"blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe"

Here is the Apr 3, 2016 message based on John 20: 19-31
Have a "blessed" day and "peace be with you"
From: Peter Hutchinson <pastorpeteh@verizon.net>

Has anyone here ever been to Missouri?
I have not and I don’t really know much about it except St. Louis is there and they pronounce it wrong…when they say ‘Miz..ur…a’.
But when I think of Missouri (or Miz ur a), I always think of their motto.
They are called ‘the show me state’,….meaning that, unless you give them visible proof of something,….they will not buy into it.
I don’t know why they have that as a motto and I have never known anyone from there who could tell me.
But many times visual proof is what we need to believe in something.
My dear wife refuses to believe in ghosts or aliens because she has never seen them, even though I tell her that I think they could be for real.
Sometimes, we just need to see raw evidence of something,…but then other times,… we accept what we are told.

We have never actually seen astronauts walk on the moon in person,…but we accept what TV images the networks have shown us.
We do not have first hand knowledge how our prescription medicines are made,…but we trust the drug companies and the pharmacist.
The food we eat has labels that tell us nutritional value and fat content, etc.…so we have faith in what the USDA says.
No one here can verify that the pastor graduated from seminary,…but we believe the testimony of church officials who say he has.
Fact is, we all trust others and believe in things that, we ourselves cannot substantiate with cold hard facts before our eyes.

So in our Gospel lesson today about one of Jesus’ first appearances to the disciples,…we find this issue of ‘belief’ come into play.
Jesus appears before the apostles and so they come to believe.
They see him, and thus, they have ‘proof’ of the resurrection.
But poor Thomas,…(who may have been from Missouri),… was not there the first time to see and so he said,… ‘you got to show me’.
He didn’t trust the words of the disciples but, instead, wanted some proof before he believed.
And then that’s exactly what Jesus did next time he showed up.
Jesus showed Thomas his wounds from the crucifixion and thereby got Thomas to come to believe that he was resurrected.

But then Jesus says these words - ‘blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe’.

Or,…those who do not have first-hand evidence and proof.

That would pretty much be the millions who have since followed those original disciples into belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
That includes the regular people as well as giants in the faith like St. Agustine,….Martin Luther,…C.S. Lewis,….and Billy Graham.

So what is it that makes us have faith and believe in things?
In most matters there is an assessment we make in which we weigh the pros and cons of whether or not to trust something or someone.
If we can’t see something for ourselves, then we ask things like;…
‘What are their credentials?’
Or,…’What experience in this field do they bring to this picture?’
Or,…has someone else I trust assessed them to be believable?
And maybe one of the best things we ask ourselves is, kind of a devils advocate question,….which is ‘Why would they lie to me?’

But if we put those questions of believing to the resurrection story, we can come up with answers to support both ‘unbelief’ as well as ‘belief’.
The credentials of Jesus’ followers were pretty lame.
They were a mixed bag of commoners, purported to be mostly uneducated working men and rather ordinary women.
None of them had any religious training except what they learned in church or at home. (None went to seminary).
Neither had they any valid previous experience in this sort of thing.
No one could say that they were to be trusted since it was all a new episode in the history of humanity.
And, you could even argue that they had reason to lie about this whole thing so that they could sustain their movement.

On the other hand,…defenders of the resurrection say the disciples can be trusted because they weren’t smart enough to invent this story.
That if the Jesus story was a lie you’d never say that women found the empty tomb since a woman’s testimony was never believed.
That the disciples had no reason to lie because the story itself bought them a lot of hardship from the authorities.
So, depending on objectively assessment,…reason could tell us either to,… believe or not believe,…this resurrection story.

In fact reason would tell someone that a great God would send a mighty warrior against his opponents,…not an itinerant rabbi.
Reason tells us God’s Son would recruit the best and the brightest for his crusade,…not a pack of fisherman and nobodies.
Reason tells us that a Savior would defeat evil once and for all on the battlefield…not in an humiliating execution.

So what compels us to believe this resurrection story?
It’s partly our acceptance of, and agreement with, what God’s messengers have told us.
Those messengers have been the prophets and angels of the bible as well as the disciples and the subsequent followers of Jesus.
And they have also been our parents, and Sunday school teachers, and imperfect but well-intentioned pastors and priests.

But their statements alone don’t brings us to belief since our intellects could just as easily say to discount this whole story as preposterous.
Believing in the resurrection is not just about making our own educated assessment of facts presented.
Faith in God is more than relying on our rationale reasoning or trusting the talk of others who may be well intentioned.
No,… we believe, not just because what others say suits our rational mind,…but because of something deeper within ourselves.
Faith in God is instead, a surrender within our hearts and souls.
Believing in the resurrection is a surrender to accept what might seem impossible through our rational evaluation process.
Believing is surrendering our rationale abilities, to the abilities of God!
Believing means trusting in God’s power to do the amazing,…more than in trusting in my power to do the assessment.
That does not mean believing suspends the use and ability of our intellects and powers of reasoning.
But it does mean that,…in the end,…belief is humble acquiescence to the intellect and ability of God.

Here’s the last point - God gives this gift of faith;…to bring us to a sense of peace and thereby,…. make us happy!

Because a person who believes,… has more of a sense of peace in their hearts from that assurance of God’s power and love for them.
When Jesus encounters his disciples, he always says to them “peace be with you”,…or, in other words,… ‘relax’.
Then he says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”,…but “blessed” it doesn’t mean that you become more righteous.
The word ‘blessed’ actually means ‘happy’.
So that, those who believe in the power of God are ‘happy’
Believing brings us peace,….and peace makes us happier.

So for some things,…its good when we sound like we’re from Missouri and demand proof of things to believe.
Its probably good that my wife refuses to believe in ghosts or aliens, simply because she has never seen either of them.
And for our health, its mostly good we believe Nature’s Promise when they say “its organic”…or the U.S. govt. when they tell us a car is safe.
But for our very lives and souls, we believe in the God of the resurrection.
A God who comes to us and brings us peace, through the words and witness of others,…but also through faith.
A faith that’s been put into our hearts to tell us that God can most certainly bring good out of bad and life out of death.
At the end of our lives,…but also at the end of every day of our lives.

Amen.