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Learning from Experience

I'm not going to post the whole passage here. Today I'm still reflecting on chapter 20 of John's Gospel. If you would like to take a minute to read it, I encourage you to read the whole chapter together. You'll get the Easter story, plus the "Doubting Thomas" story we'll read in worship this week, plus an odd little bit about how there are so many other stories John could share, but he feels like this should be enough. (What makes this part truly odd is the fact that there is another whole chapter after it.)

What I want to reflect on today, is the way that disciples learn from their experiences in this chapter. We tend to frame Thomas as the "doubter," but he is not alone in needing to touch and see Jesus in order to believe. Mary comes to tell Peter the tomb is open, Peter has to run out to the tomb, go in it, and see the linen wrappings before he believes her. Mary sees Jesus, but does not realize it is him until he calls her by name. Thomas misses Jesus' initial appearance among the disciples and also struggles to understand. But, once he sees Jesus, he declares, "My Lord, and my God!" A direct claim of belief.  

The thing that helps Mary, Peter, and Thomas to understand what has happened is their experience. Jesus told them this was coming, but until it actually happened they did not understand. Understanding, or at least recognition, came to each of them through their experience.  We learn best through direct experience. 

John's Gospel has Jesus proclaim, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." But the way that all of us who have not seen have come to believe is through hearing the story and the witness of those initial disciples like Mary, Peter, and Thomas. We believe, because they have shared their experience with us. Through the generations these stories are told and retold and we all learn from the experience of those confused and uncertain, even doubting, disciples that were there at the tomb and in the upper room.

We are also experiencing something new and unexpected. We also have stories to tell. There are things that we are learning in this time through our experience that we would not have learned had we not experienced this pandemic. And I am not just talking about how to use Zoom. We have learned about the capacity we have to love our neighbors. We have learned about our own ability or lack of ability to function in isolation. We have learned about the ways in which the Holy Spirit flows through us and helps our community to be knit together even when separate. 

I encourage you to take some time in these days to sit down and think about what you are learning. Take a moment, pour a cup of coffee or tea, and reflect in the midst of this experience. What is this experience teaching you? How do you see God's work, or the Holy Spirit's presence in this time? Where do you see love and hope? What story do you want to tell to future generations? Where do you see the hope of resurrection?

If you have any stories or insights to share I would love to hear them. Blessings on your reflections. 

Pastor Kathleen

I'm sharing a video today that has gone viral over the last month, called Praise Song for the Pandemic. If you have not seen it yet, I invite you to watch it. If you have seen it, I invite you to watch it again. The prayer included in this video is one form of telling the story of our pandemic experience not unlike the stories the disciples went out to tell others about their experience of resurrection. 


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