Meditations on Singing a New Song

Nature is the one song of praise that never stops singing. — Richard Rohr
 
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. — Joan Walsh Anglund

Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning—We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.― Joy Harjo
 
Let people catch something from your heart that will cause no discomfort, but help them to sing. — Rumi

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ― J.K. Rowling

Music can change the world because it can change people.― Bono

SONGS about SINGING & MAKING MUSIC:

I WILL SING a NEW SONG Howard Thurman

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out.
It has long ago been learned by my heart;
It repeats itself over and over,
bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit.

I will sing a new song.

I must learn the new song for the new needs.
I must fashion new words born of all the new growth
of my life – of my mind – of my spirit.
I must prepare for new melodies that have never been mine before,
that all that is within me may lift my voice unto God.
Therefore, I shall rejoice with each new day
and delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.
I will sing, this day, a new song unto the Lord.

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. … we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. … To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, …that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia — Nadia Bolz-Weber

LET IT BE — Paul McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

Meditations on MUSIC & SONG

I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant some trees, and sing more joyful songs. — William Arthur Ward

Because Music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands. ― Joy Harjo
 
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. — Toni Morrison

Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once. ― Robert Browning
 
I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things. ― Tom Waits

Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio. ― Hunter S. Thompson

Adversity in life does not rob your heart of beauty. It simply teaches it a new song to sing. — Karen White

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ― Confucius
 
And could love free me from the shadows? Can a caged bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song? —Angela Carter
 
It’s a new day, it’s a new season, it’s time to sing a new song and it’s time to put on the dancing shoes. – — Euginia Herlihy
 
Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common. ― Sarah Dessen

The poets of each generation seldom sing a new song. They turn to themes men always have loved, and sing them in the mode of their times.—Clarence Day

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies. ― Edward Bulwer Lytton
 
Sing me a new song; the world is transfigured; all the Heavens are rejoicing.— Friedrich Nietzsche
 
The heart is sometimes tainted with the songs of yesterday. Sing a new song today.— Steven Aitchison
 
It’s nice to play new songs, but it’s nerve-wracking. — Samuel Ervin Beam

It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once. ― Nina LaCour

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens. ― Maria von Trapp

Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe. ― Douglas Adams
 
I’m self-deprecating, but I’m an artist, too. I have to write new songs to chronicle stuff for myself. I write a song like ‘Middle Age’ or ‘Responsibility’ or ‘I Just Work Here,’ and it’s about how bleak life can be. But it’s real. — Steve Forbert

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest. — Henry David Thoreau

Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music. ― George Eliot
 

I have no reason to sit home and write songs all day without going out and playing for the folks. And I have no reason to go play for the folks unless I’m writing new songs so they can sort of feed off one another. And I just try to do the best I can. — Guy Clark
 
Where words leave off, music begins.― Heinrich Heine

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary. ― Martin Luther

He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you. ― Hannah Harrington

Where words fail, music speaks. ― Hans Christian Andersen

I do feel most at home playing live, but the feeling of getting into the studio to see the new songs take shape was really incredible. — Jason Mraz

Music is the universal language of mankind. ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

HISTORY of MUSIC — wikipedia.org, article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music

Although definitions of music vary wildly throughout the world, every known culture partakes in it, and music is thus considered a cultural universal. The origins of music remain highly contentious; commentators often relate it to the origin of language, with much disagreement surrounding whether music arose before, after or simultaneously with language. Many theories have been proposed by scholars from a wide range of disciplines, though none have achieved wide approval. Most cultures have their own mythical origins concerning the invention of music, generally rooted in their respective mythological, religious or philosophical beliefs.

