Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Planting, Pruning

Let’s hear it for the trees! In just the past few days they’ve begun exploding in bud—maybe I hadn’t been paying attention, but on Friday it looked as if someone had flipped a switch and suddenly we’re seeing green, as if the trees were saying, “Hey, it’s Arbor Day! Let’s do it!”

We know there is a flip side to all this proleaferation. Many of us have brought rakes to church today to deal with the down side, as we tackle what may be a first: an all-generations Sunday-morning spring cleanup of last year’s leaves, not to mention a winter’s load of beer cans.

I want to thank all of you who will be part of this work project. You’re helping us deal with a serious budget deficit by reducing our dependence on paid help. Speaking of paying, there’s another way to help St. John’s keep its fiscal head above water: with the arrival of quarterly statements from the Treasurer, it’s time for parish households to make sure they’re caught up with their estimated giving. Perhaps, in this season of resurrection it’s time to exceed what you and I estimated we would give this year—and perhaps the arrival of a federal rebate check in the coming days will provide that opportunity.

But enough about that kind of greenery. Not only was Tuesday Earth Day and Friday Arbor Day, but today is Rogation Sunday, from the Latin rogare, to ask. The three days before Ascension Day (so it moves about in conjunction with Easter, since Ascension Day is the 40th day after Easter), these are called rogation days and from as long ago as the 5th century they’ve been days when Christians have marched in procession out to the local fields and gardens to ask for a rich harvest, ask God to keep the fungus off the tomatoes, keep the gypsy moth under control, whatever the local farmers and gardeners saw blocking the way to a bountiful season, that they asked God to work on. In England this parading out and about is called “beating the bounds of the parish.” And in England, as in America, as in every other place on this fragile earth, God has answered such prayer in a slyly respectful manner, along these lines: “Sure, I understand what you’re asking. Now you understand that I am with you always, so get to work as if it all depends on you (even if we know that it all depends on me).”

So in John’s Gospel, a portion not assigned for today but one I thought fits well the greenness of this Sunday, Jesus tells us that he is the true vine—I imagine “true” means true life, potent life, abundant life, eternal life flows through this vine to its branches, and that would be us. “My Father,” Jesus says, “is the vinegrower. He removes the deadwood. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been pruned back by the message I have spoken.”

Come again on that last verse? Our version said, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” But “cleansed”, it says in the footnotes in my Bible, has the same Greek root as “pruned”.

So the very thing I cringe at doing, deciding to lob off a live branch at a certain point so the bush will be better shaped, the tree healthier, the vine more fruitful (I don’t know what I’m doing when I attempt this, do you?)—that cutting and relinquishing that I have to learn to do by trial and error, Jesus does gracefully and organically by aiming his Word right to the heart of my need to cling and keep, and snip he cuts through my anxious wanting and snip he slices my resistance to change by the appeal and the sharp edge of his Word.

For example, “Consider the lilies of the field. Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as well as they are. They neither toil nor spin, yet your heavenly Mother clothes them perfectly, does she not? So tell me again why you’re worried about your transitional spring wardrobe, hmm?”

Or, “Don’t talk to me about the faith you don’t have. Have as little as a mustard seed, but plant it, use it, and watch it grow. Get out of your own way, for heaven’s sake.”

And by other such horticultural stories he makes his point. The truest work we have to do is to abide in him. To live life on his terms. “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

What is that abiding? Our baptismal covenant that we renewed last Sunday tells us how to abide: Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. Persevere in making faithful choices, and, when you fail, open yourself to God’s mercy. Proclaim the message that cuts to the quick. Seek and serve Christ in all persons. Reach for justice and respect the dignity of all life. All these abidings are the real work, the truest work, we have as human beings. These are the abidings God asks of us.

Let’s return to the trees. When pioneers traveled west and settled the Nebraska Territory in the 1850s, many of them from the farmed-out northeast, they missed their trees. Trees were needed as windbreaks to keep the soil in place, needed for fuel and building materials, needed for shade from the sun.

