I doubt—Sunday of St John Climacus

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

We live, dear brothers and sisters, in an age where we have grown immensely in the understanding of how the world around us works.  Science has been able to understand, and continues to grow in understanding, of how a flower blooms, of how an unimaginably huge star explodes in a supernova, of how molecules and atoms interact with each other to produce reactions we can control.  And in all this the world has as its guiding principle the words of René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am:” that all I can be certain about, the only thing which is real, is that “I am thinking”—all else must, therefore, be proven before it is accepted.

And our understanding has been radically affected by this reasoning because the words of Descartes could equally be, “I doubt, therefore I am.”  And we are told something and our first response is, “Did that really happen?  Is it really true?”  Because we doubt what politicians tell us, we doubt instructions from our bosses, we doubt the assessments of our friends or of experts, we doubt miracles.  We doubt.  And the words of the boy’s father resonate in our age perhaps more than in any other, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  Because we have been so conditioned by our society to doubt we doubt even God.

It is not wrong to doubt: every day it should occur to us, “I might be wrong.”  But when we love, not merely like someone but truly love them, we do not doubt their words but we give them the benefit of the doubt.  We listen to them and say to ourselves, “I have been led this far in truth, I will place my trust in them.”  Because God, unlike how human beings might, will not let us down, will not waste the benefit of the doubt, will not fail.

Our world is full of doubt, of worry and of pain.  We may believe that our society is full of atheists for whom God has no meaning yet atheists are doubting their beliefs too.  Let us today, here and now my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, re-establish our trust in the Lord because in him the foundations are deep and strong and in him we may place the benefit of the doubt.  And in so doing we may raise up a lighthouse, a beacon of hope, in our community where all may come and find rescue from the storms of doubt and find him in whom they may trust.  Let us cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  And he will take us, each one of us, by the hand and lift us up that we may stand aright and be with God.

To our risen Lord and God, who is our rock and fortress against the doubts of this world, Jesus Christ be all glory, honour and might, together with his Unoriginate Father and the All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit.  Amen.

Brethren, when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
— Hebrews 6:13–20

At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.
— Mark 9:17–31