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  • Apr27Sun

    Cynics We All Are; God help us!

    April 27, 2014
    Filed Under:
    Pr. David

    For people approaching retirement, or for anyone else who would benefit from higher interest rates on their GICs and Bond investments, these years have been brutal.

    Even in the slow economic recovery of the last couple of years, interest rates have remained at historical lows.
    Despite for some time now, government and bank leaders hinting at an “eventual rise in interest rates,” these rates have stubbornly remained low… and could still go down further, who knows?

    A CBC reporter recently interviewed a small business owner who for the last couple of years has been trying to retire.

    When the reporter asked him if he believed the promise of an eventual hike in interest rates, he said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    We often use this popular cliché when we’re suspicious or not trusting.

    A neighbour who over the past 10 years says he’ll do something about that dilapidated shed in his backyard, but has never yet acted.
    “I’ll believe it when I see it” we say.

    Your pre-teen daughter who says she will clean her room, but for the last week, the pile of clothes on her floor just gets deeper and deeper.
    “I’ll believe it when I see it” we say.

    A managing director at work who promises improvement in work place environment, but for the last three years, has done nothing on that promise.
    “I’ll believe it when I see it” we say.

    Not only do we live in a society that values, above all, empirical evidence or “proof” as measures of credibility, but also we live in an increasingly cynical world.
    Cynicism fits like a comfy old slipper or jacket.
    We go there naturally.
    We focus more quickly on our doubts, misgivings, or mistrust of people and situations, focussing on that which is lacking, or broken or problematic.
    And we harp and chew on that.
    We’re cynical.

    We’re really no different than Thomas and the disciples in today’s Gospel passage.
    And it’s not only Thomas, but all the disciples who, in spectacular fashion, display their cynicism and doubt at the prospect of resurrection; of God’s life and love as more powerful than death and despair.

    For example, in Matthew’s Gospel last Sunday, we heard how the angel at the empty tomb told Mary to go back to Jerusalem, and tell the disciples there that they will find the risen Jesus in Galilee.
    But they don’t go to Galilee.
    At first, Mary’s story seems to them “an idle tale, and they did not believe.” (Luke 24:11)
    But they still want to “check it out”, so in their hunt for physical, empirical “proof”, they rush to the tomb, to see for themselves what’s going on.

    Then in today’s Gospel passage, the disciples are in a locked room and Jesus comes and stands among them.
    They don’t immediately leap up in joy, believing right away that this is Jesus. No.
    Even after Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” there’s no positive reaction from the disciples, who I imagine are staring at him in stunned disbelief.
    It’s only after Jesus shows them physical proof of his wounds – his pierced hands and side from the nails and spear – it’s only after that, the text says, that they “rejoice” at seeing “the Lord.”

    And so, the disciples aren’t so unlike us, in the 21st century, in our “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitudes.

    But what really strikes me about this, is how Jesus reacts in all the doubting and cynicism going around.

    There’s a striking 17th century painting by Caravaggio, entitled “The Incredulity of Thomas.”
    In it, Jesus appears to Thomas, and Thomas is leaning over looking intently at Jesus’ wounds as he pushes his finger into Jesus’ side wound.

    But what is especially striking to me is the look on Jesus’ face as he looks at Thomas.
    There’s no hint of accusation, disdain or scoffing at Thomas’ lack of faith.
    There’s no expression that says, “There! Are you finally satisfied? What does it take to convince you?”

    Rather, it’s with a tender look of patience, love and understanding, and a real capacity to receive and accept Thomas with all his doubt and questioning and desire for empirical “proof.”

    In fact, while he is tenderly looking down at Thomas, Jesus is guiding Thomas’ hand into the wound in his side.

    Jesus wants Thomas to believe and to trust.

    Jesus receives and welcomes Thomas in all his ways, and wants Thomas to believe and to trust.

    You know, Jesus could’ve appeared before his disciples in perfected, divine glory, completely healed of wounds and scars and blemishes, shimmering with divine aura.

    But he didn’t.

    Instead, he shows them his ugly wounds and scars.

    And it is in this mutual sharing and honesty of wounded-ness and pain, that Jesus then breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit, sending them out to be forces for reconciliation and forgiveness, for new life and love.

    Our God is not a God who operates through perfection, glory and might, but rather through our wounds and scars.

    We don’t need to be ashamed of, or to cover up our scars or deny our wounds, projecting some false self of perfection or glory.
    Who can be like that?

    It’s quite something to ponder about how our “wounds” can be the very places through which the new life and light and love of God can shine through.
    What wounds, hurts, scars have you received just by living life? Emotional, psychological wounds? And to think of them as the “cracks” through which God’s light can shine.

    God’s resurrection power is not a promise that everything will turn out perfectly in the future.

    Easter is not a promise that our retirement funds and investments will be like “it used to be” in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s when high interest was a reality.

    Easter is not a promise that the church will be like “it used to be” in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when everyone went to church because it was “the thing to do.”

    Easter is not a promise that we will be cured from all disease, and that our pulses will continue beating on this earth forever.

    No.

    Easter IS a promise that the power that gave us that pulse will never abandon us.

    Easter IS a promise that the power that raised Jesus from the dead can also raise us from crushing cynicism and despair.

    Easter IS a promise that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is still at work in the world today, doing a new thing, in us, in the church, and in the world.

    To have the eyes to see where Easter is happening, and to focus on that!

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