So they planted trees, and it was there in Nebraska that a tree-planting holiday evolved, Arbor Day. More than one million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day, 1872.

In our own day, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai has led the women and children and men of Kenya in the planting of trees to offset the encroaching desert. Her Green Belt Movement has spread to other African nations, 40 million trees planted under its influence.

Quaker author Elton Trueblood said that “People have made at least a start at understanding the meaning of life when they plant shade trees under with they know full well they will never sit.”

With that in mind, and with all our trees urging us on to do the abiding work we have to do, we take a step today to strengthen our abode, our parish community, and that is to establish St. John’s Arbor Fellowship, a growing circle of people who have used—or will use—their wills, or other means of planned giving, to bless St. John’s and the world that we serve by this form of future stewardship.

You will see their names listed on the upper half of an insert in your leaflet. You’re bound to hear names of people you know as I read them now…

Perhaps you too are in this Fellowship, and we don’t know it yet. We hope this list will grow, like the great oak that is the logo for this Fellowship.

What grows among us also is an abiding gratitude for this creative stewardship the members demonstrate, investing in the future that will be beyond their reach except by their generosity. They understand the respectful ways of God, that for God’s abiding values to work on planet earth, it’s for us to put those values to work now, for the sake of the future.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Into the Full Stature of Christ

“Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”

“I will, with God’s help.”

In just a few moments, we’re going to hear that astonishing question and, I trust, we’ll also hear that breath-taking answer. We’d better, or else Fiona Claire won’t taste the water of baptism trickle down her cute little cheek.

Do you hear how stunning that question is? “…help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ.” Utterly amazing. The Church’s question is not, “Will she go to Sunday School?” or “Will she be a good Episcopalian?” The question is, “Will she grow into the full stature of Christ?”

Today we hear the Gospel promise, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” So we might make it our prayer, “Jesus, help Fiona grow into your likeness.” But that would miss the point that today we hear Jesus asking Aaron and Chrissie and Ali and Bill to do that helping, to help Fiona grow into the full stature of Christ.

And, without an operator’s manual, each of them is expected to say, “I will do that, God being my helper.” Before long, it’s clear that we too are being asked by Jesus to do that helping. “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in her life in Christ?”

I did a little digging, since this goal of Christian growth, this hope to bear the very likeness of Christ, always startles me. I learned two things. One is that the question wasn’t part of the baptismal rite until this 1979 Prayer Book—though it appeared in German baptismal rites at the time of the Reformation, and came close to being included in the English Prayer Book of 1552.

And I was reminded where the language comes from, the Letter to the Ephesians in the fourth chapter, and I’ll select a few verses: “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift… The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ…. Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”

Hear how an individual’s call to grow is simultaneously the congregation’s call, and the call of the whole Church, to grow.

That had to be a favorite text to the Protestant reformers. No wonder they worked it into their baptisms, insisting on a high vision of God’s call to each person. This is the priesthood of all believers, the ministry of Jesus Christ entrusted not to a few prominent men sealed away from the world in temples made with hands, but the very life of Jesus Christ invested in every baptized child, woman, and man whose place in the world, whether high or low, rich or poor, is the meeting place of humanity and divinity, the holy place where love transforms fear, anxiety gives way to freedom, and truth works its healing way. And it requires “all of us”, as it says in Ephesians, “each part working properly”, promoting the growth of the Body of Christ in love, in the world.

This was the early Church of the first century, which spread like sunlight in a dark valley because the world wanted the powers of love, freedom, and healing demonstrated by those who in time became known as Christians.

Here we are in the 21st century, standing at the end of a week when great attention has been drawn by two religious stories and by what they represent.

