As I was preparing for a Lectionary Study this week, I came across the web Bible Study called Faith Lens, published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The study started off talking about a television show that I enjoy viewing called Mythbusters. Here's how contributor Bill King describes the show:
Nominated for an Emmy and hosted by the jauntily bereted Jamie Hyneman and “stuff maker” Adam Savage, Mythbusters scientifically tests urban myths, outrageous propositions, and conventional wisdom. The show has a particular fondness for myths which involve explosions, making a mess, or disgusting materials (they made a candle out of ear wax). Some have called it “the best science show on television,” and few would dispute that it is the zaniest. The show sometimes does silly things, like constructing a lead balloon, just to see if it can be done. But beneath the laughter is a serious purpose, to illustrate how science separates fact from fiction.
What's so cool about the show is how Jamie and Adam try to test out urban myths. Sometimes they are able to "bust" the myth and show that it's not true. Other times they are able to verify that the myth is true, and still other times it's plausible.
When you read this week's gospel in John about good ole "Doubting Thomas" you might think about how Tom wanted proof of Jesus' existence. There will be talk about how doubt is important in the life of faith and we will try to hold him up as a modern hero who didn't just want to believe something because someone told him.
These are all good things to note in the text, but what if there's something more here that we aren't seeing. What if this text is not just about doubt and faith, not just about the Risen Savior, but also a message for the church, the body of Christ?
In his lectionary reflection this week, Russell Rathburn expresses his interest in the actual body of Christ:
After crashing through all that at break neck speed, John slows it down to spend the majority of this verses focusing on his Body. Thomas says he wants to see the Body, see the wounds. Jesus arrives and very graphically shows him the wounds, and in a very intimate gesture, invites him to place his finger/hand inside them. There can be no doubt that this is the Body of Jesus the Christ, very man, very God.
That Jesus literally, physically rose from the dead is the foundation of the Christian faith. This Sunday’s reading starts and ends with it, giving just a verse each to the Great Commission, Pentecost, the rest is all about the Body. After so much emphasis on the Body of Jesus through the Lent and Easter seasons, how do we preach with out one? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe? There really are not any other options are there?
The question that hits me here is Russell's talk about the body of Christ when there isn't a body anymore.
But what if there is a body? What if Christ's ressurection wasn't only about the physical resurrection, but also about how the ressurection lives in the life of the gathered community, the Church?
Thomas wanted to experience Jesus for himself. He did not want to rely on the experience of others. Belief for Thomas was not about accepting creedal statements, but about a relationship and if he couldn't experience a body, then what's the point?
Now for a moment, think about the body of Christ as the church, because in the here and now that's what modern Thomases are looking at when they want to see Jesus. They aren't looking to just accept a doctrinal statement, but they are looking to commune with the Body of Christ. In this present age, there isn't a physical body to talk about, but Christ is found in the Church, the folks who believe in Christ and abide with him.
Maybe, just maybe, if the church can live as a community called, gathered and sent by God to preach the good news, then our modern Thomas will see Christ. Maybe if we live as a community of forgiven sinners, then our modern Thomas will see Christ. Maybe if we welcome all to the doors of our churches, then our modern Thomas will see Christ.
As you prepare to preach or teach this Sunday after the Ressurection, think about what it means to be the Body of Christ in our world. How do we witness to the Living and Risen Christ?
Go and be church.