First Congregational Church
April 24, 2022
“Refusing to believe”
Acts 5;27-32 John 19:20-31
There are some major concerns I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about the recent shootings
I want to talk about the war in Ukraine
I want to talk about earth day
I want to talk about doubting Thomas
There have been 24 mass shootings in the US since—Easter. One week
• Baldwin, Louisiana. Pittsburgh. Washington DC. Miami. Furman, SC. Portland Oregon. Sacramento. Philadelphia. Deluth. Mountain View, Ar. Petersburg, VA, Cincinnati.
• 15 Killed. 50 injured.
• What are we as a nation going to do about this?
• Require dealers to put serial numbers on “ghost guns.”
There are three problems that we need to deal with.
• There are too many guns, and they are too easy.
• There are people who are mentally unstable who have access to guns.
o We need to be more careful about treating mental illness
o But this is not a major reason for the shootings today.
• We, as a society, love violence.
o We think of violence as a solution.
o We teach our children that being aggressive and beligerant is normal behavior
o We honor the violent in our culture—TV, movies, books.
o Many of our children are raised with little regard for the value of life.
o How do we change this? We teach our children to love one another. We teach our children that all life is sacred. We teach our children that it is love and caring that make a man or a women out of us, not disdain and ridicule.
And that’s what I wanted to say about that.
• I want to talk about the war in Ukraine.
• It is horrible. It is sickening to hear about it.
• And we probably feel helpless. And maybe we are.
• We can certainly help the refugees, but that doesn’t stop the bombs and bullets.
• What can we do?
• We can pray. We can speak for peace.
• We can share the yellow and blue of Ukraine and demonstrate our support. It is clear that Russia has been the aggressor here.
• But we cannot cheer for the death of Russian soldiers.
• We can raise our fists and shout when we read about the sinking of a Russian ship.
• We can do what Jesus tells us to do, which is love our enemies.
• That doesn’t mean excuse what they are doing.
• It means that we ache over the losses of all the soldiers, no matter their side.
And that’s what I wanted to say about that.
• And I wanted to talk about Earth Day.
• I saw a poll that said only 19% of Americans ranked the environment as a top issue.
• One wonders what we are thinking. Or not thinking.
• The first earth day, and the special on TV in 1970—set for 1975.
• Here’s the good news. We have done some things to improve.
• Cleaner air and water than then.
• But so much more needs to be done.
• In 1975, I learned about Greenhouse gasses and global warming for the first time.
• We have done far too little about it.
• Is there an issue in the world that is really more important than the cleaning of the Environment.’
• No. But we just don’t care.
And that’s not all I am going to say about that.
But I’m talking about aggressive doubting today.
• By aggressive doubting I mean the refusal to believe.
• If someone tells you something is so, and you aren’t sure, that’s doubting.
• But if you decide to doubt, and refuse to accept the evidence, that’s aggressive doubting. And there are examples of it in our scripture reading today.
Thomas said no.
• Thomas one of the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. An apostle.
• Luke reports that Jesus appeared to his disciples on Easter day.
• But Thomas was not there.
• When he returned and they told him they had seen Jesus he said some ugly things.
o Unless see the holes of the nails in his hands, and I put my finger in them, and put my hand in the wound on his side where the spear went in…
o “I refuse to believe.” Not I won’t believe, I REFUSE to believe.
o That is aggressive doubt.
• The other people in the room were his close friends. They all agreed with their story. Yet Thomas would not take their word. He refused them.
• I have known people today he have said much the same thing.
• I WILL NOT believe.
• Sometimes they are talking about Jesus. Sometimes about another person. Sometimes about situations.
Let’s give Thomas some credit.
• When Jesus appeared to him, he invited Thomas to touch and examine his hands.
• Thomas did not do it. All his doubts faded away.
• In fact he declared Jesus’ Lordship and Divnity.
• The legend is that Thomas was martyred many years later. In India, where he remains the patron saint.
The religious leaders said no
• The book of the Acts of the Apostles, we just call it Acts, tells what happened with Jesus’ followers immediately after Easter.
• What happened was they went out into the streets and meeting places
o Talked about Jesus.
o What he did and taught
o And then said he was God’s chosen one, the Messiah.
This was a frustrating problem for the authorities
o Thought they had gotten rid of Jesus for good.
o Now here are hundreds of people talk about him.
o They had them arrested, and gave them strict orders not to speak Jesus’ name, or in his name again.
o They didn’t want to debate. They didn’t want to discuss. They didn’t want to listen.
o They were just saying no to Jesus.
o They were refusing to believe.
o But the disciples were just as adamant on spreading the news of Jesus.
So what. Are there any examples of aggressive doubt in our times. Do we do this?
Of course we do.
• We humans haven’t changed all that much.
• We learned aggressive doubt long ago on the playground.
• We continue to find ways to do it as adults.
This is Earth day and we all know that we have been saying no
• Some of us have been refusing to accept that Global Climate Change is a problem.
• Some of us, not too many anymore, are saying that it is not happening, or that its not caused by humans.
• Clinging to the one in 100 scientists who say it is not a real thing.
A far larger problem is the number of people who just ignore it is happening.
• Politicians who refuse to act on it.
• And citizens who allow their politicians to ignore the problem.
• And we are aggressively doubting.
• Refusing to believe the science
• And, unlike Thomas, refusing to kneel to Jesus.
• Because this is also a spiritual matter.
As Christians, we are obligated to care for it and share it with the other beings living here.
• No, there is not one word in the Bible about climate change or the effect we have on the environment.
• But we do know that there is a moral requirement that we care for and nurture others
• This world—its resources, air, and water, are shared by all of us.
• We cannot cut down our trees without it affecting the whole world.
• Where environmental destruction fir has its effect is often in the places where the poor live.
• We are called to love one another, and that means to protect one another’s homes.
• Caring for the environment is our task as followers of Jesus.
Of course Jesus’ expectation is that we will all share with each other.
• You can’t sit at the banquet table by yourself. You must share with your neighbors, and especially with the poor.
• We cannot take huge bites out of the earth and leave the crumbs for others.
• We dare not deny that this happens.
• We are responsible for each other.
Another spiritual matter is that nature reveals God to us.
• Not just for Christians but for people of all faiths.
• We see the beautiful complexity of this world and we thank our creator.
• How dare we destroy what God has made?
• Why do we insist on tipping this divine balance that God has given us?
• Let us continue to praise God who is seen in nature.
One last thing I want to mention: War is environmentally destructive
• Of course we know that war is deadly and destructive.
• But think of all the material that is also being destroyed.
• Think of the toxins that make up our bombs and bullets that are released with each firing of our weapons.
• Think of the use of fuel and the release of that exhaust into the air. Do you think tanks have to meet federal fuel standards?
• Such waste. Such destruction.
I don’t want to end on this note.
• The earth is not ruined.
• It is still a beautiful place.
• There is natural resilience that we can work with to over come things.
• The simplest thing we can do to help is simply to consume less. Buy less.
And it is so important to enjoy this wonderful planet on which we live, in all its beauty and diversity.