The Upper Room: all kinds of doors

all-kinds-doorsThere are all kinds of doors in life.

Doors that lead to new life.  We pass through them and life is changed.  Passing through the doors of high school graduation to the new world called college.  Entering a common life through he doors of marriage – or vows as a Franciscan friar.  What was the most significant/memorable door you have passed through into a new life? I bet almost everyone’s passing through was accompanied by trepidation, uncertainty – maybe a tinge of fear – and yet we commit and we pass through to new life.

Not so with all doors  There are doors that lock us out.  

Sometimes it is all as simple as slowly twirling the combination lock asking yourself “now….whose birthday did I used to set this combination….?”  Or “what is that password…..?”  That horrifying moment when we know the car is locked but the keys aren’t in our hands.  Life is that way. We sometimes innocently lock ourselves out. Eventually we remember where we left the key, the birthday combination, the password, or we call the appropriate locksmith.

Sometimes locked door are not so innocent. Perhaps we don’t think, speak, act, or believe in the acceptable way. Or we are not savvy enough, cool enough, and thus not part of a certain crowd. Or perhaps as in the first reading, it is illness or infirmity in ourselves or our loved ones that locks us away from participating fully in life. Sometimes the locked door is as subtle as not having enough time – and so we make choices – locking ourselves out from something good, and true, and holy.

Of course, there are doors we lock to keep others and things out.  An embarrassment or pain we want to hide away from others.  A part of life or a memory that is behind us and does not need to paraded about for all to see.  Or, like the disciples in the gospel, plain ol’ fashioned fear.

A fear that seems reasonable enough:  they put our leader Jesus to death, what’s to stop them from coming after us?  Maybe a fear harbored in their hearts, right at the edge of a whisper: “maybe we were delusional to follow that carpenter from Galilee?”  Away in that locked room the healings, the miracles, the mighty words and deeds are just a little dimmer, not casting enough light into the corners of the mind/heart where fear, doubt, hesitation, misgiving, and reservation lurk.

And despite the locked doors, there is Jesus in their midst. Why? What do you think? Another miracles to get them pumped up for mission? Maybe, but I tend to think not.  If they need another miracle now, they will need one in a few weeks…and another a few weeks after that.

Maybe just to let them know that even in their fear, his gift of peace is there with them.  The fear may remain, but even more powerfully, the peace can be held onto.

I think there is more. Let me suggest that it is as the Christian philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich wrote: “The old faith must die, eaten away by doubts, but only so that a new and deeper faith may be born.” The old faith that depended upon Jesus being seen, heard, touched and present with them in the flesh.  Now Jesus is sending them just as the Father sent him and they need a new faith because in their mission they will face new questions.

Although we often call this gospel passage the story of doubting Thomas, we really should not. There are six words in the Greek language to express the act of doubting – none of them are used. The word that is used is “questioning.”  Thomas’ old faith is locked behind all the things he has seen, witnessed first hand – the miracles, the teaching, the healing, the great acts of power.  He knows these things – and he knows them not only from first hand experience, but from their counterparts in the OT.

But this Resurrection thing… this is something new.  And he has questions.  Which are answered. And he utters the one simple response that had echoed throughout the ages: “My Lord and my God.

And the door of his life are flung open. Nothing is never again locked in any meaningful way. He goes to the ends of the earth to tell the Good News – tradition telling us as far as the Indian continent.

But are here in Tampa there is an old faith locked in or out by our choices, our lives, or what we learned growing up.  The old faith that needs to face new questions.  Even as we huddle behind our collection of doors – some of them locked, some merely closed. But you are not safe behind those doors. The grace, the mercy, and the power of God will pass through into the locked rooms of our lives – and when it does, you can be reduced to silence in your doubt, reservation and fear. But do not be afraid to ask questions. And maybe in the questioning the old faith will die and a new and deeper faith born.

There is a young priest, blogging away out there on the internet.  He is not a fan of Pope Francis and thinks this pope will lead the church astray.  That young priest is asking questions, even asking why he was ordained.  Good. And maybe in questioning the old faith, the vision of priest to which he mightily clings will die and a new and deeper faith born and with it a truer vision of priestly life.

There is a young man out there with whom I dialogue, who is just convinced that if he could only gather enough information, enough data, all his questions would be answered, and he would know.  It has been three years – but he is asking questions. Good. A new, deeper faith is being born in him. I see signs. I am hopeful.

There are people here today in the pew next to you whose faith is hanging on by a thread. Others possess the faith of their 8th grade catechism – even though it is 30 years later.  And, there are people whose faith has possessed them, and compelled by the love of God, have passed through news doors and into news ways of seeing their marriage, their professions, and their vocations.

And I hope every one of us are now and will continue to ask questions.  Questions are not doubts; are not disbelief. They are the gateway, the doorway by which our former faith passes away, giving way to the new and deeper life of faith.

A faith lived in the interior rooms of our lives.  Lived in the community of common worship and Eucharist.  Lived out there is the joy and sorrow of everyday – in the midst of new life.

Doors once locked, now open

And we pass through – with trepidation, uncertainty – maybe a tinge of fear .  We pass through with our doubts, but also with our questions, and always with the assurance of the love and peace of Christ. It truly is the mercy of God that he never gives up on us.

And in his mercy, we pass through to the deepest realization of faith. “My Lord and my God – we are indeed blessed. We have not seen and yet we believe.”  And in our faith, there are no doors that can hold us back.  We believe.


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