custom that cannot do much harm. Most of us—myself included—are somewhere in between. We are a mix of doubt and faith, anxiety and hope, strength and weakness; all at the same time, and always.

It was like that in the Upper Room at Jerusalem as the disciples gathered around the Table of Jesus and wondered what sense to make of the weird rumours they had been hearing all week.

Yes, Jesus had been dead.

There was no doubt about that. They saw him on the cross and the Romans did not allow anyone to be rescued before they were dead.

At least they had been allowed to remove the body of Jesus after he was dead. The Romans did not keep him on the cross as food for the birds and as a warning to other people not to step out of line.

Seems it was bad luck for the Temple to have dead men on their crosses during Passover.

Dead and buried, even if done hastily and without all the proper rituals.

No doubt about that.

But then the weird stories started.

Mostly the women. Of course. Always more inclined to drama and fairy tales.

But then Peter said he had seen Jesus too. Crusty old fisherman Pete. The Rock.

And James, the brother of Jesus who was not even one of the disciples.

Then Cleopas and his wife from Emmaus.

Mary Magdalene was on a campaign. She had always loved Jesus, but now she was insisting he still alive even though everyone knew he was dead.

Thomas was a tough nut to crack. No women’s gossip for him. He was not going to believe all this Easter stuff until he could see Jesus for himself and touch the wounds from the crucifixion.

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.” (John 20:26–29 NRSV)

 

I love that ancient Christian story.

It reminds me that doubt is a healthy part of faith. Indeed, it reminds me that faith without any questions or doubt may not be very healthy at all.

That is the eyes-wide-open kind of religion into which we baptise Jace and Ryle this morning.

Parents and godparents are promising to teach them the steps in the dance of doubt and faith, listening for the sacred music at the heart of the universe, and moving their lives in harmony with the God who says, “Here I am. Come and play.”

The Cathedral has a part to play in the dance, but the most important roles are those performed by the parents, godparents and extended family.

How you look at the world will become the way they look at the world.

How you manage your doubts and your beliefs will become their way as well.

 

Being Earth Sunday, we are reminded that this is not just about us and it is certainly not about buying fire insurance to get human souls out of hell.

At the heart of everything is the fact that the world exists.

Not only is the Earth here, but Earth has developed the capacity to be aware of itself and to know that it is here.

We are the Earth coming to conscious awareness.

Life is not about us over here and Earth over there.

We are Earthlings, and what counts for us as salvation is also salvation for all of creation: for the Earth itself and the universe as a whole.

Easter is not just for humans, but for God’s whole created universe.

At Christmas we celebrate God among us—Emmanuel‚ as sacred Spirit becomes human person; the Creator becomes Earthling.

At Easter we celebrate the transformation of reality that God’s dance makes possible.

Again, we find the dance of doubt and faith drawing us into the future, into God herself.

Have we got this all figured out? No way.

But this too is what we will be sharing with Jace and Rylee in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

 

So, let’s head down to the font and get this dance started …

 

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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