One is the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. He’s showing that there’s more to him than we thought, back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, before he started wearing red patent leather shoes. Anglicans do color and ceremony, but there’s no question that our bling factor has been reined-in and toned down by our Reformation training. We do have prominent Anglican leaders, women as well as men, and we want them to represent not so much the ascended and glorified Christ (we tend to believe that he can do that for himself so much better than bishops can), but believe rather that they should represent the servant Christ. That, as we know, is the purpose of the papacy, for the pope is called “servant of the servants of God.”

And we saw Benedict be this do this when he sat, one by one, with three recovering victims of sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile priests. That these victims and the abuse that damaged them deserve more than 25 minutes of attention was suggested by the number of times Benedict spoke to the subject.

And he represented the servant Christ when he addressed the United Nations and called on the world’s few major powers—called on us—to disavow war and violence and recommit ourselves to a powerful defense of human rights.

He represented the servant Christ when he gathered the faithful in eucharist and so strengthened their trust, their hope, and their love. That elected public officials asserting freedom of conscience about abortion, and favoring the right of women to decide, that these lawmakers were asked not to receive communion drew a clear battle line that may have represented both consistency and an imperious spirit.

Conditions under which children are brought into this world also figures in that other story of the week, 416 minor children being separated from their parents by the State of Texas, while the appropriate agencies investigate charges of physical and sexual abuse within the closed community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I can’t find any red slippers to chuckle about in this story. I feel embarrassed for having failed to realize that polygamy was still such a potent force, and I feel confused over why it has been allowed in a nation—and a state—that prides itself on law and order. In Texas, for heaven’s sake.

I’m spooked by the silky smooth voices of mothers content with their heavenly Zion on earth, and I’m jarred by realizing that they themselves were born into this hierarchical world in retreat from the world, bred in captivity, bred for the captivity they describe as freedom, bred to breed future generations of loyal, devout believers. It’s chilling. It’s a story that forces us to think hard about what limits are needed for freedom, in particular religious freedom.

How is this story being heard in other nations of the world? How does it represent America? How does it represent Christianity?

Meanwhile, 416 smaller stories are being written as this country’s most bizarre courtroom scene plays out, 416 lawyers defending the rights of these children as one judge determines what next steps are in their best interest, while the investigation goes on. Perhaps this is a story about the demise of a renegade sect. But don’t our hearts tell us that the destiny of these children is the central story?

“Will you, by your prayers and witness, help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”

In the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we hear the tag end of yet another story. It reads, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favor.”

Do you remember the story that had to come first, before he grew into his full stature? He was twelve. His parents, Mary and Joseph, had taken him to Jerusalem to keep the Passover festival (which falls on this very weekend). Back then, Jesus was separated from his parents. They didn’t notice this until they’d gone a day’s journey, during which they thought he was among relatives or friends. Imagine their panic, as every effort to find him failed. They retrace their journey all the way to Jerusalem, and you know what that was like, each minute an eternity, no face mattering but his, their minds racing to keep terror at bay. Three days later they find him in the temple, debating religious questions with the elders. Tension uncoiled right past relief and back round again to anger as Mary asked him, “Why have you treated us like this? Didn’t you know we’d be searching?” Only to hear her son question her, “Why were you searching? Didn’t you understand that I must be here?”

Aaron, Chrissie, Ali, Bill: be warned! The full stature of Christ requires freedom, requires that Fiona keep knowing this God who counts her essential for the world’s healing, and that she keep hearing the call to find and respect her freedom and its limits which will in time limit you as well, free you as well. “By your prayers and witness,” it says. The God of your praying must be this one we hear about in John today, who has no limits to the interest that meets us, the commitment that meets us, the faithfulness that meets us when we open ourselves to all that is truly God.

Aaron, Chrissie, Ali, Bill: As you respond to that call of God, and as you grow up into all that is truly God, giving yourselves to the servant ministry of Christ in the world, Fiona will learn from your witness, as she will from ours, from the community that keeps knowing God and hearing the call.

At the heart of that call is God’s perfect freedom. Each of us is to be centered in freedom, so to move with God in the world—like dancing.

