Three days after Jesus was executed and put in the ground, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met the living risen Christ, and brought the Word to all the followers of Jesus: he will meet you in Galilee. So they went to Galilee. And there they saw Jesus! He came to them, and spoke with them, and they worshipped him.
And they doubted.
And Jesus said to them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow the teachings that I have taught you. And see, I myself will be with you every day, to the end of the age.”
Yet they doubted.
They saw the living risen Christ with their own eyes, heard him speak with their own ears, and they worshipped him…yet they doubted.
I just can’t move past that. To me, those are some of the most intriguing words in all of Scripture.
They have gone to Galilee, they have gone up the mountain, and there they have seen the risen Christ. They saw the risen Christ and they worshipped him! … and they doubted.
Now I guess I should explain that yes, the translations say “some doubted”. They worshipped but some doubted. But my reading of the Greek is “they doubted”. They worshipped, and they doubted. But either way, whether they all worshipped and doubted, or only some doubted, it is still intriguing. They worshipped and they doubted.
I wonder what Matthew was thinking as he wrote those three small words into the story. I wonder what they meant to Matthew’s faith community, decades after these events, as they gathered together to re-tell these stories and worship the risen Christ. I wonder what they mean to us, gathered here today to worship the risen Christ. Gathered together in faith that Christ is here with us in our gathering. Gathered together as a worshipping community, as a baptising community, as people who break bread together, and share the wine of communion.
What do they mean to us gathered here today on Trinity Sunday, gathered in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? What do they mean to us gathered because the Holy Spirit moved us? Gathered in expectation that her presence will be felt among us? Gathered in the divine mystery that Her presence with us is the presence also of Jesus whom we follow, and the Divine Creator, the source of all that is? And what they mean to us as we follow the patterns of the liturgical year, experiencing the spiritual highs of Easter and the season of Pentecost, yet now approaching the long season we call Ordinary Time?
I wonder what they mean to us who have been worshipping together for a year now. Perhaps we have crossed the exhilarating heights of new beginnings, and we are now heading down the other side into ordinary times. Perhaps there are disappointments. Perhaps we are becoming aware of the hard work involved in journeying together as a church.
What do these words mean to us now: “And they doubted?”
I’ll share what they mean to me.
To me, they are words of permission.
They are words of assurance.
Assurance that my weak and flawed faith is sufficient.
Assurance that spirituality and honesty go together. That I can be honest about my doubts.
Assurance that I can experience the Spirit not only today, but also when we leave the highs of Pentecost and enter into Ordinary Time.
Assurance that I can experience the risen Christ, even as the resurrection seems impossible to me.
Assurance that I can experience the relational Triune God, even as I am confused and unsure whether I can even make sense of the concept of the Trinity.
And they are words of permission.
Permission to worship, even as I doubt.
Permission to find meaning in my experience the Spirit, even as I am unsure what it means.
Permission to participate in Christian community, even as I question many Christian teachings, and am often unsure what I believe.
Permission to come to the communion table, not because I am certain of what I believe, but simply because Christ invites me.
Permission to proclaim the Gospel, to shout out the Good News of the Kingdom of God and share it with others, not because I hold to this truth with certainty, but because it holds me despite my doubts, and it inspires me and moves me and I cannot deny the truth of it.
They are words of permission to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to celebrate and proclaim the experience of the Triune God, even as I lack the ability to speak coherently about the Trinity.
When Matthew wrote this Gospel, he wanted us to know that they experienced the risen Christ and worshipped him. And he wanted us to know that they doubted.
Perhaps that’s what it means to be Christian.
We are flawed. We may be full of doubts. And we worship.
And perhaps it is precisely as flawed, doubting people, that we experience the Risen Christ…the Spirit…the Source of Life…the Triune God. Ω
A reflection on Matthew 28:16-20 by Joel Rothman, Trinity Sunday, 11 June 2017. Image shows Duccio, di Buoninsegna, d. 1319. Christ Appears to the Disciples on the Mountain in Galilee, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=49158 [retrieved June 13, 2017]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.