Narrative Lectionary Reflection
April 28, 2019
Note: My apologies for not writing a reflection the past few weeks. The day after I wrote the previous reflection for Lent 4, I became very ill. It turned out I had a mild case of pneumonia. (I say mild, because I had another case of pneumonia that placed me in the hospital for two weeks when I was in my 20s.) I took some time off, partially because I was ill and also to make sure I was getting the rest I needed. I’m still recuperating, but I’m better than I was.
“When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.” There is a lot in this sentence. Why did some of the disciples doubt? What were they doubting? The text never tells us. It could be that some of the disciples were still wondering if this really was Jesus. After such an amazing few days, seeing their friend tortured and killed, it was too much for some to think this really was Jesus.
And yet, the text says “they worshipped him.” Everyone worshipped and some doubted.
Can faith and doubt exist at the same time?
When I was a kid, I remember having questions about God and heaven. Did all of this exist? What if it didn’t? Where is heaven? Why can’t I see God? Truth be told, I still have those questions at times. I believe, but I also doubt.
So there are some among the disciples that are wondering if what they are seeing is real. But as we read on where Jesus gives the charge of the disciple to go among the Gentiles, he doesn’t say, ‘Only those who have never doubted.'” Jesus calls all of the disciples, doubters included. We are all called to teach the faith to people, to form Christian communities, to form people to become Christ-followers and to baptize people in the name of the Trinity, even when we aren’t so sure.
The church I pastor is a small congregation that seeks to be more connected to the wider community and to be a public witness in the world. But we really want to see more people become members of our church. People come to visit and don’t come back. As a pastor, I start to doubt myself and wonder if I don’t believe enough. But in reality it doesn’t matter if we have faith the size of Mac Truck or the size of a mustard seed, God is with us as we try to be the church in this suburb of the Twin Cities.
As humans we doubt. At the end of the day, it is not doubt that matters to God, or that we have a perfect understanding of the resurrection or the Trinity. What matters is faith, to place our trust in God, in the Risen Christ, in the Trinity even when none of it makes sense. We trust in sharing our faith, we trust when we teach the faith, we trust when we are baptized and when we baptize.
What makes this passage so amazing is that all of the disciples worshipped, all of them placed their trust in Jesus and at the same time, some of them doubted as well. And yet, they all are commissioned to go into the world.
Christ calls you and Christ calls me. Even if we don’t understand, even if we doubt. Thanks be to God.
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.