Living By Fear or By Faith
Having now celebrated the great Easter event last Sunday things this morning are a little bit quieter as expected. We have less people in church, the brass and bell musicians have left. After the unbelievable news that Jesus was raised from the dead, or at the very least his body was missing. It is appropriate then that today we talk about doubts and fear
We don’t have to be taught about fear and doubt – not if we have lived a few years and kept our eyes open. Just living teaches us a thing or two about fear and doubt. Nearly a decade after 9/11, we still fear a new terrorist attack. We tremble when we remember a congresswoman being shot down at a grocery store in Arizona and doubt that we are really any safer than we were before 9/11. There also seems to be different kinds of doubters among us. There are those that don’t believe but when shown the facts believe, and there are others who after even seeing the fact still do not believe. For example, Thomas in our Gospel story today cannot believe that Jesus is alive until he sees the nail marks in his hands and the wound in his side. But once Thomas sees Jesus face to face he believes. And then there are those who when presented with the facts still don’t believe. I am reminded of those who deny that Global warming exists. They deny it even after the facts are staring them right in the face. During these next 50 days, which is the Easter season, we are going to talk more about the environment and our responsible to care for this planet.
Furthermore, the culture of fear and doubt that pervades today’s life is characterized by many radio and television political talk shows that trade on the currency of demonizing one side or other and whipping up fear and doubt in the hearts of listeners. We are becoming a society of fearful skeptics and this is being pushed on us almost every day.
Sometimes it makes us want to hunker down and hide in what seems like a safe place. That’s exactly what the disciples were doing in today’s gospel. They cowered down in fear behind locked doors, where they had huddled for a week. Their bubble had burst. Enemies of their leader had killed him, and they must have wondered who among them would be next. Even before Jesus was crucified, Peter had been so afraid that he denied even knowing the Lord. Because, one of them, Judas, had betrayed Jesus, they might even have feared that someone else in their midst would betray them again
We, too, can have some idea how the disciples were feeling. We know about living behind locked doors in a culture of fear. We know that fear can lead to, insecurity, anger, anxiety, physical illness, emotional paralysis, compulsion, addiction, uncertainty, and doubt. All too often a perceived threat can lead to self-protective and over-reactive behavior. In some cases if we feel threatened by others, it can lead to intolerance and prejudice, to reprisals and retribution.
I have often wondered whether we can ever find viable options to the culture of fear we live in.. But the God of Good of Friday teaches us that death is not the end. Luckily for us, God offers us the Easter experience – the reality created by Jesus, who, by overcoming death, chose the way of risk and faith instead of fear and doubt. That’s the reality he brought to Thomas, and that is the realization that set Thomas free to affirm the life of faith.
Jesus comes to us as he did to Thomas and the other disciples – comes to us all even in our doubts, even in our fears, and even as we sit behind of locked doors of false security. Wherever we are, Jesus is there to love and empower us. Jesus is there to help us discover that we, too, are an active part of the Resurrection; that we, too, are part of the continuing Easter story; that we, too, are the Body of Christ, risen to the new life of love and peace and grace that has the power to transform fear into faith.
Embracing Jesus as Thomas did, embracing Easter, leads us to see what is on the other side of our locked doors. Embracing Jesus as Thomas did offers us a different view – a different way from that of fear and doubt. It is a way of love and forgiveness and peace and tolerance.
Of course, this is very difficult in the midst of a culture of fear. In our humanness, we are bound to resist God’s way of love because it seems so impossible. It is hard to believe something we cannot see. It is hard to have faith in something that the majority discount and resist. Jesus came to show Thomas that God will not let the evil win out in the end. Easter is seeing the possibilities that come from saying as Thomas did “My Lord and My God.”
When Jesus first comes to the disciples he says to them Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Disciples were paralyzed by their fears and they weren’t sure that they wanted to get out of that room they were in and go where Jesus wanted to lead them. But as Jesus reassures them – as he spoke to them words of peace and as he gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit – in time, they overcame their fears. And when Jesus showed them his nail-pierced hands, he was basically saying to them, “I know it’s a dangerous world out there. I know how people can be. But that’s why I need you to get out of this room. I need you to go out and let people know that God wants something better for all his people.
But while we may agree with Jesus that there is a need for people to hear the message about God’s peace and love and forgiveness, at times we’re tempted to wonder: what’s the use? After all, if we make the effort and take the risk and go out and do what we can to share the message that Jesus wants us to share, is it really going to make a difference? Because all too often it seems that, no matter what you do, people don’t change.
It’s like a woman named Lois who lived on an Indian reservation. Every Tuesday night Lois arranged for a friend to come over and watch her children while she went out to a meeting. But after babysitting for a couple months, the friend started to wonder what kind of meeting Lois was going to. Since Lois was always kind of evasive about it, one Tuesday night the friend took the children and they followed Lois to the tribe’s meeting house so that she could see for herself what sort of meeting it was.
When the friend looked through a window, she was stunned to watch as Lois carefully arranged a bunch of chairs into a large circle and then for nearly two hours Lois sat there on one of the chairs all by herself – no one else was there. When Lois got home, the friend asked, “What were you doing there? What kind of meeting do you have all by yourself?”
Lois explained, “I’m starting an Alcoholics Anonymous group here on our reservation. Drinking is getting out of hand and it’s destroying a lot of our families.” But the friend said, “But no one else was there! How can you have an AA group if no one else on the whole reservation wants to be a part of it? People around here just aren’t interested in changing their ways.”
But every Tuesday night Lois kept right on going out to the tribe’s meeting house and set up those chairs in a neat circle. And week after week, month after month, Lois sat there in that circle all by herself. But then, one night, a couple people showed up. And after a while, a few others started to come. Ten years later, the room was filled with people. 
Are we willing to go out and share the message that Jesus wants the world to hear? Are we willing to go out and share a message of peace, love, and forgiveness? Are we willing to go out and share that message even if it seems like almost no one out there wants to hear it? Because that is precisely what Jesus asks us to do. Having the faith to do that and armed with the Holy Spirit, who knows what kind of amazing things are just waiting to happen? So amazing that we will too will say Wow, My Lord and My God. Amen
Pastor Tom Knoll
 From the Book Leadership on the Line: Staying alive through the Dangers of Leading by Heifetz and Linsky