Stop doubting and believe.
— John 20:27
As I put my pen to paper for this article, Canada is about to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. In Canada there has been an intense buildup to these games, led by an inspiring media and public relations campaign by CTV and their partners. Front and centre in this campaign has been the slogan, “Believe.” In the 14 months leading up to the Winter Olympics, Canadian athlete after Canadian athlete has been depicted reciting the almost creed-like litany, “I believe! Do you believe?” CTV host John Musselman declares in the campaign, “The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games will be a defining moment in Canadian history.” The voice-over for the video clips, done by Donald Sutherland, has him sounding every bit like an Old Testament prophet as he declares, “Belief … its essence is invisible but its power is extraordinary.”
Belief is important for a nation such as ours, hosting this kind of a mammoth athletic event; belief in our ability to pull it off and belief in our athletic representatives who do Canada proud as they make their way to the medals podium or as they achieve personal bests in their competitions. Belief is imperative for an athlete to perform to the level of her highest hopes and dreams. Belief is foundational for the church. And, of course, belief is absolutely vital for our understanding of Easter.
The tomb was empty. Mary Magdalene had seen it and reported to the disciple Peter and another disciple not mentioned by name. They had raced to the empty tomb and also had seen the folded grave cloth where the body of Jesus had been laid. John records, “They saw and believed.” (John 20:8) Then Mary heard the news from the angels, “He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:6) She had her own Easter experience of seeing and believing the Risen Christ. “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)
But, one of their group, known down through tradition as Doubting Thomas, could still not grasp the events of that first Easter, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) To him Jesus appeared and challenged him pointedly, “Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) “Believe!”
I had the privilege recently to attend the Canadian church leaders’ retreat sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches. Our gathering was addressed by the Commissioner of the Salvation Army in Canada, William Francis, who spoke of the need for “radical trust” in our lives as Christians, and specifically in our lives as Christian leaders. “Nothing less will do as we face an increasingly challenging and challenged world,” is a short synopsis of his timely message.
The Christian life is so very much more than merely fulfilling our religious duties and occasionally showing up at church Sunday morning. It is about a radical trust in a God whom we know personally and into whose hands we have placed our lives, our hopes and our dreams. It is about “believing” in the God in whom “we live and more and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) It is about being able to say of ourselves, with unshakeable confidence, “I believe!” And about being compelled to say to the world, “Do you believe?”