Do you watch “Dancing with the Stars?” I do.

God is the pro, the effortless dancer, the trainer. Fiona, you’re the celebrity partner. Baptism shows us that we all are God’s partners. We bring our limits. God includes them in the dance, training us in the freedom and faithfulness already given to us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Called to Freedom

(The scripture portions cited here are Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 2:19-25, and John 10:1-10)

At our monthly eucharist at Williamstown Commons Nursing Home Wednesday, I read this Gospel. We use a large-print song book at that service, but nothing else in print. I noticed Psalm 23 and thought, “We can do that—they’ll know those words.” I knew my little flock there well enough that I’d already decided to use the King James Version. Give me that old time religion…

Sure enough, they knew it. I’ll bet a lot of you do, too. Perhaps you don’t know that that old version was not printed in any edition of The Book of Common Prayer until 1979, the famous “new Prayer Book” that irritated many who thought they were losing the baby with the bathwater. We who have patiently lived with this book for 29 years, and I believe most of us have learned to love it, we’ve learned that its chief characteristic is not what it left out, but what it added, providing many more options than we had before.

Among them, the old language for Psalm 23. I mean the one that many people of a certain age know so well. Let’s find out if we do. To help your synapses fire, close your eyes. Now, let’s make a deal. If you don’t know these words, relax and enjoy hearing them…

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

That was impressive! I wonder what else lives in there, in your memory. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…” No, that’s a sermon for another time.

If you want to get better acquainted with that old language of Psalm 23, you’ll find it in the Prayer Book on page 476, in the Burial Office. Not the one at the top of the page. That’s the really old version, found in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, a translation by Miles Coverdale in 1535. What we’re so sure is old was in fact the new version of 1611, a result of King James’s bright idea that a new fresh translation of the Bible was needed. (Can’t you imagine, during those early decades when the King James Version was a novelty on the shelf, devout Anglicans grumbling at the new wording, “That trippeth not off the tongue the way the old one doth, now doth it?”)

Ah, well. No one ever said evolution would be easy.

The images of sheep and shepherd have a lasting place in Christian faith. It’s not just that newborn lambs are so darned cute. Do you remember the parable of the lost sheep? Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells how that story shapes our theology, showing us how God has a particular soft spot for those who stray from the fold. Tutu writes, “The Good Shepherd in the parable Jesus told had been quite ready to leave ninety-nine perfectly well-behaved sheep in the wilderness to look for, not an attractive, fluffy little lamb—fluffy little lambs do not usually stray from their mummies—but for the troublesome, obstreperous old ram. This was the one on which the Good Shepherd expended so much energy.”

And that would be because the nature of God, the nature we bear is the capacity for freedom. The Bible teaches that human beings are made in the image of God, and that likeness is shown in freedom. So the Book of Genesis starts in the garden of Eden, a safe contained space for man and woman and all the species to cohabit in freedom within limits. And it takes little time for our race to test and push and transgress those limits. The Bible sees this as our signature sin, disobedience: hearing God but not listening, doing as we like (or being sold on the idea of what we might like), finding it just too hard to accept limitations on our freedom.

But freedom remains the gold standard of our experience, our nature, and our calling. Go to the second book of the Bible and there is the Exodus, God freeing an enslaved tribe whose calling is to become a free nation, free within limits. The setting of those limits is the long story of young Israel learning to love God by obeying, fulfilling, God’s covenant expectations so as to grow into mature Israel shaped by covenant love.

The next 36 books of the Hebrew Bible (and aren’t you glad I’m not taking you to each of them?) reinforce, story upon story, that signature sin of our race: hearing God but not listening, knowing the covenant but not keeping it, sensing the spirit of the law but finding it more intriguing to get around the letter of it, disobedience.

You could say that the prophets are the schoolteachers, the faculty of the Bible, their seventeen or so books recording all those educable moments, all those fiery lectures and fierce arguments, brilliant visions, stormy scoldings, constant pleadings meant to train our race to what is required of us: “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” These are the very terms of our limits and of our freedom, simultaneously.

