The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Doubting Thomas and kindred spirits

We need proclamation & OK to struggle

Thomas is my patron saint, my soul mate and my kindred spirit. When he responds to the good news of Easter with his famous demand ("Unless I see the mark of the nails ..." John 20:25), I can relate. Though I sometimes wish I weren't, I am a natural-born questioner who persistently wants to know, "How can this be?" And, so, I never experience faith as my own creation but always as a miraculous gift of the Spirit worked through the means of grace embedded in the community of faith.

As a soul mate of Thomas, I need the two things he receives from his faith community in those first days after Easter: bold proclamation and permission to struggle.

Bold proclamation: "We have seen the Lord." I need a community that proclaims Christ's radical solidarity with sinners and the sinned-against. And I need a community committed to living out Christ's wall-breaking revolution in the world. I need that bold proclamation even in those days when my questions get the best of me.

But I also need the permission to struggle. The Sunday after Easter, we hear this: "A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them" (John 20:26). "Thomas was with them!" That little preposition — with — means everything to me. Without it, or the truth behind it, I could not be part of the church, let alone a leader within it.

Can you imagine if this verse read another way? "A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was gone. They kicked him out for asking too many questions." But that's not how John reads. "A week later ... and Thomas was with them." No matter what his struggles were, they did not give up on him or he on them. That commitment to each other is a powerful model of the church: a community of fellow strugglers where raw honesty is welcome.

I write this because, of course, I am not the only one who can claim Thomas as a kindred spirit. Our number is legion. I know that from my decades of walking with fellow Thomases within and, often, outside the church. And on their behalf I pray for a church that boldly proclaims the gospel and that also makes a place for honest strugglers to open up their questioning hearts to each other and, therefore, to God.


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August issue

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