Sunday, April 27, 2014

Doubting Thomas (2nd Sunday in Easter time 2014, Lund Cathedral)

By now you're probably wondering who this woman preaching is.
My name is Maria Bergius Krämer, and I'm the associate priest in Church of Sweden Brussels. In Belgium. So I'm an ex-pat, just like you guys, only doing my best learning French and still worshipping in my mother tongue. Sort of like here, but in Swedish.

When I lived in Sweden, however, I lived and worked in Malmö, just a few minutes away from here. I got my degree in Theology from Lund University, so this feels a lot like home to me.

I want to tell you a little about the Malmöites. Most of you live here, I assume, and may interact more or less with people from Lund. There actually are a few of those. I never really met any during my time in Lund, but I hear they exist. People in Malmö are a little bit different, at least if you go by sterotype.
The typical Malmöite is very hard to impress. The classic Malmö saying is ”Have you seen Malmö you've seen the world”, which actually is increasingly true. My husband and I once saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Chinese movie, in the theater, and next to us sat a classical, middle-aged Malmöite. Every time one of the characters in the movie ran through the tree tops och jumped between roofs, he said ”Suuuuuure.”, ”Yeah, right.” or ”As if.” very loudly. It started out really annoying, but in the end we were just waiting for him to speak out against the unrealism of the film, giggling hysterically.

I imagine Thomas in today's gospel being a little like that guy.
He comes back from doing whatever it is he's been doing when the others met Jesus, and they're all fired up and happy and probably babbling and laughing from joy. And Thomas goes ”Mhm. Riiiight. I'll believe it when I see it.”
Actually, I think all of us has a malmöite inside us.

During a lot of my time in ministry I have worked with children and youth. It's super challenging, because children and youth can feel dishonesty and deception like we grown-ups feel the smell of coffee – from a mile away. They crave realness, honesty. And they work so hard on making sense of the world and everything around them, that they expect us to have done the same work.
One of the most common children's ministry things we do in the Church of Sweden is interactive theater stuff around Christmas and Easter, often referred to as Christmas or Easter walks, when children are invited to participate in a re-enactment of the Christmas or Easter story. And every year I've done this, there's this one kid that turns to me or someone else in the cast, and say ”I know you're not really from that time, you're only acting.”. Because he or she needs to make sense of it all, needs to tell him- or herself that it's all fiction.

I imagine Thomas in today's gospel being a little like that kid.
All of them want to believe, everybody seems so happy, but still he can't really get into it, he needs to make sense of it. He must have felt so alone, being the only one not believing, must have felt like he's not been let in on the secret, like he was the only one who could see the mass hysteria.
And, you know, I think we all have one of those kids inside us, too.

This believing thing is hard. Sometimes people seem to assume that people of faith believe to make life easier, but it's not. It's just as difficult living with as without faith. People of faith doubt, people of faith feel alone. People of faith ask big questions, demand answers, and sometimes, people of faith don't find them. In a way, I think being a person of faith demands even more courage than just believing in a world run by chance, because we risk so much more disappointment.

And God knows this. More, God even approves of those questions.

The Bible is full of people questioning God, raging against God, disagreeing with God and running away from God. These are the heroes of faith. They're the ones to whom nothing was given easily. They're the ones who struggled. Thomas. Job, Jonah. The Virgin Mary, Peter the Apostle, to name but a few. All of them questioned. Even with Jesus right beside you, this faith thing is difficult, and God knows this.

Thomas never got his wish. There is no account of him ever touching Jesus's wounds, in spite of what all the paintings might show. But his heart was touched instead, and he is one of the first people identifying Jesus with God. After this, according to tradition, Thomas went on to found the earliest church in India.
Your brain, your mind, is a gift from God. Using it is not against God's wishes. Some people might want you to think that questions and doubt are threats to faith, but they're not. They temper it, they strengthen it. Thomas' gift of sound scepticism allowed him to spread the gospel into places where a mere accepting of status quo might never have gone.

So don't fear your questions.
Don't fear your scepticism.
Embrace your inner Malmöite, your inner kid, your inner Thomas.
Who knows what worlds you will encounter? Who knows what hearts you will touch?