And in the fullness of time, God resolved Word into flesh. Having had enough of talk, God acted in perfect freedom, emptying the divine self, taking the form of a slave. Go figure. Freedom, God’s quintessential state, embracing servitude and sin, mankind’s primary plight, breaking the grip of death by a life so truly fulfilling covenant love that the early Church would learn to sing, with the apostle Peter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness.”

With that long preamble, think with me now about sheep and shepherd.

What limits do we need to safeguard our freedom? Three. First, a sheepfold, just enough structure around us to hold us together for facing the darkness. For freedom, just enough structure.

And, second, movement-- out of the sheepfold and out unto the hills to seek and find, feed and fertilize and, well, evolve. For freedom, rhythms of rising to work and folding to rest, patterns of movement and growth.

And, third, guidance, direction. Sheep may not be the brightest bulbs in the barnyard, but they have a reputation for responding to their own shepherd’s voice. At least on a good day, that’s all it takes to move a flock, to restore the strays. For freedom, recognizing God’s voice when we hear it, listening unafraid and trusting, following where it leads.

We have a case study of this in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. There’s the Bible, in its New Testament, showing what freedom looks like when human beings trust and follow the Good Shepherd. Power is found for the devoting of one’s own life to the life of the community. Private possession is cashed in for common wealth, the good of all. The table fellowship of mealtime and worship feeds the gladness and generosity of everyone. Day by day their numbers grew—the apostles had found perfect freedom, and the world wanted it.

And here we are. Heading into a recession. Even the cheeriest glass-half-full’ers of us may be having to ask what it means when the glass looks half empty.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Hear the shepherd constant in his rhythm of calling us into the structure and shelter of renewing faith experienced in the apostles’ community and fellowship, and calling us to move out into the world to seek and find, feed and nurture, evolve. Structure, movement, guidance—gifts that are at the same time our limit and our freedom.

Hear how these dynamics of freedom mark the evolution of our race. Men and women devoted to the common good have their passions and principles renewed within the fold of their covenant community where their call originates—the call to freedom, to lead movements that confront tyranny, defeat prejudice, build justice.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…. Archbishop Desmond Tutu… President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia… The Dalai Lama… Aung Sun Suu Kyi, champion of freedom in Burma, under house arrest since 1990 (like Nelson Mandela, locked-up and powerful).

And think of their counterparts emerging in Sudan, Kenya, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Middle East.

Let’s think of them as we wonder how full or empty our glasses are. And let’s vow not to lose our freedom to anxieties that could make slaves of us, that could distract us from listening to the one whose voice we know, and who knows us by name.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Real Doubts

I worry that we Christians have so raised a wall between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the world, that we will hear this story of Thomas’s doubting as being about the kind of disconnect we mean when we say we doubt this or that church doctrine or phrase in the creed.

If that’s what we read into Thomas’s story, I suspect we miss what’s going on. There’s just not enough life or death in those intellectual conflicts we sometimes think of as doubt, to justify all the biology, all the embodying of woundedness and touching that we get in Thomas’s crisis.

What’s going on between Jesus and Thomas isn’t located in a church sanctuary. It’s in a rented room where, days ago, Jesus and his twelve friends kept Passover, the annual celebration of God’s freeing Hebrew slaves and making of them a nation.

This rented room is on a back street in a capital city, Jerusalem, teeming with world travelers who all have in common a love-hate relationship with the Roman Empire, brutal but efficient superpower, policeman of the known world. Of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims eager to hear news of the day, none belongs to an independent nation bravely fulfilling its founding purpose. They all come from countries reduced to vassal states dependent on Rome.

Outstanding at counter-terrorism, the Roman imperial army kept the boat of empire from getting rocked anywhere in its vast reach.