The music of prehistoric cultures is first firmly dated to c. 40,000 BP of the Upper Paleolithic by evidence of bone flutes, though it remains unclear whether or not the actual origins lie in the earlier Middle Paleolithic period (300,000 to 50,000 BP). There is little known about prehistoric music, with traces mainly limited to some simple flutes and percussion instruments. However, such evidence indicates that music existed to some extent in prehistoric societies such as the Xia dynasty and the Indus Valley civilisation. Upon the development of writing, the music of literate civilizations—ancient music—was present in the major Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Middle Eastern societies. It is difficult to make many generalizations about ancient music as a whole, but from what is known it was often characterized by monophony and improvisation. In ancient song forms, the texts were closely aligned with music, and though the oldest extant musical notation survives from this period, many texts survive without their accompanying music, such as the Rigveda and the Shijing Classic of Poetry. The eventual emergence of the Silk Road and increasing contact between cultures led to the transmission and exchange of musical ideas, practices, and instruments. Such interaction led to the Tang dynasty‘s music being heavily influenced by Central Asian traditions, while the Tang dynasty’s music, the Japanese gagaku and Korean court music each influenced each other.

Historically, religions have often been catalysts for music. The Vedas of Hinduism immensely influenced Indian classical music, while the Five Classics of Confucianism laid the basis for subsequent Chinese music. Following the rapid spread of Islam in the 6th century, Islamic music dominated Persia and the Arab world, and the Islamic Golden Age saw the presence of numerous important music theorists. Music written for and by the early Christian Church properly inaugurates the Western classical music tradition,[1] which continues into medieval music where polyphony, staff notation and nascent forms of many modern instruments developed. In addition to religion or the lack thereof, a society’s music is influenced by all other aspects of its culture, including social and economic organization and experience, climate, and access to technology. Many cultures have coupled music with other art forms, such as the Chinese four arts and the medieval quadrivium. The emotions and ideas that music expresses, the situations in which music is played and listened to, and the attitudes toward musicians and composers all vary between regions and periods. Many cultures have or continue to distinguish between art music (or ‘classical music’), folk music, and popular music.

CAGED BIRD —  Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind   

and floats downstream   

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and   

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

FAITH-BASED COMMENTARY

There are many ways to the Divine. I have chosen the ways of song, dance, and laughter. — Rumi

… Thank you for the reminder that theology may divide but hymns always unite. — Randy Biery

Let us sing a new song, not with our lips, but with our lives. -— Saint Augustine
 
God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts. — Larry Crabb
 
      … Many of us may or may not intellectually assent to the same doctrinal and theological propositions we were taught, but the music that we made from our bodies, the vibrations of song created and shared in communal expression is still ours. And I believe that the sentiment these hymns can evoke from within us …that that is also faith. (These days, my idea of what constitutes “faith” keeps expanding!)
Sometimes hymns are my creeds, my first language, the texts of my faith which have formed me from even before I was born. If I grow to be an old woman whose mind softens at the edges of reality, I may not know my own name or the names of my children and grandchildren, but I am certain I will still know every single word to Great Is Thy Faithfulness. No matter what my mind holds, agrees to, or understands, I will always be standing on the promises of God, because the hymns I have sung throughout my life will never let me go. And for this I give thanks. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, full post: https://thecorners.substack.com/p/singing-hymns-alone

       It is a season of new songs. 
       It is a season of new people, new prayers, new questions. 
        At first, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church captured me with its novelty. The chants and collects, calls and responses were a refreshing departure from the contemporary evangelical worship I’d come to associate with all my evangelical baggage.  I liked confessing and receiving communion each week. I liked reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed together in community. I liked the smells and bells. Each Sunday I’d stuff the sandy-colored bulletin in my purse so I could go home and study the rhythm of this worship, imbibing the poetry of those holy words. 
        We didn’t know many people then. I kept my eyes on the floor as I walked away from the Table on Sundays, afraid of exchanging too many warm smiles, afraid of becoming too familiar to these kind, religious people who, like all kind, religious people will inevitably disappoint and be disappointed. The melodies of the hymns remained largely inscrutable to my untrained ears, except for when the director of music, (raised Pentecostal),  threw in an “Amazing Grace” or “Rock of Ages” and I sang loud and badly just to hear my voice grip those solid words again.
       But we’ve been showing up for nearly six months now, and so it is a different sort of beauty I encounter on Sunday mornings these days—the beauty of familiarity, of sweet routine.
       I know the order of service now. I know it well enough to have favorite parts, to skim ahead when I’m hungry or restless, to get the songs stuck in my head. And we know the people too, not merely as strange faces gathered around the Table but as the Alabama fan, the new mom, the student who loves talking theology, the quilting club, the recovering fundamentalists, the friends. Yesterday, my eyes clouded with tears as the choir sang I Shall See,” somehow pulling every frantic, disparate prayer from the week into a single sweet plea. The music director told me  the song made her think of me. 
      It is a season of new songs.
      It is a season of receiving, of being loved just for showing up. 
I am holding all these gifts gingerly, like fragile blue eggs I’m afraid to break. I am holding them the way I hold that white wafer in my cupped, open hands—grateful, relieved, and still just a little bit frightened of what will happen when I take it and eat. — Rachel Held Evans, full post: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/new-son

