2 Easter – April 11, 2021
We’re hearing about two resurrection stories this morning. Jesus appearing one week after the first, coming through locked and closed doors, saying “peace be with you” for the second time.
And so, today, one week after we shout, “Alleluia!” and sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” John invites us to face our doubts, speak our fears, and yearn for more — more intimacy, more encounter, more experience of the living, breathing Christ. Notice that what is written in John’s Gospel calls our attention to the wounds and traumas inscribed in his body. John invites us to see the life Jesus has given to the world in the midst of wounds, pains, and traumas.
John chose an encounter between doubts and scars to help us come to belief, and this year — maybe more than ever — we may appreciate his choice. Why? Because this is territory we recognize after the past year of Covid, social isolation, racial injustice, gun violence, and political strife. Though we are a resurrection people, we are also a people in pain. The world around us is still wounded, and the scars we’re carrying from this past year will likely last a long time.
In these circumstances, Jesus’s scarred body resonates for us in so many ways. We recognize his wounds in the people suffering the debilitating symptoms of “long Covid.” We see them in the faces of those who have lost loved ones to the disease. We watch them bleed afresh in the victims of gun violence. We see the damage they’ve caused in the divisive ugliness of our politics. This year in particular, Thomas moving his fingers across Jesus’s wounds to experience a birthing of faith is intense. If we reflect on it long enough, it might bring us to our knees. Jesus and his scars are everywhere.
Thomas wanted to see Jesus’ wounds and put his fingers in them. Jesus invited him to do so. Jesus, in wearing his wounds—even in his resurrection— confronts us with our own and calls us to move through them into new life.
The crucified Christ challenges us to discern how our wounds will serve as doorways that lead us through our own pain and into a deeper relationship with the wounded world and with the Christ who is about the business of resurrection, for whom the wounds did not have the final word.
As Thomas reaches toward Christ, as he places his hand within the wound that Christ still bears, he is not merely grasping for concrete proof of the resurrection. He is entering into the very mystery of Christ, crossing into a new world that even now he can hardly see yet dares to move toward with courage.
In the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, a powerful wind, – in the form of a tornado – comes into Dorothy Gale’s life and it lifts her out of her place, spins her around, disorients her and drops her smack in the middle of a new world, where she has a very important mission to accomplish. In this new world, nothing is the same as it had been before the wind came. There is beauty and wonder the likes of which Dorothy has never seen before, but there is also danger. As Dorothy is faced with these new dangers, she also meets others who have exactly the gifts she needs – wisdom, compassion and courage. And in the end, Dorothy and her new friends accomplish an incredibly unlikely mission.
Another story…years ago, Megan Castellan had taken college students to San Francisco to attend a conference for Episcopal college ministries, and were attending an interfaith remembrance for Archbishop Oscar Romero at Grace Cathedral. On the dais was a local Hindu monk, speaking in a thoughtful, even lilt. “Last week, I received this box of bullets,” he mused. Fantastic, Megan thought, inwardly cringing. It’s a death threat. Some loony fundamentalist sent this nice guy a box of bullets to scare him.
As she carried on a cynical monologue in her head, about the awfulness of humanity, the monk explained calmly that he had canvassed his neighbors, and figured out that the bullet box was, in fact, a mis-delivery. It had been intended for his downstairs neighbor–a federal agent of some variety. “But he had already received a replacement, so I thought, ‘What can I do with these? What would bring peace, what would resurrect these weapons?’”
He held up a bowl filled with golden pebbles. “So I melted them down, and I made them into prayer beads. Because, I thought, you would like to have them. So take one, please, everyone. And we can bring some resurrection together.”
Megan continues: I still have mine. It lives in my jacket pocket, and reminds me that resurrection isn’t just a singular act, a once-and-boom! event. It’s a repeated, habitual transformational remaking of the world we participate in.
Take some time to reflect this week to consider ourselves, to look inside, and to answer some questions. How am I being raised up by the raising up of Jesus? From what particular death am I being set free? What message of peace does the risen Jesus speak to me? How do we see the wounds of Christ in the wounds of the world? How might we be called to reach into those wounds—not to wallow in them, not to become overwhelmed by them, but to touch them and minister to them and help to turn them into doorways that draw us deeper into Christ? What new life does he impart that leaves me who I am, yet different?
Each of us will have our own answers to questions like these. Give some time to this reflection, and give thanks that Jesus is not alone in his resurrection, but that we are raised with him from death into life. Amen.