Reflections to start the week
Monday, April 13, 2015
Charles Shultz, one of my heroes, has said that cartooning is preaching. One of his finest homiletic moments came in a cartoon which was handed to me when I was in seminary. It has traveled with me everywhere I’ve been since. It has been my devotional reading, not to mention an occasional spiritual course correction. Here’s the set up: Snoopy sits on the top of his doghouse hammering away on a typewriter. Charlie Brown approaches, asking what he’s writing. Snoopy replies that he is writing a book on theology. Charlie Brown says: You need the right title if you’re going to write a book like that. Snoopy says he has the perfect title. Here’s the title: Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?
I might be wrong, but I imagine that St. Thomas of doubting fame would have appreciated the cartoon. Yesterday, we heard about Thomas in church (If you missed it, read John 20:19-31). The fact is, every year, on the Sunday after Easter Day, his story is front and center. In the afterglow of the festivities, the trumpets, the lilies, the return of suppressed alleluias, the church wants us to talk about someone who doubted. And while he is the focus of post-resurrection skepticism, he is not alone, joined by many biblical characters who after the resurrection were confused, mystified, left wondering, left doubting. I have always taken that particular thread in the Easter stories as good news, validation of the call to question, encouragement of the kinds of questions that often occur to folks like me. If Thomas were around today, I bet he’d be an Episcopalian.
That is, however, not to confuse doubt with destination. As Anselm said centuries ago, the spiritual journey is a matter of faith seeking understanding. So doubt can be the pathway to deeper discipleship. Thomas, at the end of the story, after all, ends with one of the great affirmations of worship in the gospels. As Frederick Buechner said: Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. The expressions of doubts and questions, the hospitality of faith communities to those expressions are key to spiritual vitality. It gets people moving. How so?
Back to Snoopy. That dog teaches us to allow humility to guide the spiritual journey. Smart dog. If it occurs to us that we might be wrong, if we’re willing to admit that we know in part (to swipe a phrase from St. Paul in I Corinthians 13), then we are more inclined to listen and learn, which is really what it means to be a disciple. We are more able to grow. One of the great bits of spiritual wisdom I’ve heard in recent years: We don’t know what we don’t know. And again, that’s not the end of the story. Going back to Snoopy, we need to hammer on the typewriter. In other words, we need to do the spiritual work, to not only express our doubts, but to take ownership of the journey, and explore these issues, especially those issues that are most vexing.
So as you make your way through this Easter season, as you make your way through this week, as you navigate this day, ask God to show you the pathway to deeper growth. Live the questions, and let them guide you as you write your own theology book, as you come to know something new about the God we worship.
– Jay Sidebotham
Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love. -I Corinthians 13
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.