John 20: 24-28; I Peter 1: 8,9
Heart and Head
It’s the week after Easter and we go from the mountain top of faith in God to the shame of the doubt of Thomas. We don’t think of him highly, although he is a distant candidate for our disappointment compared to Judas. We are ambivalent. In a way we love Thomas, we’re happy he’s in the Bible, because he makes us feel a little less bad. If even a disciple who knew Jesus doubted His Resurrection, then, two thousand years later, we’re not so bad. We usually think of Thomas in terms of doubt, but we could also look at it differently and approach his story from the vantage point of being a logical person.
Thomas is on end of the spectrum of faith, the head end that is. On the other end of the spectrum are the people addressed in I Peter: they are full of faith in spite of never having seen Jesus. Compared to those people Thomas looks like a failure, but maybe we should cut him some slack.
There was an interesting announcement last week. The coal museum in Kentucky is going solar, meaning it will be powered by solar power not by coal. Now that’s ironic. I am sure it’s not because they are environmentalists, but because it makes good common sense. They followed their head, not the emotions of politics. It is encouraging that despite discussions to return to a more polluting past, enough progress has been made that as a society and in the world at large we are starting to understand the importance of this planet that is now so fragile. Score one for climate science. A victory for the head that also warms the heart.
In the next week or so there is a march for science. Had Thomas lived in our day and age, perhaps he would have liked to take part in the march. Thomas is a man of the head, of the mind, at least in this passage. He will not believe the story of the Resurrection of Jesus until he has seen the wounds from the nails in his hands. He does a great job of doing that. He wants to see the results of the experiment before he commits to the findings.
Friends, are you a person of the heart or of the head? Do you want to get proof or do you follow what moves you? There are psychological tests that will tell you where you fit in, although they are not longer considered them scientific. Now, If in Easter we go a little more for the heart, on this Sunday we always go a little more for the head. But sometimes we can be torn between the heart and the head.
Every five year or so I like to submit an article to an academic journal, usually Pastoral Psychology. It is good to do so, one to make a contribution to keep my reasoning sharp. Just recently I did another submission. I had been thinking about for about four years. This particular one came out of a concern for pastors and it so happens that it has to do with our topic for today. You see I was worried about the wellbeing of future pastors who find themselves between the head and the heart and I am concerned this is not good for the soul. You see the pastor in this day and age must explain ancient texts, but also take into account the constant progress of science and talk about them in a way that makes sense and touches people’s hearts . On top of that pastors do not only have to interpret the ancient in the midst of today’s problems, but their behavior has to be consistent with what they preach. In other words the pastor has to be faithful, smart and act consistently at the same time. If he or she is or does not do not one of these things, she or he can feel fake or inadequate or even “fictional.”. My concern is that these demands can tear at the pastor or even tear him or her apart. So the article was a head exercise about the heart of the pastor.
Friends, what s true of the pastor is true to a certain degree of any person of faith. Just listen to what . Garrison Keillor, the former host of Prairie Home Companion writes:”I came to church as a pagan this year, though wearing a Christian suit and white shirt, and sat in a rear pew with my sandy-haired gap-toothed daughter whom I like to see grow up in the love of the Lord, and there I was, a skeptic in a henhouse, thinking weaselish thoughts. This happens around Easter: God in a humorous way, sometimes schedules high holidays for a time when your faith is at low tide. (Homiletics March/April 2014). Friends, Garrison Keillor came heavy on the mind stuff and not quite ready to have his heart be touched at Easter.
Friends, God’s creative powers have gifted us a heart and a head. We must use both of them. Thomas couldn’t be a disciple with a head only. Jesus reminded Him he needed heart. But faith cannot be all emotional either. If we cannot reason we cannot convince anyone, including ourselves. May God help us live with heart and use our head.