Wonderful Doubt!

John 20:19-31   

Would you consider yourself to be a skeptical person? Are you a doubter?

And now, be present in this very moment. What’s going on? In the world, in your community, in your home? Don’t judge it or interpret it. Just think about what is actually happening.

Let’s you and I do something together, right now. Let’s be willing to look at life just the way it is. Don’t add anything to it, don’t subtract anything from it.

Did you know that this is what it means to be a skeptic? Sadly, the word [and idea] of being a skeptic often gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Let’s be skeptics and doubters, shall we?

Why? Because it’s a healthy mindset to have right now—with all that’s going on. And it’s healthy in general, actually.

For if you and I can be skeptics and doubters, we are then engaging in spiritual growth.

Yes, you heard me right. By being skeptics and doubters we engage in spiritual growth. No need to exaggerate anything, no need to play down anything. Look at everything just the way it is.

Skepticism means you do not know, so you’re doubtful about stuff. Like, for example, now. It’s an uncertain time, right? A time to be skeptical. And this skepticism is about looking for something.

You’re doubtful, investigating, seeking. We have no problem with a detective being skeptical and performing investigations, right? So why do we hesitate to say that being a detective is akin to being a spiritual seeker?

Now is a time to be detectives. To be skeptics, to be doubters and seekers. You don’t need to have all the answers, you don’t need to explain things away, you don’t need to have everything make sense.

It’s time to be detectives, and it’s wonderfully healthy.

Because nothing really is black and white, isn’t it true? Nothing really makes sense. Anyone who tries to force you to believe in something absolute is either selling you something or, they are afraid of what a little detecting on your part will find out!

That’s why…regardless of where you are today, there is a story in the New Testament Gospels of the Christian Bible, about a person called Thomas, that is brilliant. It’s a detective story. It’s about doubt and skepticism. And we need to hear it.

Notice in the story that Jesus doesn’t criticize Thomas for questioning or for doubting. Thomas is given the opportunity and the space to ask critical and I would argue, beautiful questions. Because of that, Thomas’ experience, in the end, is rich and full. Thomas is encouraged to doubt himself, to doubt what others told him. Thomas’ skepticism is embraced.

Why? Because Jesus of Nazareth was less interested in what people believed about him [because wow, they believed a lot of messed up stuff], and more about how people acted.

Jesus cared more about how people lived than what they believed.

Jesus’ responses to people who were always looking for a religious or spiritual potion to cure their guilt/shame/uncertainty would typically say:

How do you spend your time? With whom are you living? What will you do? What’s important to you?

And then: Go. Do. Live.

Oh, friends, I really think that if you and I can be “all in” on this skeptic/detective/doubter thing, we can go somewhere.

So let’s do it again [thanks, Thomas].

What’s going on? In the world, in your community, in your home? Don’t judge it or interpret it. Just think about what is actually happening.

Look at life just the way it is. Don’t add anything to it, don’t subtract anything from it. Just be.

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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