Friday, March 28, 2008

the Reverend boy's Ruminations

Greetings from New York City! I'm the Reverend boy, who along with Grandmere Mimi are guest bloggers while DP is away. Unlike Mimi, I do hope he is having a great time and I am sure he is being a very positive influence (read: influence of whiskey) on his classmates.

To give a bit of background about myself, I'm an Episcopalian in the Diocese of New York and currently in the discernment process for the Priesthood. I also run the local Integrity Chapter. If all goes well, I hope to be in seminary in Fall of 2010 or 2011 at the latest.

Like Mimi, I was wondering what on earth I could write about and still do DP some justice.

One of my best friends is someone I call my Personal Atheist, and he will sometimes comment on my blog. I certainly don’t hold his atheism against him at all, because it takes a lot of faith, I think, to say there is no God. In fact, it is in some ways a breath of fresh air. We joke between ourselves that it takes an atheist to keep a religious person grounded. One of the many reasons he does not believe in God is because it has become apparent to him that religion in general is a man-made creation. I would be hard pressed to disagree with him. Regardless of your faith or tradition, we can honestly say that the ritual, the pomp and the fanfare is simply window dressing. They are ways we thought up to express our faith. However, the expressions of faith and the faith itself have to be grounded in something or in the case of our own faith, grounded in someone. Sometimes, when we look past all the window dressing and pay attention to the things that we profess and proclaim during a worship service, we might wonder, “Is this all for real? Am I really deluding myself in being here? What if all those who say that ‘Christianity is a hoax’ are right?” These are very valid questions, and these questions lead us to the place of the apostle, Thomas, whose story we hear this coming Sunday.

I’ve always thought that Thomas got a bum rap. We all have heard the phrase “doubting Thomas,” which has become synonymous with skepticism or even cynicism. He demands proof of the Resurrection before he will believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. After witnessing the crucifixion, who can blame him? I mean, Thomas probably saw for himself Jesus being nailed to the cross and lifted up for all the world to see. Not only does he want real, solid proof of his friends’ claim, he wants to experience that claim in just as real of a way as they did. This is a very human response to his fellow disciples. In essence, he wants to give everyone a reality check. The intersection of doubt and faith are part and parcel of the Easter experience. We should be grateful for Thomas’ questions. Thomas stands for us here in the 21st century. He is being our voice because on some level he is demanding factual answers to the questions that come up every year around Easter such as “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” “Was the body stolen? Was it given to the dogs?” Wouldn’t it be nice to say to skeptics once and for all, “See? I’m not crazy after all.”

This small scene with Thomas is quite powerful. Far from criticizing or belittling questions about our faith and the reality of Jesus, God invites our questions. “Let me show you,” he says. “Let me meet you.” We should not be afraid to question things which may seem impossible. At the same time, if we have the courage to ask the hard questions, we cannot be afraid of what the answers are. Sometimes the answers are not pleasant. Job virtually shook his fist at God for all the trouble that God allowed him to go through. If you were to read the book of Job, we could say that his only fault was having a bad attitude. Job demanded a reality check as well, and the answer he received from God was “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who are YOU to question why I do the things that I do?” Job, too, wanted a reality check, but it wasn’t like anything he was expecting. He encountered God and his response to that encounter was “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” In the end, we know that Jobs troubles end, and he is even more prosperous and blessed than he was in the beginning. But, he encountered God and was changed.

One big reason why I believe the Bible gives a true revelation of God is because it shows God working with God-fearing folk, warts and all. It shows us a very clear picture of who we are at our best and our worst. It shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things because God stepped into their lives and met them. It is not the story of how we can become like God, but how God comes to us and meets us in all of our afflictions, our sorrows and even our questions. Thomas doubted the Resurrection. Job confessed he had a bad attitude during his ordeal. Both say, “I challenged you and you answered me, and you proved me wrong.” Both of their lives were changed forever by an encounter with the living God, a God that continues to encounter his people every day and every moment. So when we question or doubt some things, we need to remember that’s perfectly fine. God would not be much of a deity if he couldn’t withstand some scrutiny. We cannot be afraid of the answers to the questions we might ask, for they quickly become invitations to an encounter with Christ, whether they are at an altar rail, a soup kitchen, the workplace, or a park bench. There is a maxim which says, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” If what you are wishing for is an encounter with God, that is all the more reason to be careful.

You won't ever be the same again.

Posted by the Reverend boy