Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe. John 20:29
It seems that we live in a society without belief. People either just don't know - or we find that faith is rejected, more and more people claim to be of "no religion", and sincerely held beliefs are frequently ridiculed.
And yet, by contrast, the same people often believe in strange and fantastic things.
We have heard a lot in recent times about “Fake News (or “False News”) - stories put on to the internet which people avidly believe and consume, especially if they fit in with some prejudices or preconceived ideas, however fanciful. Facebook - where so many of these strange stories seem to dwell, have even set out a help page - “10 Ways to spot False News” https://www.facebook.com/help/188118808357379
Now there is nothing new about this at all - though the internet makes the spreading of false news so much easier. And it is not just false news which catches peoples imaginations, but also crazy, off-the-wall ideas.
People believe in astrology and tarot, and take part in séances. They will embrace unconventional medical practices, such as homeopathic medicine, chiropractics and acupuncture. They will have strong, yet imaginative ideas about religion itself, and tell you that God is an astronaut, that Leonardo Da Vinci was part of some historic conspiracy, that Jesus married Mary Magdalen, had a large family and retired to Spain, and, of course, that he was gay. They will tell you that the earth is flat or hollow, that man never landed on the moon, that Kennedy was assassinated by ... Martians ... and goodness knows what else. Some people will even believe what they read on the internet! The more shocking the idea, the more likely it is to be believed. They take some thin threads of fact and weave them into a complex and fantastical web.
“When people cease to believe in something, they will believe in anything,” so the writer GK Chesterton is reputed to have said.
Indeed, we live in a world and a society where there is no lack of belief at all - for people will believe in almost anything provided it is different or novel or unusual, and especially if it fits in with some prejudice or other. It is good to have an open mind, provided it isn’t open at the bottom.
No, we do not live in an unbelieving world, at all, but we do live in a credulous one.
But Faith is not the same as credulity. It is very different from the fashions and fancies so popular today.
Faith is not without foundation in fact, or in history. Far from being a fancy idea - it is a life giving power, that gives hope, and purpose and carries the message of love and forgiveness.
The facts speak for themselves:
The tomb was really empty.
The disciples were really transformed from being fearful to being courageous.
They proclaimed their story, their faith, even to the point of giving their lives for it.
Thomas and the Apostles see the risen Christ not so that we can believe blindly, but so that we can be witnesses to the truth - so that we can hear the message they preached, the truth which they taught, the vision they received. Faith is about our the opening of eyes, and hearts and mouths, not about the closing of them.
And it is not a tale set in the past either, but a living power.
As Jesus said in another context: “By their fruits shall you know them”. In other words, to test the ideas, look at the results of these ideas.
Faith’s firm foundation is the Good News, the amazing message of what really happened, and the power of Life and Love which continues to dwell amongst us, full of grace and truth.