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April 14, 2004
Today's eMo is a meditation on the texts for Sunday's sermon. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution No further permission is necessary.


How We Know

Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.
John 20:30

That would be us, I guess -- we, at a two-thousand-year remove from that eventful week, who didn't make it to the empty tomb, who were not in the upper room with everybody else when they all got to see Jesus and we didn't. Maybe some of us are like Peter, shrinking from the implications of our faith, when push comes to shove. Maybe some of us are like John, who didn't do that, and the women friends of Jesus, who didn't either. Maybe some of us are like Joseph of Arimathea, able to give generously out of our wealth, secure enough and willing to identify ourselves as people of faith without worrying about what our sophisticated friends will think.

Maybe some of us are like some of these people.

But all of us are like Thomas. He is one of us. He doubts, and is willing to say so. He has to say so, because he wants so much to believe, and he is willing to accept help for his doubt from any quarter: Thomas flails with his longing. Is crushed not to have had the chance to see the risen Christ. Wants certainty and hurts because he doesn't have it. He sounds grudging -- Unless I see, I will not believe -- but he is not grudging. He is frustrated.

We flail, like Thomas. We want to see and know we can't see, not with our eyes, want to feel with our own hands and can't. We want to know Christ the way we know other things -- like how many atoms of hydrogen and how many of oxygen there are in a molecule of water, or that Helena is the capital of Montana -- and we can't.

But wait a minute. I've never done a chemical analysis of a drop of water, and I wouldn't know how to begin to do one. And I've never been to Montana. I don't have firsthand knowledge of either of those things. Or of the many other things I accept without ever having seen the evidence for any of them. We all have a large body of secondhand knowledge we believe and act upon every day. Almost everything we believe, we take on faith.

I think we sense that the resurrection of Jesus isn't like all those other things. That it's not a fact like other facts, measurable by someone, if not by us. That it is an experience not removed from us by the long stretch of time since it occurred -- that it is, in some important sense, still going on, still available to us in a way that the coronation of Elizabeth I or the moment when Isaac Newton discovered gravity is not still available. Those moments are part of history. Somehow the risen life of Christ is part of our life. Everyone's life. Maybe we don't so much believe it as notice it, as something that has been true all along.

Because we observe something about Thomas: invited to put his hands in the wounds of Christ, he does not do so. He doesn't touch Jesus. As we do not. He just recognizes Him.


It seems that some readers did not receive Easter's eMo. If you did not, I reprint it here.


Who is to say what happened last night? And when?
What first stirring of a finger,
what small electric snap?
Who is to shrink the awakening God
into easy morsels?

We cover our eyes with our hands,
and think we cannot be seen.
We fail to understand
and think we have proven a negative.
Horrified at not knowing, we conclude
that there is nothing to know.

How, and what, exactly, is not given us.
Mystery it was,
and mystery it remains:
that death, like our own, a mystery.
Our rising, like that one:
Something will happen.
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