April 21, 2013: We Live by Faith and Not by Sight

Posted on : Apr 18th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

There are some beliefs that those of us who were raised in the Christian faith just kind of accept as “Well, yeah!”  One of those beliefs is that “we live by faith and not by sight.”  Some of us learned that belief as “we walk by faith and not by sight” because that is the language used by the Apostle Paul.  Either way, the reality is, most of us really don’t live or walk by faith.  Most of us want proof.  Hard truth.  Proven fact.  Not faith.

The Bible has a fair number of stories in it that describe people’s faith experience with Jesus after his death.  It is from these experiences that the early followers of Jesus came to believe in the resurrection.  Next week’s “God Is Still Speaking” meditation is about the difference between “sightings” and “appearances.”  The New Testament doesn’t report “sightings” of the risen Jesus. It reports “appearances.” Jesus intrusions. People don’t say, “Yes, it was about sunrise when I got a glimpse of him heading over the hill there.”  They report, “He appeared to me.”

That’s the theme of one of the most famous resurrection stories in the entire Bible, a story that is often called “Doubting Thomas.”  The story is told that on the evening of Easter day, the disciples were huddled away behind locked doors, fearful that the same Temple authorities who had Jesus put to death on a cross would soon be after them.  Suddenly they sense (the resurrected) Jesus among them.  It’s not a verifiable “Breaking News!” story/sighting, rather “Jesus appears to them.”  Thomas, one of the disciples, is not with the others when they have this experience and what the others try to describe to him, doesn’t convince him.  He wants proof.  About a week later, Jesus “appears” to Thomas.  Now one thing about appearances is that an appearance is not always what it appears to be.  When Thomas has this experience of faith, he is convinced and convicted.  He shouts, “My savior and my God!”  And Jesus responds, “Thomas, have you believed because you saw me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Almost a year ago, Jerod and I attended a seminar on “Preaching in the Visual Age.”  We live in a visual world.  Whether we recognize that or not, that is a monumental paradigm shift (change in reality).  For thousands of years, including the entire time in history during which the scriptures of the old and new testaments were recorded, up until the advent of television, we lived in an “oral world.”  The “spoken word” told our truth.  Today we live in a visual world.  Do you doubt me?  Look at the change in just the last few years from the spoken word to visual communication.  Today more people use their smart phone for digital display than oral conversation.  How many minutes of “talk” do you use compared to “text?”  And what about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?  Visual, visual, visual!  [BTW, “Instagram” is such a new word, Microsoft Word 2010 does not yet have it in its dictionary!]

For those of you who were here last Sunday, you heard Allan ask if I, like my predecessor, Rev. Ross Greek, cut out articles from the newspaper to use in sermons?  Over lunch I told Allan, “Actually, we now use video clips.”  Because we are a church that has always been at the forefront of social change, we are “preaching” and teaching faith in “the visual age.”   But most churches aren’t and most of our teachings about faith are not presented for those of us living in the visual age.

So, what does it mean for those of us living in the visual age, to say “we live by faith and not by sight?” Not by SIGHT?  What does it mean to believe in a God who you cannot “see?”  How do you even know that God exists?  In the post-modern/secular/visual age, many have decided if they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist – and that includes God.

At our “Preaching in the Visual Age” seminar, I saw a video clip that helped me understand the “Doubting Thomas” story in a way I had never experienced it before.  I finally “got” what it means to live by faith … and not by sight.  I’ll be showing that clip during worship on Sunday.

Come and see!

Blessings to you as we encounter the Risen Christ in our visual age.


John 20: 19-30

In the evening of that same day, the day of Resurrection, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.

The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As God sent me, so I’m sending you.”

After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.

If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas – nicknamed “the Twin” – was absent when Jesus came.  The other disciples kept telling him, “We’ve seen the Risen Christ!”

Thomas’ answer was, “I’ll never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into the spear wound.”

On the eighth day, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them.  Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying, “Peace be with you.”

Then, to Thomas, Jesus said, “Take your finger and examine my hands.  Put your hand into my side.  Don’t persist in your unbelief, but believe!”

Thomas said in response, “My savior and my God!”

Jesus then said,

“Have you believed because you saw me?

Blessed are those who have not seen

and yet have believed.”

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