When Jesus says to Thomas, “Peace be with you,” he isn’t reading from page 360 of the Book of Common Prayer. This is not ceremonial peace, but actual peace. What Jesus has to give in his peace is the subversive power of a higher power.

How subversive? The first shall be last and the last first. That subversive. God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. That subversive. A patriarchal world watches women welcomed as disciples, called to be apostles. That subversive. Old pecking orders of power and influence no longer control the seating arrangement at the tables Jesus sets, where all are equal. That subversive. Tables of another sort he throws over: they’re being used to exchange street money for temple money to buy animals for sacrifice, and as if all that’s not bad enough they’re cluttering up the one part of the temple where foreigners were supposed to be welcome. That subversive. And in this very rented room, Jesus, their master, washes his disciples’ feet as if he were their hired hand. That subversive.

All four Gospels agree that his purpose is to inaugurate and fulfill a new kingdom. All four Gospels agree that the powers of this world, both church and state, find Jesus’s new kingdom subversive. And they were right: it is a new order in this world but not protected by the powers of this world.

The building of this reign of justice and peace is described by St. Peter in his letter today: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Language like that is too hazy to run a country by, or defend a homeland, or set national policy. It’s religious language, spiritual language, communication meant to inspire. But this living hope and imperishable inheritance is not only about spirituality. These first Christians would soon suffer persecution, imprisonment, torture, and barbarous execution—not because their new kingdom was spiritual and not of this world, but because it was so taking hold in this world that it rocked the boat of empire and set off the scanning devices of homeland security.

Now consider us. Our Christian hope appears to be locked up in the churches. Open and available Sundays, 8:00 a.m. to Noon.
In Tibet, Buddhist hope is spilling out of the monasteries and into the streets. The Dalai Lama is staking everything on keeping Tibeans committed to nonviolent confrontation.

In Zimbabwe, where national elections take place this weekend, Christian pastors have risked arrest and worse, leading nonviolent prophetic action consisting of marches and prayer meetings, to protest deterioriation of the country under 28 years of President Robert Mugabe.

But we believe in separation of church and state. This has become such a national creed that we of the once-established churches think the conservative evangelicals are un-American for trying to tear down that wall.

Perhaps we are less than Christian for wanting that wall. We like its protection from government interference with the church, but do we also like to be protected from any responsibility to bring the church and its Gospel out into the public square? Is the wall that separates church and state the same wall that segregates the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the world?

I think I know what you may be thinking. Religious extremism is enough of a plague on the earth to justify boundaries that safeguard civic life. I agree, of course.

But as we stay inside our churches, are we doubting that the peace of Christ is anything more than ceremony? Do these five years of virtual silence by the churches in a war spiraling into waste and chaos mean that we doubt there is any truer path than war?

Now, that’s doubt. That cuts right to the heart of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace. That is doubt which he will rise to meet with wounded hands and side for us to re-examine, and consider what we are protecting and how we are willing to do it.

Doubting the power of love that empties itself for the salvation of the world, doubting the justice of protecting the vulnerable and holding responsible the privileged, doubting the wisdom of healing our molested mother earth and repairing our deterioriating human society… These are doubts full of life and death, doubts that justify all the biology, all the embodying of woundedness and touching that we get in Thomas’s story—and that show how his crisis is ours, and his Lord our Lord.

It’s part of our human condition to have doubts about what—and who—we believe. We can be grateful for every experience that helps us confirm or discover what we do believe, from a short series on the Apostles’ Creed that will start here on April 13, to that seemingly endless ordeal we go through to elect a president.

But let’s pay attention to our faith and our doubts where they are most needed to help end war, prevent genocide, protest discrimination, educate and inspire children, combat HIV/AIDS, feed the hungry, and build public and affordable housing.

Thomas tells our story. Enlightenment, wholeness, salvation will not come to us in isolation with our own thoughts, but in touching the wounds of Christ in the world, and in common cause—communion—with the apostles.