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Plymouth United Church of Christ
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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“Checking Your Doubt at the Tomb Door”
Sermon, Year B, Easter, April 12, 2015
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: John 20:19-31

Part of believing the Good News isn’t just that we ought to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but that we also ought to believe that Jesus really wants us to live, that we are loved, that we are worthy and whole: so not just trusting that Jesus rose, but trusting our own value, and that as Jesus rises, he wants to bring us along. Jesus wants us to live as well. Wants to lift us up, carry us beyond whatever roadblocks get in the way of having a full life.

We are going to spend April talking about the roadbloacks of life – things that block our journey. The stones that get in our way. Or as we in Eau Claire encounter every spring once the snow and ice have gone away, we can say we are talking about the potholes that are on the roadway of life. The potholes that want to slow us down, or the potholes that want to destroy our alignment. Our alignment with following Jesus, our alignment with God’s intent for us: a life of love and fullness of achievement and being who we are made to be. To be unashamedly who God made us to be. No, guilt, no shame, and with all integrity.

But we do have roadblocks that get in our way. Jesus wants to help us get around them, wants us to go around them. The roadblocks are not given to us by God, they are not punishment from God or Jesus. But they are there, and Jesus wants us to get past them.

Think of the disciples. They also had roadblocks in their lives, and in their time of following Jesus. Peter, who tried to walk on water and failed. The disciples who argued over who was greatest, and jockeyed to try to get positions of power, who gets to sit at Jesus’ right hand. The disciples who saw Jesus’ many miracles and yet, when Jesus told them to feed the 5,000 said they didn’t have enough, that it couldn’t be done, it’s impossible. And of course Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Lots of roadblocks that they encountered.

And once Jesus was under arrest and crucified, the disciples denied, fled, and Jesus to be alone – except for the women, mind you, the women didn’t leave. They stayed with Jesus.

And then the disciples locked themselves in a room after Jesus’ death. Although I will say to Thomas’ credit, he is not in the locked room. He’s out. He’s either not afraid to be out amongst the people, or he’s able to overcome his fear. At least he’s out while the other disciples stay hidden in the locked room.

Jesus’ death was a big roadblock. I don’t know what they felt, or what it would have felt like, to have been a disciple then. I imagine they were paralyzed. What to do? How do we go on? What comes next? They just witnessed Jesus’ death. Did everything they believed about Jesus mean nothing? Were the last three years they spent with him just a waste of time? What will be the future? Can we go on without Jesus? Can we continue to share his message, teach his teachings, be his voice? Or should it just be all over, and we go back to being the people we were before we met Jesus? If Jesus was killed by the state – in this case the Roman Empire – might their lives also be in danger?
They were fearful, I should imagine.

So they hid in a locked room. Or, as we will read next week, two of the disciples fled Jerusalem entirely and headed off to Emmaus.

So Thomas isn’t the only one with doubt here, or with fear. They’re all feeling it. Thomas just had the integrity to say it out loud and is forever maligned as The Doubter. They all have something that is in their heads. A fear. A fear of the stones that are put in front of us. Stones we place in front of ourselves. The potholes of life. Whatever it is that slows or blocks our journey. In this case, it’s doubt. And fear. Doubt all over the place. Fear and doubt go together.

This is where a sensible preacher would point out Thomas doubt about Jesus’ resurrection as a great sin, to say ”Don’t be Thomas! Don’t be a doubter! Just believe!” and then call the sermon done as though it’s that easy. Just don’t doubt in Jesus’ resurrection.

But not doubting is not so easy. It’s a lot easier to say than to do it. Especially not doubting ourselves. That’s the kind of doubt I want to hit on here today. The self-doubt. Doubting ourselves, our skills, our abilities, our worth. Whatever it is. It seems in many ways it’s a lot easier to believe that Jesus rose from the dead than it is to believe that as Jesus rose, he also wants to bring us into more full life. That Jesus loves so much that he wants to bring us along with him. That can be, I think, more difficult to believe. That we are included. That we matter. That we are important. That we are part of God’s plan.

So the disciples lock themselves in a room, maybe doubting their ability to go on. Doubting their capacity to continue Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps afraid of what might happen if they try it, that they might fail or that they will get in trouble. They are also, in many ways, doubting Jesus’ wisdom about choosing them as followers. When Jesus’ chose them, he saw something in them. By locking themselves in a room they are showing some doubt in trusting Jesus’ wisdom to choose them.

Doubt in oneself. That’s a big roadblock. Doubting a faith stance – I think that’s healthy. It keeps us honest to critique our beliefs, to question our beliefs is important. Keeps us from being a fundamentalist who is absolutely without doubt about the rightness of their position and the wrongness of everyone else. We don’t want to be that. Some doubt in faith is a good thing. But doubting ourselves? That’s a kind of death. That’s a tomb.

That’s a roadblock that can hurt us, self-doubt. Feelings of unworthiness to have what we have. Feeling that we aren’t good enough. Feeling that we are unlovable by those around us or by God. Feeling that the good things we have, that maybe we aren’t worthy – perhaps we are a charlatan, or simply being blessed by mistake. Maybe we’re really not worthy to have this, whatever “this” might be for you or me.

