In the summer of 1999, I served as a summer camp chaplain. In an effort to get to know some of the kids, I participated in the ropes course. A ropes course is made up of a group of exercises that teach you to work together and trust each other. In one exercise, the trust fall, you stand on the edge of a platform about seven feet off the ground, turn backward and willingly fall backwards, trusting that your group members below will catch you.
I still remember climbing the ladder up the tree to the platform. It seemed very high. And those middle school kids below seemed very small. But I turned around and willingly fell. I decided to trust. I decided to place my faith in them.
And they caught me.
In the Gospel of John, we hear a story of faith. It was the evening of the first day of the week. Jesus had been crucified the Friday before. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, had returned to Jesus disciples and told them that she had seen Jesus alive. And then suddenly, Jesus stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he assured them. Then he showed them the wounds in his hands and side. They saw and believed. But Thomas, one of the disciples, wasn’t there. When he returned and discovered what he had missed, Thomas was doubtful.
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later, the disciples were again in the room together and Thomas was with them. Then Jesus again came to them. “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
When Thomas saw Jesus, he cried out in faith, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus makes faith possible for his disciples. This is because he loves us and cares for us. For Thomas, he provided his presence and a look at his wounds. When Thomas saw, he was able to believe. He was able to trust in Jesus.
Faith is our ability to trust. Often, people think that faith is about intellectual understanding. But faith is really about trust. Who do we place our trust in? Trust means a willingness to follow even when everything is not seen or understood. Faith involves a bit of risk. There is an element of uncertainty. But just like in that trust fall, when we step out and trust, we learn that the one trusted is faithful.
Each day the risen Christ calls us to trust him. Like Thomas, sometimes we struggle with our faith – our ability to trust. But Jesus knows our concerns, our fears, our uncertainties. He will meet us where we are and provide all that we need, just like he did for Thomas.
We meet Jesus in many ways. We meet Jesus when we live in relationship with others. We see his life through the lives of others. When others serve us, when they listen to us, when they love us, we meet our risen Lord. He provides what we need. But he also meets us when we serve others. As we care for those who are hurting, as we feed those who are hungry, as we listen to those who grieve, the risen Christ is in our midst. He will reveal his life and love as he works though our lives to accomplish his will.
Often people think of Easter as one day. But Easter is not just one day. It is a season of 50 days. This is the season between the day of Christ’s resurrection and the day of Pentecost. During this time Jesus appeared to his disciples to strengthen them and to nourish their faith. During this season of Easter, we turn our eyes to the risen Lord. He is here with us today – ready to strengthen us, ready to nourish us, ready to give us whatever we need to have faith. Just turn to him and ask. And then you too will cry out, “My Lord and my God.”
This column was first published in 2014.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: firstname.lastname@example.org