MUSIC in JUDAISM — My Jewish Learning.org

Music has been a part of Jewish life since biblical times, and remains integral to the Jewish religious and cultural experiences. At the moment of Israel’s birth as a nation — the Exodus from Egypt — the Bible tells us that Moses led the people of Israel in a song of divine praise. Music was part of the sacrificial worship in the Temple, and later became part of synagogue prayer services and at-home religious observance. Jewish music tends to blend unique elements with aspects that reflect the cultures in which Jews have lived, composed, played instruments, and sung…
     Jewish religious music includes cantorial music — the music of the professional prayer leader; nusah, the melodies to which traditional prayers are chanted, with different tunes used for different services; modern liturgical music, in which composers set excerpts of Jewish prayer to choral or other music that is not necessarily inherently “Jewish”; cantillation, which is the notes for chanting public readings of the Torah, haftarah(selections from Prophets), and other Jewish sacred texts, such as the Scroll of Ecclesiastes on the festival Sukkot; and nigunim, which are wordless melodies. Different Jewish communities throughout history have produced their own distinctive forms of these different Jewish religious expressions. However, as the global community has grown increasingly connected, so too have the different Jewish communities, resulting in a cross-fertilization of musical styles between Jews of different countries and different denominational affiliations.

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN MUSIC History

Worship with instruments in the Bible starts off in Genesis 4 with Jubal who “the first of all who play the harp and flute.” Moses mentions tamborines and dancing in Exodus as they celebrate the victory at the Red Sea. Then in the days of David and Solomon at the height of temple worship, they had choirs, ram horn (shofar) blowers, cymbal bangers, tamborines and various other percussionists and some stringed instruments (fore-runners to guitars like the lyre, ….) at the temple for celebrations of worship. It was probably very loud, and quite dissonant to our ears. And when people complain about the loud drums, besides the Psalm 150:5 “Praise him with the loud/clashing cymbals” you can check out 1 Chronicles 15 and 16 and notice that King David put Asaph in charge of the worship music and his instrument was… the cymbals? Why? Pragmatic of course: the cymbals are louder and more rhythmic of all the instruments, so it is the most logical for helping to keep the band in time! This orchestration lasted for many years, depending on the state of the temple. See Nehemiah 12 for a description and remember every time you read “trumpet” that you are talking about a shofar, not a modern finely tuned diatonic instrument. Psalm 150 makes it clear that we are free to use all the instruments we can find to worship God with. — musicacademy.com, full article: https://www.musicademy.com/history-worship-music-old-new-testament-to-rock-and-roll/

MUSIC and ISLAM — Hussein Rashid, Hofstra University, article: https://asiasociety.org/arts/music-and-islam-deeper-look

… The debate among Muslims is not about the permissibility of audio art, but about what kind of audio arts are permissible. The Qur’an, the first source of legal authority for Muslims, contains no direct references to music. Legal scholars use the hadith (saying and actions of Prophet Muhammad) as another source of authority, and have found conflicting evidence in it. The consensus that has emerged is that the audio arts fall into three broad categories: legitimate, controversial, and illegitimate. Qira’at, the call to prayer, religious chants and the like are all considered legitimate. Controversial audio arts include almost all other types of music. Illegitimate audio arts are considered to be those that take people away from the commandments of the faith. Music that leads to drinking or licentious behavior is considered illegitimate. Depending on the community of interpretation, one can find devotional music legitimate, controversial, or illegitimate.
    
