Doubting Thomas and Now Dawkins Too?!
2008-03-28 by Efrain Agosto

Oh, boy, I hope I haven't opened up a can of worms with all this doubt floating around - reading Richard Dawkins can be quite a challenge!  My son gave me a Dawkins book for Christmas (of all things!) a few years ago and I started reading it and couldn't keep going. What was he (my twenty-something son) thinking?  Yet, I think I will pick it up again.  What come to mind is my experience at Hartford Seminary, a Christian seminary that does interfaith dialogue and education, especially Christian-Muslim dialogue.  I have learned that engaging faithful Muslims in dialogue about faith pushes me to understand my own Christian faith even better.  For how can I engage in genuine dialogue across faith if I don't have a firm and growing faith myself, even if at times I have my bouts with doubts?  I need to be "locked up" and let the Holy Spirit teach me so I can grow and engage genuine dialogue.  So I think I'll pick up Dawkins again and see about engaging my son in some faith dialogue, from the context of doubt.  Thanks for blogging with me. Happy preaching!

Doors, Doubts, Dawkins
2008-03-28 by David von Schlichten

I am thinking I can combine the locked door image that Anna Carter Florence focuses on in "Preaching the Lesson" with Efrain Agosto's emphasis on the benefit of doubt. Perhaps doubt can be a locked door that does not keep Christ out but that the Holy Spirit uses to help a person's faith grow through Christ's resurrected, wise, breathing, healing presence.

Last year, after reading The God Delusion I found myself hiding behind the doubt-door. I have contemplated, prayed about, and read about the idea of God as a result of that doubt. Through the process, the risen Christ has appeared, breathed on me, announced peace, fed me, and shown me his holey hands, feet and side.

Now, my understanding of God is richer, my faith stronger. Thank you, Richard Dawkins, for sparking my doubt, and thanks be to God for strengthening my faith through the process.

No sermon yet. I'm just blogging and unclogging as preparation.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Doubting Keillor
2008-03-27 by Efrain Agosto

David Howell was kind enough to send me a link to a Garrison Keillor piece about doubt and Easter. How Keillor manages to sing in the Easter choir of his church when he is going through a bout with doubt is quite instructive. He too sees the benefit of doubt, like I suggested in my previous blog, although, of course, Keillor says it much more elegantly: "Skepticism is a stimulant, not to be repressed. It is an antidote to smugness and the great glow of satisfaction one gains from being right." Peter the disciple, even after all he had seen and heard from Jesus, renounced his connection to Jesus when the going got tough during the trial, but he later repented. Keillor was ready to repent from his skepticism, he writes, "but not quite yet." He decided to "sit in the doubter's chair for a while and see what is to be learned back there." A serious challenge from a marvelous humorist. Check out the entire piece for yourself at:


It may help you address the weary worshippers this coming Second Sunday of Easter.

(Editor's note: Attendees at the Festival of Homiletics will receive a real treat in Garrison Keillor's Preaching in Lake Wobegon. Go to Homepage and Festival of Homiletics to register. Over 2000 pastors are already registered.)

Doubt is Good
2008-03-27 by Efrain Agosto

I am struck by the number of sermons I have read and listened to over the years that actually give Thomas some kudos. Maybe wanting to see some evidence is not so bad. After all, Thomas is not the only "bad guy" here. The disciples are hidden away, afraid to come out the door and "live out the new resurrection life," as one of the preachers I read points out. Thomas misses the first meeting with Jesus, and there the disciples get all excited. He wants his own experience of the risen Lord before he will buy into any renewed excitement. Not a bad thing to ask. One's own experience of God.

I remember one of the first chapel sermons I heard when I started seminary way back in 1979, in fact it was for the opening convocation and it was offered by the dean of the seminary, was about doubt as a resource for faith. The dean encouraged us to have doubts, to ask questions, to challenge our professors, to have our own experience of the truth before we grasped it for ourselves and for our walk with God. Perhaps this is what Thomas is after - his own experience of the truth so it could be imbedded in his soul forever!

Not a bad fellow, after all, this Thomas, and perhaps as we come down from the mountain of Easter, all weary and tired from the excitement, and wondering what's next, questions and doubts can fuel us into adopting the resurrection life for the long haul, another theme in one of the sermons I read for this week's Lectionary Homilectics.

"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-03-25 by David von Schlichten

It will be delightful having Efrain Agosto, our guest blogger, soaking and chatting in the tub with us this week. He also has provided for us the “Sermon Reviews” in Lectionary Homiletics for this week.

You can read Erik M. Heen's exegesis for free by going to Share It! and then to Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics.

Pastoral Implications”

Kristin Saldine sums up her essay with this succinct, cogent statement: “[I]t is not the degree of doubt that endangers faith; it is the loss of connection with a community of faith” (p. 73). Saldine points out all through the essay that Jesus comes to the community of disciples and breathes the Holy Spirit on all of them. The post-resurrection appearances are communal.

Saldine also teaches that Thomas shows us that “faith can emerge through doubt and not despite of it” (p. 73). There is comfort in reading about such a person in Scripture, and Thomas, through his demand for proof, comes to see the risen Christ and make the great proclamation, “My Lord and my God!”

Scripture and Screen”

Fritz Bogar tells about the classic Danish film Ordet (The Word), the story of a religious man named Morten and his three sons. There are various attitudes toward religion in the film, which asks whether miracles still happen and about the relationship between the power of death and God's power, as well as our faith in that power. The climax of the movie is that the wife of one of the sons dies only to be raised back to life by one of the other sons. In a convincing and compelling manner the movie proclaims that miracles do still happen and that true Christian belief brings life even amid death. Astonishing.

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence waxes poedifyingly pastoral as she describes ways that we tend to lock doors to shut out people and other realities to insulate ourselves. She reflects on how terrifying the resurrection is, because it usurps the norm. We can't even count on the dead to stay dead. She concludes that Jesus is the one who unlocks the doors. He comforts us and empowers us, thereby unlocking our doors. Alleluia.

I like the unlocking of doors idea and may focus on that for the sermon.

By the way, this Sunday is the 21st anniversary of my father's death. Also, I will be officiating the baptism of a baby whose mother has a brain tumor. Resurrection. Unlocked doors. Hallelujah.

Ever yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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