between-our-steps 04-26-17-doubleEaster in the Christian tradition is as much about doubt as faith. I know, most of the hymns are joyful declarations, and the many signs on churches declare a big hurrah. But if we go back to the stories, there are questions, doubts, and lots of uncertainty.

The people in the story have a vivid memory of torture and death. When they come to Sunday and find the tomb empty, it is hard for them to figure out what they see.

The people who recorded the story are more like us in that they know about the resurrection. They know that the followers of Jesus, after their surprise, their doubt and their uncertainty, will believe and share the news.

But the people who wrote the story gave those who came later ways to experience the questions and doubts of the first story, to step into a journey of discovery. This is good for us because our lives have more questions than answers. There is joy, but there is also sorrow. Sometimes, there are deep doubts. A sermon that is completely confident may drive us away because the preacher does not share our soul-wanderings, our deep spiritual questions. But if we follow the writers into the story, we may find a reflection of ourselves.

Mary Magdalene knew Jesus well. She was there at the cross, so the image of his death was seared into her memory. When she found the tomb empty, she was stricken by the theft of his body. She remained in the garden weeping, wondering. When someone came near, she thought, "This is the gardener."

She did not recognize him. She looked right at him and could see that it was Jesus. Tragedy imprinted too deep an image on her mind, a picture she could not see past. Only when he spoke her name were her eyes opened to see that this was Jesus, changed but in some way alive.

News came to the disciples who were hiding in an upper room in fear. They could not absorb the news. One of them named Thomas left--went for a walk, to pray, to get food--we do not know where he went. While he was gone, Jesus came and the others saw for themselves. They knew he was alive.

When Thomas returned, he refused to believe. Maybe he was angry that he was excluded. Maybe he was too sad to listen. Whatever was going on inside him was more powerful than their words. He declared that he would not believe until he saw for himself.

Thomas held out for eight days. Even as more stories came in that others had seen, he declared he would not believe until he saw for himself. He clung to his doubt.

And I think that is a good thing. He carried his questions. He did not deny the trouble in his mind. He held his doubts where anyone could see them rather than pretending.

Eventually, he was in the room when Jesus came. And for me the most powerful part of the story is the invitation to bring his doubt to Jesus. He was invited to come near with his questions.

There is an interesting point in John's version of Jesus' story when he seems to end it. But something comes after the end.

The thing is that although they had seen Jesus, although they had come to believe in the resurrection, it still did not make sense to them. They were trying to figure out what to do with it. Peter said, "Let's go fishing."

They didn't catch anything until Jesus came to the shore. At that place, after he feds them breakfast, he helps them see what they could and should do with their new knowledge: look after the people. He opened a way for them to understand the meaning of what they knew.

In each of the stories about the first Easter, questions help the people find knowledge. Doubts lead to wisdom. The uncertainty helps them find their way.

For us too, it is our questions and our uncertainty that will lead us to deeper wisdom and understanding if we are willing to hold them, to follow them, to bring them to the light.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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