An inclusive and authentic community of faith ought to stand by us and encourage us through all the stages and struggles of faith. I am reminded of this every year on the Second Sunday of Easter when we always read the account of the experience of St. Thomas the Apostle with the Risen Christ (John 20:19-31). This incident shows us that even the most empirical evidence is incomplete without the evidence from personal experience. One role of a faith community is to be a safe place where we can explore and seek understanding of all our experiences, especially those that puzzle and confound us. While the biblical revelation is primary in our faith journey, we believe tradition, reason, and experience are necessary lenses through which we discover the way forward together.
What are the five senses without experience? A scientist must rely on experience of the evidences that are seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled in conducting an experiment. How is the experience of the presence, the love, and the power of the living Christ in a person’s life any less real? No experiment is complete or valid, no philosophical argument is authentic, apart from the existential fact of human experience. After all, the words experience, experiment, and expert all have their origin in the Latin word experimentum, from experiri, which means to “test” or “try.”
One of my seminary professors used to say, “One can neither confirm nor deny in the armchair what has been established in the laboratory of the human soul.” Without experiential evidence, faith cannot survive and the doubts that live on the edge of our lives will consume us.
I’m grateful to be in a Church that recognizes that doubt plays a role in the quest for truth. Honest doubt is the forbearer of discovery! A questing spirit is normal and necessary in the development of a growing person. Thomas expressed his doubts in the security of the community of those whom Jesus had called along with him. He could have chosen other friends. Instead, he chose to remain among the friends of Jesus.
Never did one of them say, “Thomas, you’re through here. Out you go. You can’t stay in our midst because you are a heretic, a skeptic, and an unbeliever.” The disciples stood by Thomas in his struggle to believe.
Fundamentalism has gained a stronghold in our culture and, I suspect, driven more people away from faith than it has attracted. Our Church offers a healthy alternative. My friend Bill Cherry described The Episcopal Church this way: “Here's the deal about being an Episcopalian. You get to tinker with what you're taught until you get a personal encompassing belief that you're comfortable with. Meanwhile, your Church doesn't scream at you that what you've just done is the work of the devil. Consequently, you love being an Episcopalian and can't imagine being anything else. I'm one of those.” Me too!
If you have doubts about the Resurrection, about your relationship with God, about life eternal, take heart! You are not the first and you will not be the last. You’ve come to the right Church. All are welcome here in the company of others who have been lovingly guided through doubt to faith. It’s the original Discovery Channel.
I’ll see you in Church!
P.S. Join us for a Discovery Weekend, either May 8-10 or June 12-14.