Believe it when you see it

Perhaps one of the positives of physical distancing these days is the amount of quiet time in which we have available to think or reflect.

Or for extroverts like yours truly, perhaps not.

Either way, between working from home with two laptops and a mobile phone, and between trying to not do the laundry when only five articles of clothing are dirty, I am spending a lot of time reflecting.

If the reflecting does not morph into frantically long lists of things to do, I seem to be okay. Hashtag #boundaries.

When reading the weekly lectionary lessons for writing this blog, which is actually reflection upon lessons that I read months ago when planning music for our liturgies, I find myself remembering all of the Bible stories that I learned as a child.

Numerous times before, I have described in this blog how my grandmother used to read Bible stories to me every night when I visited her, which was fairly often over the weekends, at holidays, or for weeks at a time in the summers.

There were two thick children's Bible stories books that I remember, one for the in-town house, and one for the lake house. Both books, now over 50 years old each, are today on the shelf at my mother's house in South Carolina.

For some reason I seem to remember the Old Testament stories the most vividly: 

Miriam watching the infant Moses float down the Nile
Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness

Aaron leading the Israelites into the Promised Land

Jacob and Esau deceiving their father

Noah, the ark, the flood, and the rainbow

Lot and his wife who looked back

Abraham trusting God with son Isaac

Daniel in the lion’s den

Samuel hearing the voice of God in the night

Boaz caring for Ruth and the elderly Naomi

Joseph sold into slavery and rising to serve the Pharaoh 

One of the New Testament stories that I remember is this Sunday's Gospel: "Doubting Thomas."

In the lectionary cycle every year, the Second Sunday of Easter is nicknamed "Thomas Sunday," as the Gospel is the account of Thomas' disbelieve that the Lord had risen.

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."  

We all know the story: a week later, Jesus appears to the disciples again and tells Thomas to put his finger into his hands and his hand into his side, at which point Thomas exclaims, "My Lord and my God!"

At this point in my childhood, my grandmother had to talk the literal me back from the ledge by explaining that Jesus was both flesh and spirit, which made everything alright again.

As an adult, I must admit that Doubting Thomas remains one of my favorites, mainly because of the hymn texts we sing to support the story.

This Sunday in the 10:30 liturgy, even livestreaming and singing from home, we will sing one of the strongest texts in the hymnal. (I frequently say this, I know, but this week it is very true!)

For some reason, I believe that hymn texts with internal quotations speak loudly and in volumes. The hymn for this Sunday, "We walk by faith and not by sight," has one such quote.

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
no gracious words we hear

from him who spoke as none e'er spoke;

but we believe him near.

We may not touch his hands and side,
nor follow where he trod;

but in his promise we rejoice;

and cry, "My Lord and God!"

Help then, O Lord, our unbelief;
and may our faith abound,

to call on you when you are near,

and seek where you are found:

that, when our life of faith is done,
in realms of clearer light

we may behold you as you are,

with full and endless sight.

Hymn 209, The Hymnal 1982, Henry Alford (1810-1871)

Photo Credit: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1613/1615), triptych altarpiece painting, Royal Museum for Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium. Public Domain.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Apr 16, 2020