Believing is Seeing

by   |  04.29.11  |  Sermons

Buffalo Gap Church of Christ

May 1, 2011

A Celebration of Worship

We are Called to Worship

  • Hymn # 72 – “Blessed Be The Lord God Almighty”
  • Call to Worship: Guest: Dr. Tim Sensing

This week, I read about a nursing mother who believed that her baby boy is a child of God and she had been given a trust to demonstrate God’s unfailing love to him. But when she is awakened for the fifth time during the night by her baby’s hungry cries, she consistently responds, but not with the same feeling of hospitality. Her beliefs have not changed, and her practice is consistent with her beliefs, but she does not feel the same warm feelings of desire late in the night as at other times. She is not as present or attentive.

In this assembly, three groups have come to worship. First, some of you worship knowing and feeling deeply at this time and in this place the reality of God. The resurrection is real and significant today as it was last week. Others of you do not know God or have a personal relationship with God. You will in due time. Finally, there are some of you who have known these times of certainty, who have experienced a deep relationship with the Father, yet at this moment are without that certainty. You have come, as it is your custom, but the desire is gone and another savor has entered your mouth. It is a horrible bitter flavor. You long to taste again God’s sweet presence in your life.

We gather today in one assembly, a week after a glorious Easter celebration, longing to see Jesus again (maybe for the first time) and we gather desiring to experience God’s glory and grace. Let us worship!

  • Hymn # 266 – “Majesty”
  • Hymn # 113 – “His Grace Reaches Me”
  • Prayer

We Hear God’s Word

Children’s Moment – “Where Children BelongThis, this is where children belong, Welcomed as part of the worshipping throng. Water, God’s Word, bread and cup, prayer and song: This is where children belong.

  • Hymn # 57 – “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
  • Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Sermon: Believing Is Seeing

(John 20:19-31)

Tim Sensing

~Selah~

We gather here one week after Easter basking in the sunlight of Jesus’ resurrection. And the blessing of 1 Peter inspires us—

  • 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.

And a song like “Amazing Grace” rings in our ears. Note the relationship between verse 3 of the song and the text.

  • Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
  • In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith¾being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire¾may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls

The blessing of 1 Peter echoes the beatitude of Jesus that was spoken to Thomas just one week after the resurrection.

We do not know that much about the Twelve. Eleven were Galileans, four were fishers, one a thief, one a zealot, one a tax collector, two sets of brothers, and one was a twin. A few other odd facts and that’s about it. However, there are two stories told by John about Thomas that give us some insight about him. It is just a hint about why he followed Jesus.

Thomas was daring. One of the last confrontations with the Jews recorded in John was one of near violence and possible death (Jn 10:31, 39). Jesus goes back across the Jordan and stayed until he heard the news of the death of Lazarus. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?’” The following conversation is one of those classic misunderstandings in the Gospel. “‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’” The Evangelist tells us then, “Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”

To follow Jesus meant death. Where else could he go? Thomas’s faith in Jesus is strong. That faith produced zeal, obedience, and submission to the will of the Lord no matter what the cost. He displayed courage, bravery, boldness, and confidence that the others did not. Although he may not have understood the implications, although he could not foresee the cross, he led the way.

Now that daring man we have sometimes called doubting Thomas. “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it’” (Jn. 20:24-25).

Thomas asks for proof. He wants to see the evidence. This was even after seeing the resurrection of Lazarus. Resurrection? It’s too good to be true. And even though he witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection, he still doesn’t understand the cross. WHY? Why the change? I think his belief system was shattered. His confidence was lost that night Jesus hung on a cross. Golgotha robbed him of his security. His expectations were violated. He was disappointed, dejected, and downcast. When Jesus died on that cross, all his dreams died too. The cross is too horrible to be true. You see, Messiah is not supposed to die.

Whether it be the holocaust in Germany or Cambodia; whether it be genocide in Bosnia; or a Zulu riot in South Africa; or famine in Somalia; or a ten year old with a pistol at the ball field; or another battered wife; another abused child; or close to 300 people killed by tornados in the south just this past week; life is filled with realities that are too horrible to be true.

All of us have experienced times in our lives where God seems silent and distant. Our expectations of how we think God should act are not met. These are times when Jesus does not seem alive to us but dead. And at times, we all doubt. I’m not talking about nagging doubts that creep up on us in our beds at night, but real, honest, questions about what God is doing and why. At times, God violates all we know to be right and true. And our dreams die too

You see dreams die when a couple grieves over yet another miscarriage. Dreams die when the bank coldly states, “foreclosure.” Dreams die in “Dear John” letters as the spouse writes “I don’t love you anymore.” And sometimes dreams die because of the run and rassle of everyday living has stressed you beyond your limit. The preacher proclaims every Sunday, “God is real.” The church prays every Sunday as though God has ears. You see brothers and sisters involved in ministry as though God is active. And the emptiness inside grows more painful for you remember a time when your relationship with God made a difference in your life too. Dreams died and hopes crumbled on that cross.

So, when the other disciples testified, “we have seen the Lord!” It seems too good to be true. Your best friend claimed to be God’s son. You believed it. You dedicated yourself to him. You risked your life for him. Yet, you know for a fact Jesus was killed. You know where they laid him. But now you hear claims that he is alive. It seems too good to be true. Was he now living after suffering a criminal’s death or was it a hoax, an April fools joke, or just imaginary wishful thinking? Would this story of a resurrection fall apart upon careful examination?

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’” (Jn 20 26-28). Jesus offers to Thomas the evidence needed by him to believe again. Thomas examined, believed, and tradition says he died in India preaching the Gospel story. Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

We gather here in the light of a blessing. “Then Jesus told him, ‘because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (Jn 20:27-29). Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home And we confess, “My Lord and my God!”

We Gather at the Table

  • Hymn # 129 – “Amazing Grace”      
  • Celebration of Communion

We Respond to God’s Word

The problem with every Easter Sunday is the week that follows. If you are like me, you got up early Monday morning to go back to the routine and mundane of life. Jobs, chores, deadlines, appointments, and all sorts of expectations crouched at the door. And let’s not forget the news that ripped through Alabama and other southern states this past week after Easter celebrations. Storms made arrangements for too many funerals this past week.

And so faithful people are gathering at those funerals, singing the songs of faith, and declaring, “My Lord and My God.”

We don’t always know the why and the how. We sometimes misunderstand and misinterpret. We even look at the cross and forget. We forget God’s past actions. We forget God’s future promises. We recall times in our lives when we were convinced, active, and strong. We remember the taste of the Lord’s presence in our lives. But sometimes, we doubt. Sometimes we cannot taste it. Sometimes we don’t remember. And we long, deeply thirst, to taste and remember again.

God does not leave us isolated. Jesus is still alive and active, sitting at the right hand of God, dwelling in your heart and mine. Do you see the Savior’s hands? Can you touch the Master’s side? Can you confess, “My Lord and My God”?

  • Call to Response, Hymn # 458 – “Redeemed”
  • Offering of our Gifts
  • Family News
  • Hymn # 346 – “He Lives”
  • Benediction

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. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith¾being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire¾may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3-9).