Magazine article The Christian Century

A Doubt and a Promise

Magazine article The Christian Century

A Doubt and a Promise

Article excerpt

Sunday, May 22

Matthew 28:16-20

"When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted."

PASSAGES LIKE THIS assure me there's a place for me and the people I serve. Unlike John's story of Thomas, Matthew didn't single out one disciple as the doubter. He says that "some doubted." While Thomas was clear about his doubt ("unless I see the print of the nails ..."), Matthew didn't say why they doubted--or what they doubted. Perhaps they weren't sure it was Jesus, or they doubted he had actually died. Maybe they had simply been through enough and weren't about to be fooled or hurt again.

Thomas demanded proof. Jesus gave it. But Jesus didn't address their doubt by telling and unpacking a parable or assuring them with another teaching. Not now. Now he simply commissioned them: "Go and make disciples, baptize, teach."

Apparently having doubts didn't let them off the hook. Believe it or not, they still had a job to do. As they say in AA, "Fake it till you make it." I think Jesus said the same thing that day on the mountaintop.

I'm glad he did. Some people seem born to believe. For others, myself included, "faking it" has been part of the process. Always one to hedge my bets, I went to seminary on a "trial year" fellowship. Sometimes it's hard to remember how passionately uncertain I was wizen I began 30 years ago. From the beginning, it was unclear who was on trial--me or the school. I'd started college as a biology major but switched to religion and political science after taking a course from a professor who was also a rabbi.

It was the 1970s. None of my classmates were going to church, ranch less seminary. I had a slew of doubts. I wasn't sure I had the right to be in a relationship with God. I doubted that I was patient enough, kind enough, loving enough, Christian enough to be a minister.

But as Woody Allen says, "Ninety percent of life is showing up." Like the disciples on the mountain, the trial year gave me the chance to show up--in worship, in class, in the life of the community. To show up in the relationship with God, the Bible, and this thing called faith. By the end of the year, I still had doubts about my legitimacy as a minister and a Christian. But I had no doubt I wanted to continue the journey.

Two years later, an internship gave me a chance to show up--in at a hospital room, a youth retreat, the house where someone had just died, the pulpit. Those encounters gave me a chance to put flesh on my faith. They taught me the blessing Jesus offered with his commission: "Lo, I am with you always" (even if my fingers were crossed). …

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