That self-doubt is an incredibly creative and relentless enemy. It is very good at trying to keep us down and finding new and exciting ways to make us question ourselves. It is creative and relentless. It can find the hole in our armor and make it easier for one negative thought to be more powerful than a hundred or a thousand positive thoughts, accolades, successes, and achievements. It paralyzes. Causes anxiety. Leaves us in a state of perpetual indecision, second guessing ourselves, or assuming that were meant to suffer so might as well accept and stop thinking we can be anything more. Or that we don’t have the skills. That we’re not creative. We’re not resourceful. We’re not whole. Forever asking that question, “Am I good enough?” Am I a good enough spouse, family, at my job, as a student. Am I good enough to do what I feel like I want to do. Am I worthy enough to pursue my dreams.

It is an insidious thing, this doubt. I imagine that we all feel it. It’s part of being human, unfortunately. To have those moments of doubt. I certainly have mine. And when it shows up, it hurts. It slows me down. Keeps me from living fully the life that Jesus wants me, and wants you, to live. Sometimes it blocks me entirely.

Not to turn this into a therapy session, but I was teased and bullied a lot in school from elementary through high school. I was never one of the cool kids, but spent my time being always the outsider. I was interested in the things that made me not a very important person, not good enough to be in the popular cliques. I didn’t wear the right clothes, or the right hair style, I liked to read - always a negative thing in regular society - I thought learning was fun, I didn’t have the proper lingo, I was awkward, played dungeons and dragons, listened to the wrong music, wasn’t athletic and preferred Dr. who and comic books and Star Trek more than sports. I was called names, left on the outside. Hearing those words about “You’re not welcome at this table. You’re not welcome in this group. Not welcome in this club. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t deserve to be here. You’re all wrong.” Those are all still in my head, and sometimes they pop out.

I’m better at ignoring it and letting go of it. But it still pops out. I still hear those words that were said to me so long ago. That’s more than 30 years ago! It was so long ago, but it’s still with me. Even now if I’m someplace, say the mall or a restaurant or a train, and there is a group of girls or group of women and they break out in laughter, there is a part of me that goes back to school and there is first thought in my head “They are laughing at me.”

I still wonder, “Do I deserve my successes? Am I really worthy of this? Or am I, as they told back then, that outsider that isn’t good enough?”

I think we all experience these moments of self-doubt. Am I worthy? Am I loved? Am I capable?

These questions are a tomb with a mighty stone rolled in front. But as I said last week in the Easter sermon, Jesus likes to roll those stones away. Jesus wants to roll them away and shine light into the tombs of our lives and bring us out of the darkness. Jesus calls us by name and beckons us into full life. So he forgives us. Takes away our guilt and shame. Says that we need not doubt: he says so often, “Don’t be afraid”. In this passage we read today, he says, “Peace be with you.” That’s a blessing that says “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid to go forward. Peace be with you!

I gave you an assignment last week on Easter for this week, to think about Mary’s encounter with Jesus at the tomb. She arrives in the morning at the tomb and the stone is rolled away. The body is gone. She doesn’t know where Jesus is. Some guy shows up that she mistakes for the gardener, even though he is the risen Jesus. They have a conversation. She still doesn’t know him. Until finally the guy says her name: Mary. Then she recognizes him! She goes back to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord!” So I asked you to think this past week how or if you have seen the Lord, or if you have heard Jesus calling to you.

Think of our hymn:
Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling
calling for you and for me.
See at the portals Christ waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.

Jesus calls us. He invites us to join him in the beloved community, where we are loved and accepted just as we are. We don’t have to doubt who we are. I want you to remember that, and to trust it. Especially in the moments of doubt.

That’s what I fall back on, when I am having those moments of self-doubt. To remember, that at a minimum (and it is a very high minimum), I know that at least Jesus loves me. I know that Jesus wants me to have a full life. I use that as a starting point to get past the roadblocks and the potholes of doubt.

I have another opportunity for you here this week. You have cards in your bulletin. At the top it says “I am loved just as I am.” I want you always to remember that. You are loved, always, just as you are!

Take this card home with you and keep with you. What I would like you to do is that if you get into a moment of doubt. Maybe a doubt about faith, or about yourself, or your position in yourself. Whatever that moment of doubt might be, if you feel yourself having it, be aware of it, accept it, admit to it, and then say “But, I will go forward.” When you feel the doubt, put a tick mark on the card on the back in the big space. Place a tick mark at the moments of doubt. Then, when you make a mark, say the prayer on the card. The prayer has spaces for you to list things: the things you are thankful, the good things in life; your achievements and success in life, which are the times that you overcame doubt and proved yourself capable; and a time to remember all the people that inspire you, whether living or dead, real or fictional. Take your time to list these. Listing them will build you up, and build up your confidence. They are a sign of how the Holy Spirit has been working with you already, and will be with you in the future.

Make the tick mark, say the prayer.

Keep this card with you, and bring it back with you next Sunday. We will have time, if you wish to do this (and you don’t have to!) for you to bring your cards forward and place them on the altar as an offering to God, to give all those doubts up to God, get rid of them, let go of them. Then we will destroy all the cards as a prayer to God, a burnt offering.

As you do this during the week, and I know this might seem to be silly and weird, but it is helpful. Don’t doubt how this might make some difference in your life and how you perceive things.

So as you go about this week, I offer this prayer that you will let God’s love for you carry you through the roadblocks and beyond.


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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