Sufis, a broad category for a group of Muslims who generally take on a more personal and esoteric approach to the faith, argue that devotional audio arts must be bound by three things to be considered legitimate: time, place, and companions. Al-Ghazali, the famed 11th/12th century Sunni Muslim, argues that a good time is one that allows you to complete religious and societal obligations and no diversion should take time away from performing obligations. The place for the performance of audio art should be an appropriate setting– no concerts in masjids, and no performances in bars. Finally, the companions, the people surrounding the listener, should encourage the best in the listener.
    
The 10th century philosophical group, the Ikhwan as-Safa, argue that the truest audio art is the Voice of God, which the Prophet Moses heard at Sinai. When Moses heard the Voice, he moved beyond the need for earthly music. Based on this moment, the Ikhwan as-Safa believe that human audio arts are necessary echoes to remind us of the true music. The 15th century Persian mystical poet Jami says that in the Qur’an, when God says He is blowing life into the form of man (38:72) it should be understood that human beings are the first musical instrument. The famous Sufi poet Rumi (13th century) also plays with the idea of human beings as musical instruments. He opens his work the Mathnawi, perhaps one of his most famous poems, with the lines, “Listen to the reed as it tells a tale/ a tale of separation,” a statement on the human condition of removal from the Divine. It is also argued that the Prophet David (who authored the Psalms according to Muslims) and the Prophet Solomon both had beautiful voices and sang freely….

Reflections on questions & doubt: Thomas as a model of curiosity, questioning, and courage

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving. 
– Frederick Buechner


I talk to God but the sky is empty. ― Sylvia Plath

I think the trouble with me is lack of faith… often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. – C.S. Lewis

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! ― Douglas Adams

Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one. ― Voltaire

Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?… We’ve all experienced this, me too. – Pope Francis

… the Old Testament, which is where many of the questions (and questioners) are. The Old Testament proves that God honors questioners. Remember, grumpy Job emerges as the hero of that book, not his theologically defensive friends. — Philip Yancey

Songs about DOUBTS & QUESTIONS:

A Sonnet for St. Thomas the Apostle
Malcolm Guite

“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
 

QUESTIONING: An Act of Faith

When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations.  I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible.  God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. — Philip Yancey

In other words, no matter how strong our faith is, at some point we may experience doubt. But instead of being a sign of weakness, doubt can actually be something that causes us to dig deeper into our relationship with God, and can even make our faith stronger. — Jesse Carey

Certainty is so often overrated. This is especially the case when it comes to faith, or other imponderables. — Julia Baird

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith… Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful. – Paul Tillich

Belief in God does not exempt us from feelings of abandonment by God. Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God. – Eugene Peterson

Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. – John Calvin

I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.  – Charles Spurgeon

The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”– Madeleine L’Engle

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. – Brennan Manning

We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt. – Dallas Willard

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.‘  — C. S. Lewis

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. — Anne Lamott

Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them … If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God … The torture and pain I can’t explain. — St. Mother Teresa

For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God. — Martin Luther

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble … Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. — Charles Spurgeon

If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. ― Yann Martel

COMMENTARY on THOMAS as a DOUBTER

Here’s my simple contention about this passage: Thomas is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Think about it. Everything we know about Thomas up to this point suggests that he is forthright, genuine, and even courageous …
      Thomas, I would contend, is at heart a pragmatist, one who likes his truth straight up and who relentlessly takes stock of the situation before making a decision.
     
Which leads me to believe that what changes when Thomas is confronted by the risen Lord is not that he is no longer a doubter – he never really was – and certainly not his realism. No, what changes is his perception of reality itself. Of what is possible. Of what God can do. Even of what God can do through him….
     Jesus comes and takes his mocking words and turns them back on him, not to humiliate or scold him, but simply to confront him with the possibility that his reality was too small, his vision of what is possible too limited. And when Jesus calls him to faith, he’s actually inviting him to enter into a whole new world. …
      And this issue of having too small a vision of reality is what I find interesting. Because I also fall into a worldview governed by limitations and am tempted to call that “realism.” Which is when I need to have the community remind me of a grander vision. A vision not defined by failure but possibility, not governed by scarcity but by abundance, not ruled by remembered offenses but set free by forgiveness and reconciliation …
    There are, I suspect, a lot of Thomases in our congregations…. who should not have to surrender their sense of realism, but instead be invited to a whole new reality that God created  — David Lose

