When Erik and I were planning to move out to Ohio some years ago we found it a bit difficult to find a place to live. We’ve moved multiple times before then, but this move was an extra level of complexity…and an all around pain in the neck.
Now at the time the majority of our things resided in a storage facility near Gettysburg. The two of us, at the time, were not in Gettysburg, but about 600 miles to the east in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. And we wanted to find a place to live in Ohio and somehow move our things 400 miles west to Ohio. It was a bit of a challenge. Plus, we were living on a tight budget so we couldn’t willy-nilly drive out to Ohio to find a place to live, so we tried to find a home sight unseen.
We thought we could go online and look for houses to rent and that it would be an easy endeavor. You go online. You enter a town in which you’re interested. You look at postings and pictures about possible houses. You call the owner up and done. You have a home!
Ha ha. First, most renters wanted to meet us in person. That wasn’t a possibility for us.
We wanted to see pictures of possible home and for many non tech-savvy folks that wasn’t possible for them. They wanted to know that we had a steady source of income. We tried to convince them that we had to move there first before either of us had any income.
Doing anything sight unseen is quite nerve-wracking. I recall one phone conversation where we spoke with someone who was renting out a house and we indicated our interest, but would like to see some pictures first. He didn’t really know how to send us pictures electronically and argued that all we would see were pictures of walls and floors …upon which Erik responded,
Yes, but I want to see that this house indeed has walls and floors!
Let’s say there’s not a lot of trust in the housing market. We just didn’t have the gumption to walk into a new situation without knowing what we were walking into, first.
But I think all of us are like that to a degree. Whether it’s with purchases, traveling adventures, dating or major life choices. We don’t really want to rush in sight unseen.
Before going into the ministry I worked a lot with data and number-crunching and it seemed like most of my energy was searching for measurable results. How could we possibly know if a program or change of policy is working sight-unseen? We experience that at St. Peter’s whenever there is a new ministry or a policy to engage in. Just think about our current work in mission and vision development. There’s a certain level of nervousness about envision that which we have yet to see.
And with that we encounter our Gospel reading this morning with doubting Thomas. Before we get to our friend Tom, a word or two about the other disciples. Thomas often gets the brunt of our derision—calling him the doubter and all, but the other disciples weren’t really living up to their expectation either. Remember, a disciple was someone who followed his master and teacher where ever they may lead. A disciple wasn’t simply a student who went to school, but had a personal relationship to a teacher and a commitment to his work or cause. And a disciple’s service didn’t end with their teacher’s death. In fact they were expected to carry on the work of the master.
It’s not optional. It’s lifelong.
Jesus never talked about a limited term of service.
The call to be a disciple of Jesus carried a commitment even greater than that of any other group. A person’s commitment to their family was fundamental in Jewish society, yet Jesus repeatedly stated that his disciples’ commitment to him far outweighed their commitment to their family. He even heightened the emphasis by saying that their relationship to parents, brothers and kin came in a distant second to a relationship with him.
Jesus then makes the point that all disciples must be willing to die.
So did they live up to Jesus’ criteria?
Well, Peter said that he would defend and fight and even die for Jesus’ cause, but when the our of trial came—he and the others turned tail and ran away.
And now following the death of their teacher are they continuing his ways?
No. They’re huddled.
They’re locked away and in hiding.
They’re hiding from the religious authorities for sure.
They don’t want to be next on the empires list of executions.
But—they had heard of Jesus’ resurrection.
Peter knew that the tomb was empty. He saw it with his own eyes.
Mary had announced that she had seen the Lord.
But instead of searching for Jesus, they’re huddled there.
Jesus was still sight unseen.
And maybe, just maybe, they were scared of Jesus, himself.
After all, they had failed him miserably.
Perhaps the last person the disciples wanted to meet on that evening was Jesus, risen from the dead to confront them with their failures. But that fear quickly evaporated as they encountered the risen Christ. Fear replaced by joy and hope.
Now for Thomas.
For some reason Thomas isn’t there. He missed out and was left out and still struggled to believe sight unseen. And once again, a week after his resurrection, Jesus appeared before all the disciples. And Thomas was transformed from an unbeliever, to a believer and finally a confessor that Jesus is Lord.
Now as I said before, Thomas gets the brunt of our criticism—known only for his doubting…but the other disciples doubted, just the same. They too struggled with the resurrected Christ, sight unseen. They too struggled to get out into the world and follow Christ’s teaching.
Belief is hard sight unseen.
It’s something that we all struggle with in our life.
Yet faith is all about living sight unseen.
We can’t see God our Father in heaven, yet we believe in his power.
We can’t see the Holy Spirit, but believe the impact of the Spirit’s gifts.
We don’t even have the benefit of touching Jesus’ hands and feet and his sides like his first disciples.
That’s why Jesus says,
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
He is in fact turning to us—you and me—who are reading his words this very morning. Jesus is turning to you and blessing you.
You are His disciples.
Disciples who follow, yes sometimes stumble, to places sight unseen.
So how do we come to believe and live this blessing sight-unseen?
Well, we can’t see the wind, but we can sure attest to its power as it blows leaf piles here and there, as it cools us down on a warm spring day, as it creates energy through the tools of windmills and turbines.
We can’t see God, but we sure can attest to God’s power. From the calming presence you feel during a turbulent time, the ability to forgive when someone has hurt you and the ability to be forgiven when you have hurt someone else, or the encouragement you’re given to open your heart and help someone in need.
We know generally of God’s mission for us. Go make and raise disciples, baptize them, and teach them to follow me. How that looks in our mission and vision is yet sight unseen…but we know that wherever our mission and vision process leads us, it will be Spirit driven with God already waiting for us in the future.
Believing in God’s power to transform and give life may be a discipline of living through life sight unseen, but believing frees us to be moved by this power. To be blessed. May you be blessed by our Lord, sight unseen, and may you be a blessing to another who longs to feel the power of Christ in their lives.