Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Can I Get a Witness?" - The Feast of St. Thomas

I heard a preacher once who made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was years ago; a Saturday as I remember. I was in my dorm room at Overbrook flipping through radio stations when I came upon the burly, gravelly voice of a man on fire.

He was preaching to a gathering in a church somewhere in the city, and suddenly, I was a part of the congregation. He started slow and steady, in a thick, southern rumble, black and smokey. My hand stopped spinning the dial.

"... Now the next Sunday," it broke in... "Thomas was at church....(uh huh, amen, gushed the crowd)... "Ya see, Jesus had appeared after the Resurrection... but Thomas was outside a church that Sunday (mm hmm, oh no).... Now y'all know the difference in ya life when you at church, and when you away from church?" (oh yes, amen!).... "Well the next Sunday, Thomas was at church... and the doors were locked. Can I get a witness? And Jesus.... well, He just showed up...." (This brought a surge of amens and alleluias). "Jesus didn't knock on the door. He didn't use a key. He didn't get a usher to lead Him down the aisle.... HE JUST SHOWED UP!" (amen!!)

"Now Jesus has a mind to show up at church when He gets ready. After all, the thang belong to Him! He can show up anytime He want to!!" (amen!! preach it!)

"And Jesus said "now peace be with y'all" and He looked at Thomas and said "Now come here Thomas...." (amen, oh yes He did!) "Now Thomas..... I heard all a dat BIG talk you been making..... now come on over here. Put ya hand in my side. Put ya fingers in the nail prints in my hands!" (glory be, amen!) "No longer doubt but BELIEVE!..... and Thomas just stood there.... shaking." (laughter) "And do you know what he said? He didn't say 'Lemme get my Biology 101 notes... he didn't say... let me talk to my.... psychiatrist!" (oh no) "You know what he said? ..... (a hush came over the congregation, and I listened wrapped to the radio)


It's funny that I remember all of this so well, I had thrown a tape in and recorded most of it, but I've since lost the tape, years ago. The preacher went on to witness to the power of faith, and his voice slowly rose to a bellowing cry, a lion's roar, and he ended by nearly chanting something like the Apostle's Creed. It was insanely moving. I couldn't help but get caught up in that fire and spirit.

Now Thomas is one of us. Heck, all the saints are. We often gild them over with shiny marble and peaceful plastic smiles, but all of them lived this very life. Many were distraught at times, upset, doubtful, anxious, troubled. But they persevered, didn't they? I admire Thomas for this very reason; because he questioned, and seemingly not out of disrespect or just to be "doubtful"... He wanted more. He wouldn't settle for a blind faith, or for words only. He went deeper, he probed into the purported miracle, quite literally, and pushed into the Mystery. He moved beyond the here say, the reports, the gossip. Some can and do believe without this digging in, and in all truth "blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." Blessed are those who can receive the gift with open arms and open minds. But I think in our modern age, a Thomas makes it easier for many of us; he paves the way for the wondering to walk and the doubtful to dig a little further. Here's a saint for the modern age.

But are we willing to go as far as Thomas did? He didn't end as the Doubtful, but the Daring. He stepped up and proclaimed that Divinity was now dwelling in Humanity. He cried out in faith that God was in the flesh, right before him!

Can we do this, or will we stay mired in our doubt or worse, indifference? Can we approach Jesus, the Wounded Healer, and stretch out our trembling hands? If we put our finger into his wounds He will pull us further in. Give Him an inch and He will take our hearts.

Are we willing to let go of the past and see that now, all things are new? Let's walk behind Thomas today, and ask for the courage to say with him, "My Lord... and my God!"
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