The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Less Faith

What would it mean to confess a Thomasian Creed?

by Mark Stenberg

Gospel Reading: John 20:19–31

For Sunday, April 7, 2013: Year C—Easter 2

Imagine, with me, that particular moment. What was happening during that moment in human history when Thomas confessed his un-faith: “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?”

Was he in danger? Was his faith revoked, nullified? Was he abandoned by God? Was his name stricken from the Book of Life?

Thomas the Scapegoat

“Doubting Thomas.”  His name lives in infamy, the subject of scorn and shame. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Honoring the Skeptic

 What’s so bad about being a pending Christian?

by Rev. Mark Stenberg, Ph.D.

 Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31

 For Sunday, April 15, 2012: Year B—Easter 2

 ”Doubting Thomas.” His name lives in infamy, the subject of scorn and shame.

We’ve even invited our children to ridicule him for his unbelief in a Bible Song from the mid 20th century boom era of the church, a chorus in which young children delightedly wagged their fingers in shame at that naughty doubter Thomas: Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise, why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray? And all that finger wagging turns into the shame-based reprimand: “Have more faith!”

More Faith?

“Have more faith?” As if having more faith is something we can simply will ourselves into. “Don’t be a doubting Thomas!” “Pray more.” “Worry less.” “Be good.” “Have more faith!”

Why has all this shame been directed at poor Thomas? Who made him the designated doubt-catcher? Maybe that says a lot more about us and our self-defensiveness, our fear that it might not be true.

Honest and Honorable

Look. Thomas just happened to not be in the room when Jesus first shows up. So what if he’s just being honest? He says: “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.”

But if you look more carefully at the gospel of John you have to wonder how he developed such a bad reputation. Because you do not have to read the text in a way that shames our dear skeptic, Thomas. In fact, I will set forth the slightly risky (but way more fun) reading that Thomas is actually given a position of honor in John’s gospel. Here me out.

[Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Room Enough

Is Jesus the once and future real estate agent?

by Tripp Hudgins

Gospel Reading:  John 14:1-14

For Sunday, May 22, 2011:  Year A - Easter 5

How spacious is the Father’s house? Is everyone really invited? Rob Bell famously and recently took it on the chin for even opening that question up to the rest of us who are in the Church. It is a living question about universalism, salvation, and God’s love. We suffer from a shortage of imagination, I think, when it comes to imagining God’s house being large enough for all. We suffer from our own culture of scarcity in the Church, spending physical and spiritual resources on ourselves when we should be making room for all.

Available Real Estate

This is part of John’s Last Supper narrative. More lengthy than the other versions, John attempts to share more of Jesus’ mind with us through his conversation with the disciples. Judas has already left to go get the authorities. Peter has been told that he will deny Christ three times. Now we have Jesus trying (once again) to explain where he’s going and why. He first describes the real estate available to everyone. Everyone is going to God’s house. Of course, Thomas has to ask the First Century’s version of [TheHardestQuestion], “How can we know the way?” You can always count on Thomas. Jesus responds with this well known verse: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

“I’m Coming Back”

I usually read this verse at funerals. It’s all about the afterlife. Jesus is preparing a heavenly place for everyone. Sometimes I think we’ve back-ended the afterlife into this passage. We know Jesus is going to die. We know that the apocalyptic pronouncement of “I’m coming back” should have us quaking in our boots and wondering if we’ll indeed be ready. I cannot get through this verse without making some list and hoping no one slipped anything into my bread and wine causing Satan to enter into me in some way. “The Devil made me do it” really doesn’t hold up like it used to.

  [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

No Body Loves Me

How do we preach our faith as physical and alive when the Body we are supposed to love is nowhere to be found?

by Russell Rathbun

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31

For Sunday, May 1 , 2011: Year A – Easter 2

The Sunday after Easter is the least attended worship service of the year. The next least attended is the Sunday after Christmas. I guess folks feel like after all the gearing up and looking forward to the big events of the church year, they want a break; we need a rest.

Packed House

Taking some time to rest and recuperate after we have had a baby is understandable; it takes a lot of out of the Body, but after a resurrection? It seems like that would be energizing, revolutionary, invigorating, and world changing. A lot of babies have been born, but no body has ever risen from the dead before. After declaring the resurrection, I would think the following Sunday would be packed.

This weeks Gospel reading seems to support the idea, that it is not a week to take off, but a time to get a lot done. There is certainly a lot of theological work John is trying to get done in these verses 19 – 31. It starts with the confirmation of the literal, physical resurrected body of Jesus vere homo. Then to John’s very quick version of the Great Commission, and onto a one verse Pentecost. This is followed by one of the hard questions in this text: if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them they are retained. It really can’t be that the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Christ was to give the power of eternal forgiveness of sins to the whims of humans? But I will leave the exploration that hard question to others. I am interested in the Body.

[Read more...]