Doubt and Faith: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(September 5 & 6)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
september 5, 2020
I was a journalism major in college. I remember well a class during the first semester of my senior year: "Mass Media and Society." One of our course texts was “Understanding Media.” In it, the author, Marshall McLuhan, coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” As if anticipating Facebook and Twitter, in 1964 McLuhan argued the medium used to carry the message should be the focus of concern and study, not the message itself. One night, Professor Powell lectured on McLuhan’s thesis. About halfway through her lecture, she stopped and said, “Everyone in this class looks confused and doubtful.” Her observations were more than correct. “That’s good,” she said. “It means you just might learn something, yet.” The road called faith can leave us confused and doubtful, too. About doubt, Peter Enns in “The Sin of Certainty” writes: “Doubt is not the enemy of faith, a cloud blocking the warm sun of faith. Doubt is only the enemy of faith when we equate faith with certainty in our thinking.” Then, as though he listened to Professor Powell, Enns says: “Doubt means spiritual relocation is happening. It’s God ways of saying, ‘Time to move on.”' You just might learn something. Ponder a moment of “faith doubt.” What did you learn from the experience?
Do you suppose any of Jesus’ followers doubted his message? It’s a silly question - of course, they did. The Gospels are replete with stories of doubt. Yet, as Enns points out, doubt is often portrayed as that which separates us from God. Or, maybe, just maybe, doubt is the path that moves us closer to God. Matthew 10.37-39 is one of those difficult to understand Gospel passages. There’s a lot to doubt in the three verses: love of family is less important than of love of Jesus. And, not just less important - love of family first makes us unworthy to follow Jesus. I doubt it. But it is what Jesus says. “If you want to gain,” says Jesus, “you have to lose something,” then he points to the cross. “The something you must lose,” says Jesus, “is your need to place family love before love of me.” Sometimes, we try to re-arrange what Jesus says to lessen our doubt. “That’s not what he says,” we say. “What he means is…” This road of rearrangement, I think, leads us nowhere. It is better to go ahead and doubt. What do you think Jesus says in Matthew 10.37-39? What do you think he means? Do you doubt he means what he says? How is his message connected to faith? Has doubt ever moved you closer to God?
Back to the beginning, and it is Marshall McLuhan who reminds us: it is not the message we should focus on, but instead focus first on the medium in order to better understand the message. In the case of this hard to understand message in Matthew, the medium used to deliver the message is none other than Jesus, himself. Yet, here we are, stuck and focused only on the message, experiencing the “shame” of an unworthy doubt. Maybe McLuhan was on to something in 1964: focus on the medium. For, truly, it is in doing so that we can more fully embrace the message. After all, we can trust the one who delivered the message. Right? Then we can sort out our certainty. And, we might just learn something, yet. How does the message of Matthew 10.37-39 encapsulate the ways of Jesus? What Jesus asks us to do, Jesus has done for us. What do you suppose that means? I wonder if Jesus ever doubted for us on our behalf, too.
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, September 5 at 5:00 pm
“Make me a worthy doubter, O God, that I might move closer to you.”