Rev. Lee Woofenden
of Holy Communion
Bridgewater, Massachusett, November 3, 1996
20 Trust in the Lord
the Lord answer you when you are in trouble!
May the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from his Temple
And give you aid from Mount Zion.
May he accept all your offerings
And be pleased with all your sacrifices.
May he give you what you desire
And make all your plans succeed.
Then we will shout for joy over your victory
And celebrate your triumph by praising our God.
May the Lord answer all your requests.
I know that the Lord gives victory to his chosen king;
He answers him from his holy heaven
And by his power gives him great victories.
Some trust in their war chariots and others in their horses.
But we trust in the power of the Lord our God.
Those people will stumble and fall,
But we will rise and stand firm.
Save us, O King!
Lord, answer us when we call.
20:24-31 Doubt and belief
Thomas (called the Twin), one of the twelve disciples, was not
with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,
"We have seen the Lord!"
he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his
side, I will not believe it."
week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was
with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and
stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then
he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands.
Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and
said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have
believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his
disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are
written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the
Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Coelestia #2568 Affirmative or negative?
are two basic mental attitudes, the first leading to complete
foolishness and insanity, and the second leading to complete
intelligence and wisdom.
first happens when we deny everything--meaning when we say in
our heart that we cannot believe anything until we are convinced
by things we can grasp mentally and perceive through our senses.
This attitude leads to complete foolishness and insanity, and
may be called "the negative attitude."
second happens when we consider affirmatively the various
teachings that are drawn from the Bible--meaning when we think
and believe within ourselves that they are true because the Lord
has spoken them. This attitude leads to full intelligence and
wisdom, and may be called "the affirmative attitude"
said to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have
believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
believed." (John 20:29)
is Worldwide Communion Sunday. Along with Christians all over
the world, we are celebrating a sacred meal that goes back
nearly two thousand years, and even farther in its roots in the
have no eyewitnesses to give us firsthand information about how
the Holy Supper began. No one alive today was present when the
Lord instituted this sacrament during his last supper with his
disciples here on earth. Those who were present, and their
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, died many
that is so, how do we know these events really happened? We have
only one real source of information: the Bible. In fact, the
Bible is the only detailed source of information about most of
the events it records. Other histories overlap with the Bible
occasionally, but nowhere near enough to corroborate most of
what is recorded in it. Archeology can tell us a great deal
about the physical circumstances and the lifestyles of the
people in Biblical times. But archeology paints only a general
picture; it cannot tell us about the specific human interactions
that make up the flow of the Bible story. It cannot say whether
a particular man named Jesus existed, and whether a week and a
half after the Last Supper this Jesus had a conversation with a
man named Thomas about doubt and belief.
of a skeptical mind can find all sorts of reasons to believe
that most of the things in the Bible--especially those recorded
in the New Testament--never happened at all. Of the four
accounts that we have of Jesus' life, three of them, the Gospels
of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seem to be based on same source. Yet
even these three disagree with each other on many significant
details. The fourth, the Gospel of John, tells the story very
differently than the other three, calling the whole narrative
then there are all the amazing events the Gospel accounts ask us
to believe--which, quite frankly, strain the credulity of the
modern, rational mind: a child born with no human father; water
changed into wine; miraculous healings; a man brought back to
life after he had been dead four days; and finally, Jesus
himself rising from the dead and coming back to have the
conversation that we read from the Gospel of John. It all sounds
like magic and fantasy, not like real historical events.
we really believe in all these incredible things without any
physical or scientific evidence to support our belief? The man
who has become known as "Doubting Thomas" could not.
He needed to see and touch Jesus in order to believe in
him--even though Jesus had been with him for several years,
teaching him so many things about God and spirit. If Thomas
couldn't believe even though he had previously seen Jesus with
his own eyes and heard his teachings with his own ears, can we
really believe now, two thousand years later? Beyond that, can
we believe in the existence of God and the spiritual world in an
era when science and reason lay claim to being the only sure
basis for a knowledge of truth?
have all faced this question at one time or another. Presumably,
most of us here in church today have found a way to resolve it
in favor of God and spirit, or we would not be here. Other
people have not been able to get past the need for scientific
and rational evidence, and have rejected God and spirit. Still
others have not decided one way or the other; for these people,
it is an ongoing question.
must each find our own answer to this question. I could not
answer it for you in a full-length book, let alone in a sermon
of a few pages. Unlike science, which strives for objectivity,
our spiritual beliefs are intensely personal--so my answer would
probably not work for you anyway. However, I can tell you
about how I personally have faced this question, which may lead
to some helpful thoughts as you or the ones you love face the
recall very distinctly something that happened inside of me
about the time I was leaving my parents' home and going off on
my own. At that point in my life, I realized that I could either
accept or reject everything I had ever been taught about the
Lord, the Bible, and the spiritual world. And I knew that
whichever way I decided to go, I would be able to come up with
arguments to support the decision I had made. Whichever way I
went, I would be able to convince myself more and more fully
that I had made the right choice.
I faced this spiritual parting of the ways, I realized that
science and knowledge could not make the decision for me. And I
realized that even our highly prized human ability to reason
could not make the decision, since my brain could go either way.
In fact, I realized that my head could not make the
decision at all. Rather, it was a decision that had to be made
in my heart. And once my heart had made the decision, my
head would follow.
see, science and reason are wonderful tools that have opened up
a whole new world of capabilities and possibilities for us. But
science and reason have often missed a very important point
about human beings--about what we are made of and how we come to
know and believe things. The point that they have often missed
is that it is not just our mind and our experience
that make us who and what we are, but our heart as well.
use an analogy from science and engineering. Heart, mind, and
experience (or action) in human beings are like the three legs
supporting a steel tower. When we rely only on our rational
abilities and on knowledge that comes from experience, it is
like trying to make the tower stand on only two legs; it will
come crashing down because it does not have that third, vital
leg to keep it balanced.
third leg, in human terms, is the experience and reality of our
heart. We cannot make a decision about faith without consulting
our heart as well as our rational mind and our outward
experience. And it is only when our heart enters into it that we
can begin to find an affirmative answer to the question,
"Can we really believe in God and spirit?"
our teachings tell us, it is the attitude behind our
mental abilities that will really make the decision within us.
If we fall into a negative attitude, hardening our hearts so
that we refuse to believe anything unless it is proven through
physical evidence, then our hearts have already made the
decision to deny and reject both God and our own deeper reality.
if we hold to an affirmative attitude in our hearts, we will
find that the whole knotted tangle of negative, skeptical human
argument simply falls away in the face of the deeper wisdom that
comes from within, through our hearts, from the God of the
universe. We will find that we do not need to see with our eyes
and touch with our hands in order to believe what our heart
tells us is true: that there is a God who loves us and
cares for us--a God who speaks to us in the Bible, in nature,
and in the people we see every day. And I pray that each of you
may know that God personally, as our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. Amen.
Great Thou Art