“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
Thomas is the patron saint of the sensual — that is, all of us. Experiences are a growth industry. Entertainment is one of the few sectors of the economy where the balance of payments still favors us over the Chinese. We could call it the Disneyfication of world culture.
By logical extension, a church in my neighborhood offers “worship experiences” at 9 and 11. Another, like Starbucks, offers “modern”, “traditional”, and “mixed” or “blended” worship experiences — whatever spirituality niche you might occupy. It wouldn’t surprise me if their communion bread was banana nut muffins. Yum. If not, I could recommend that in the follow up survey.
My Quaker pastor grandfather declared that padded pews would be the end of the church, because they would signal the focus on individual comfort rather than discipleship. This is what that looks like.
The pattern in scripture is the other way around, with the acknowledgment of absence. Hannah’s worship was rooted in God’s absence. Nothing was right — the priests were corrupt and they had no worship team to set the mood. Hannah’s faith was not because of experience but in spite of experience — yet it marked the beginning of Israel’s golden age with the birth of Samuel.
Ezekiel also saw what he could not see. God carried him to the temple and, after showing him idolatry in every corner North, South, East, and West, God, in effect, said “watch this Ezekiel” and withdrew. (Ezekiel 8-10) The people continued spiritual to the end, but without God. Once God withdrew, their doom was sealed. No one else noticed. How much better their prospects would have been if anyone else had seen what could not be seen. Our biggest homeless problem, as theirs, is God.
Faith begins where sight ends.