Sympathy for Thomas

Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31


Good morning! Where is everyone? Everyone seemed to love worship last Sunday, so I was thinking they’d all come back. Right? What’s that? I need to have realistic expectations? Okay. Let me start working on that.

All kidding aside, wasn’t last Sunday great? We had close to 200 people in worship last Sunday. I’m not saying that to bask in the glory or get cheap applause or laughs. But last Sunday was a great reminder of what worship feels like when this place is full of people and full of joy and full of the Spirit. That’s what it feels like: love and joy.

Those feelings of love and joy are contagious—they spread easily around the sanctuary. Yet we have a very large sanctuary. Transmitting those feelings is a bigger challenge when we only have 60 or 70 in worship. It still happens, but it isn’t always as apparent as it was last Sunday.

My challenge to you is to make that happen again. I want to see you bring people into this place. I want to see 150 or 200 people in worship again, and not just on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. I know that you all hope that I will draw new people into this congregation—that your new pastor will be so charismatic and engaging that people will flock to this church. But the truth is, most of our extra guests were there because you folks invited them.

It’s going to be you folks who bring us back to the point of having 100 or 150 or 200 people in worship.

You look skeptical.

Are you all a bunch of doubting Thomases?

Speaking of Thomas….

In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of John, the risen Christ visits the disciples. They’re huddled together in a locked room; they fear reprisals from the religious authorities or angry mobs. And then Jesus enters into the room and takes away all of their fears. Everyone except Thomas, that is. Thomas had the misfortune of being away when Jesus returned.

Honestly, I think Thomas gets a bad rap. The name “doubting Thomas” doesn’t appear in the text of this story; it doesn’t appear anywhere in the Gospel of John. Some of the Fathers of the Early Church are probably responsible for this nickname, or at least the perception of Thomas as being full of doubt. Medieval and Renaissance artists ran with this theme. There are dozens of famous paintings of Thomas examining or touching Jesus’ wounds; most of these images are titled, The Incredulity of Thomas. They are practically calling Thomas an unbeliever.