So, two things I noticed and wondered about when reading this passage.
     First, Thomas only asks to see what the other disciples have already seen. … Thomas asks for no extraordinary proof to move his extraordinary doubt, but only requests what the others had already been given.
    Second, is Thomas’ reaction one of doubt or realism? Might it be that Thomas was, above all else, a realist? And that reality had come as never before ….— David Lose

This week’s gospel lection offers us a secret room, and, with it, an invitation to touch, to cross more deeply into Jesus’ story and our own… History has labeled this disciple Doubting Thomas, as if his uncertainty were the most memorable thing about this follower of Jesus who, elsewhere, is the first to step up and say he is willing to die with him Yet Jesus, as is his way, gives Thomas what he needs  — Jan Richardson

I was reminded that in the story of the raising of Lazarus, Thomas is the one—the only one—who steps forward and expresses his willingness to die with Jesus. In this week’s reading, Thomas once again crosses into a place where others have not ventured: into the very flesh of the risen Christ… The wounds of the risen Christ are not a prison; they are a passage. Thomas’s hand in Christ’s side is not some bizarre, morbid probe: it is a union, and a reminder that in taking flesh, Christ wed himself to us.— Jan Richardson

Inventory ― Dorothy Parker
Four be the things
I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow,
a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things
I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity,
freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things
I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and
sufficient champagne.
Three be the things
I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope
and a sock in the eye.

ON DOUBT

We learn from failure, not from success! ― Bram Stoker

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. ― René Descartes

Doubt everything. Find your own light. ― Gautama Buddha

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.― William Shakespeare

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse. – Blaise Pascal

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.
― George Carlin

Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess. ― Walt Whitman

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrased, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. ― Rainer Maria Rilke

THE GIFT of DOUBT —from Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)

As Voltaire remarked, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
      The problem is that certitude seduces us. It enables us to believe that what was said to be true is true because someone else said so. It simply cuts off thought. It arrests discussion in midflight. And yet we yearn for it with a passion. We spend endless, sleepless nights grappling with intellectual options in order to wiggle them into a satisfying kind of certainty without so much as a scintilla of evidence.
     Rulers of all stripe and type dispense certainties—theirs—with great abandon. They do whatever it takes—define cultural dogmas, assert organizational doctrines, impose decrees, and use power, force and penal systems—to suppress the ideas of anyone who dares to question them. Ideas, after all, are dangerous things. Ideas have brought down as many myths and mysteries as they have toppled kingdoms.
     But there is another way to live that runs hot and bright through darkness. There are always some in every population who know that life is not meant to be about certainty. Life, they realize, is about possibility. They see certitude as a direction but not an end.
     Doubt is what shakes our arrogance and makes us look again at what we have never really looked at before. Without doubt there is little room for faith in anything. What we accept without question we will live without morality. It is in populations like this that monarchs become dictators and spiritual leaders become charlatans and knowledge becomes myth.
     An ancient people tell the story of sending out two shamans to study their holy mountain so that they could know what their gods expected of them. The first shaman came back from the north side of the mountain to tell them that it was covered with fruit trees, a sign that their god would always bless them abundantly. The second shaman came back from the south side of the mountain to tell the people that it was barren and covered with rock, a sign that their god would always be with them but intended them to take care of themselves. So, which shaman was right? If both, then it is dangerous to dogmatize either position.
     It is doubt, not certitude, that enables us to believe, because it requires us to think deeply about an entire subject, and not simply depend on the side of reality that is on our side of the mountain. Only when we look beyond absolutes to understand every level of life can we possibly live life to the fullest, with the deepest kind of insight, with the greatest degree of compassion for others.
     Voltaire was right, of course. Certainty is comfortable but always unlikely and forever disruptive. As life changes so must our explanation and response to it.

The Blessing of Thomas
— Maren Tirabassi

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” — John 20:29b

Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him, this eastertide,
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.
Blessed are those who don’t need a choir to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.
Blessed are those who really touch
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.
But also blessed is the Thomas in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else, and who wants to feel
not Jesus’ long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.
Blessed is the Thomas in all of us, who lives with doubts and hopes,
and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.

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