Samantha DiBiaso, Rockville MD 

Warm-up Questions 

  • What is one of your first memories of Jesus?

Caution! Red Letter Bible!  

When I was a kid, I didn’t really go to church. But I had a Bible that my grandparents gave me at my baptism that sparked my curiosity. I would open that Bible up from time to time when I played pretend “librarian” with all my stuffed animals. Every time I opened it up, I was startled by the words printed in red. It was one of those red letter edition Bibles that printed all of Jesus’ words in red. As a kid, reading Jesus’ words in red made me think Jesus was angry, scary, and mean. Why? Because, in my mind, red equaled angry, scary, and mean.  

As I grew up and started going to church, I began to learn that Jesus is not angry, scary, and mean, but instead is loving, caring, and empowering. But I think that those red letters still shaped how I read the Bible. Often times I would hear Jesus’ words and questions as words of judgement and shame, questions like: 

What do you want me to do for you? 

Do you love me?  

You of little faith, why did you doubt? 

 The church didn’t always help with hearing those questions as words of judgement, particularly because I felt that what I was learning in church was that doubt in my faith was bad. Just like with the red letter Bible, I saw DOUBT in big red letters. Caution! Don’t doubt! Doubting is bad!  

Maybe you had this experience too. Maybe you were taught by the church that doubt was the opposite of faith. Maybe you have had or have doubts and feel shame about them. To you and to our past child selves, I say today, I am sorry and may we as a church do better. 

Even though the church has not always done the best job at teaching us this, the reality is that doubt is not the absence of faith. Doubt is essential to faith. Engaging and wrestling with our doubts, along with asking questions about Jesus, is a part of what it means to have faith. Jesus doesn’t welcome us on our journey of faith to test or shame our doubts. Jesus doesn’t belittle what little faith we may have. Instead, Jesus reaches into our lives with deep and compassionate love, reminding us again and again that our doubts are welcome. 

Discussion Questions 

  • What were you taught about doubts as a kid?  
  • Do you have any doubts about God today? What are they? 

Easter Sunday 

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings. 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection 

In our gospel reading we find Jesus appearing to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and the disciples are terrified because they think they are seeing a ghost. If I was them, I would be terrified too! After all, wasn’t he crucified just a few days ago? Jesus responds to their fear with a question, asking, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  

Often times we tend to hear Jesus’ questions about doubt as words of judgement. We hear that doubt is wrong and that we should just have more faith. But what if, instead of words of judgement, we were to hear Jesus’ words as encouragement? Instead of hearing Jesus’ question, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” written in red, what if we hear them as written in love? 

What if we hear Jesus’ words in a way that a parent might encourage their child when they are teaching them how to ride a bike? Catching their child when they fall, and saying, “Little one, why are you afraid and why did you doubt? I’ve got you. I will always be here to catch you when you fall. I will always be here to help you. Look at my hands and my feet. I am with you always.” 

And then Jesus sits down by a campfire and offers the disciples something to eat.  Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire, full stop. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well you can only come to the campfire if you have enough faith and as long as you don’t have any doubts.”  

Instead, Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire just as they are–doubts and all. The same goes for us as well. Jesus encourages and empowers us as we learn how to ride our bikes of faith. On our journey, Jesus will be there to encourage our doubts because they will help us to practice and grow in our faith. And then when it is time to take a break, Jesus will invite us again to sit around a campfire to eat food and to share stories.  

Discussion Questions 

  • When is a time that you’ve felt like the disciples, afraid and locked up in a room out of fear?
  • When is a time that you’ve felt like Thomas, wanting to see evidence of Jesus and his resurrection?
  • What do you think it looks like to see “marks of the resurrection” all around us? Can you think of one that you’ve seen this week?

Activity Suggestions: 

  • Try playing around with Jesus’ tone when you read stories in scripture. In places where you may hear judgement, try out hearing Jesus’ words as encouragement. Reflect on what it is like to hear the story with a different tone from Jesus. Do you hear the story differently?  You can use some of these stories to get started: 
    • Matthew 14:22-32: Jesus walks on water 
    • Mark 4:35-40: Jesus calms the storm  
    • John 20:11-16: Jesus appears to Mary
  • Write a letter to your past self that felt judged or shamed. Write yourself a letter from Jesus’ perspective of love, curiosity, and wonder. What is it like to share Jesus’ words of encouragement with your past self?  
  • Spend some time journaling about a time when Jesus showed up when you were feeling afraid or struggling to believe. 

Closing Prayer 

God of us all, you care for us as your beloved children. Fill us with your words of love, curiosity, and encouragement. Help us to turn our judgement into wonder. Guide us to be people of your wonder so that we may continue to live into the beautiful mysteries of the resurrection. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is love: Amen.