Easter People – Easter Promise “Doubt”
Rev. Michael Stadtmueller
Sermon Scripture: JOHN 20:19-31
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
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Inspired by Enuma Okuro
I have a story to tell you. A story about a terrible, terrible monster. A monster that is all too real. A monster that as the story is told in Africa devours entire villages. Can you listen to my story? Listen because the dangers of this monster should not be underestimated. But fear not children for as you hear this story you will know the way not only to avoid this monster, but to be a light for this world that helps others to avoid it too.
The name is different depending on where you travel. It takes on many names because most believed that to say it’s name at all would invite it into your presence. “Kutia Shaka” is the Swahili name for this monster. And the “Kutia Shaka” can take on many forms. But the power of this monster is that it destroys it’s victims one at a time, but one doesn’t disappear until it has already grasped another. It travels from one victim to another, and once they are caught by the “Kutia Shaka” they will soon disappear from the community.
It is said that a long time ago there were three villages that worked together. Imani, Matumanee and Upendo. They were a content, safe and thriving, but the “Kutia Shaka” was gaining strength. All the villagers knew it, but said nothing. No one dared speak its name which made it even harder to talk about. Stories of far-away villages disappearing trickled in from wandering strangers. But it was far away, they felt helpless, and of course how could they talk about it? They felt there was nothing they could do, except make sure no one spoke it’s name.
Then word came word to the other two villages that the “Kutia Shaka was in Imani (faith). Soon no one heard from Imani again. Neighborhoods in Upendo and Matumanee started to speak less and less to one another. Perhaps it would come, but if we stayed inside, away in our home, and did not speak its name our family would be safe.
Then the “Kutia Shaka came to Matumanee (hope). It was actively connected to Upendo, and then… The people did not respond. The village leaders in Upendo told everyone to remain in their homes. Their only hope was to stay isolated. Lock the door. Stay in their upper rooms.
The adults knew why, but dared not speak the name. They huddled their children inside the houses, but the children did not know why. No one would say, but the adults lived in a silent fear. Silent because no one would talk about it for fear of bringing the terrible beast to their door. The Kutia Shaka ruled their life and they had know idea how to deal with it.
Then one little boy stuck in his home stumbled upon a story, and in the story was the word. The word, the terrible word that must not be spoken. And the curious boy went to his mom, as children do.. And he said, Mom, tell me about the Kutia Shaka…..
(gasp) NO… She said astonished. Don’t say that word But in that moment the terrible creature was already in their midst. But the boy pressed on unaware of the danger. Why do you look scared I just want to know about the Kutia Shaka.”
STOP! MY SWEET CHILD! IT IS HERE! HOLD STILL DON’T SAY A WORD AND PERHAPS IT WILL LEAVE US.
But then an amazing thing happened. The woman could see what the boy already saw. The power of that monster was gone as soon her son said it’s name. Yes it came when it’s name was spoken, but it was disarmed, it was no longer dangerous. And soon Upendo heard the story too. And the name began to be spoken throughout the village. It was said, “Speak the name of Kutia Shaka, and it no longer destroys. In fact it can strengthen. It only has power to destroy when is not seen. When it is not named. And amazingly enough when the name was spoken in the vilages of Imani and Matumanee the villagers were returned safely.
And this is where the story comes to us. For this monster takes on many forms. The Kutia Shaka is the swahili word for doubt. Its negative powers come not when we talk about it, but when we don’t talk about it. When we remind ourselves that the power of our promise in Jesus Christ is it’s ability to light our darkness, we are called to expose all of our fears to God. To our community. Imani, Matumanee and Upendo are the swahili words for Faith, Hope and love. Through Jesus Christ, they are not subject to doubt, unless we turn doubt into a monster. Kutia Shaka (doubt) is a part of faith, hope and love that can allow them to grow stronger. And even in moments when doubt seems to be gaining power, the power of the Alleluia promise we have is greater.
I think the first century church was realizing this in their telling of this story. I think they knew that so many things we see as negative, and monstrous to the church are built up that way because we do not talk about them.
See, We can lock ourselves in the upper rooms of our churches, and turn this place into a place that doesn’t deal with conflict and struggle, or we can remember that conflict and struggle is where Jesus would have us go.
There will always be a fear that we don’t want to name. But when we trust in the power of Jesus the power of these monsters is lost.
Now Think about the other monsters that when we don’t talk about them gain power….Racism…. Shh don’t talk about that, Sexism… shh..,, Sexuality, not in the church…., Abuse, Anger, addiction… (there are many more.) These monsters are very real. Their strength is when we don’t talk about them. Talk to your children about them. Talk to you neighbors. Overcome your fears, your doubts, and trust in the promise that is shared in Jesus Christ. Amen.