The Scared and the Scarred.

I’m sharing this sermon that I have written for our Circuit’s Written Sermon Ministry for this coming Sunday 24th April 2022, the Sunday after Easter.

It is mainly based on John 20:19-31, with passing nods to Psalm 150 and Revelation 1:4-8.

Locked in the room.  From fear.  For our safety.  Hiding from who knows what.  But knowing that we could be in deep trouble.  Jesus is not in his tomb.  A dead body disappeared.  And yet, Mary had met him, she had seen the Lord.  Not so dead after all.

So now we wait.  What to do next?  What did this mean?

And into our fear and our questions, Jesus comes and stands with us.  “Peace be with you”.  The peace of God, that is beyond all our understandings, he brings to where we are.

This is very much Jesus, the one they had known, the one who they had watched die so cruelly.  For here he stood with his scars fully visible.  The scars prove that he is who he says he is just in case there was any doubt.  This is very much the same person.  But for me, as a disabled person, those scars mean so much more.

Jesus could have come back with no signs of his crucifixion.  His wounds could have gone, but they haven’t.  They are still very there and very raw.  The marks of his suffering had not disappeared overnight.  They are a part of who and what he now is – even in resurrection.  Scars are ok.  Here is a person who has suffered and still has those marks.  It is OK to have suffered and still carry the scars – for them to be there, real, and visible.  There will be marks of what has been and what is.  Things don’t have to be “perfect” in airbrushed beauty, to be useful and Godly.  This is a God who knows what it is to be broken. And that brings hope to me.

Lamar Hardwick in his book Disability and the Church, says “When Jesus returns from the dead, he returns with the marks of disability, marks that he displays as an identifier and as an invitation to a new expression of faith.” (chapter 7)  It is a wounded Christ who comes to the Upper Room.  Not someone for whom hardship and suffering have been swept away, but a real person who has been through stuff – and it shows.  That is the God we have.  Triumphant in resurrection yes, but still crucified along the way.

This is the God of life over death that Psalm 150 encourages us to joyfully celebrate, but very much a God of real life – and death.  Christ’s death has freed us (Revelation 1:4-8), but his risen life frees us too.  It is OK to be scarred, to carry the marks of the battles of life.  That does not make us a failure or imply that God has at some point abandoned us, that is life.  What matters is what we do with those scars and whether we pick at them and never let them heal.

Jesus is comfortable with his scars (in my definition that is true healing rather than scars being wiped away).  So comfortable that he is happy to show them, and indeed to let Thomas touch them when he needs to.  They are now a part of him, his life, his pain, and his journey with God.  Our scars can be an encouragement to others in their suffering and pain – if we are able to show them.

But the still scarred Jesus has come to do more.  He might be dead, even somehow back to life, but that is not the end.  It isn’t “all’s well that ends well” even though he is back in the room.  There is a job still to be done.  People need to know.  To hear the message that Jesus was bringing, God’s life he was trying to model.

And so, as the disciples sit there, no doubt open mouthed at this development, certainly glad to have him back, Jesus tells them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  It is not over; it is now getting real.  The mission goes on and now it is over to them – over to us.

Interestingly, at this point, the commission is to forgive.  That is what we are called to do.  And if that forgiveness is not offered, there will be none.  We can get tied up in all kinds of ideas about what mission is all about, but right here in this room it is about forgiveness.  Perhaps that is what the world needs more of – and the disciples are to model it God’s way.  At that point there, perhaps they needed to forgive those who had brought about Jesus’ death.  After all, Jesus himself forgave them, even in the midst of his agony (Luke 23:34), whilst enduring the biggest insult and assault that one can inflict on another.  Perhaps the disciples needed to find that forgiveness before they could move on – to make peace with what had happened, even the scars it had created, and live in the peace of what that now meant.

Perhaps our task today is to spread a little more forgiveness and hold a few less grudges.  To model God’s forgiveness in the places we are.  Because forgiveness is a good way to stop picking at scars and let them begin to heal.  And in the giving and receiving of forgiveness the world may find peace: the peace of heart, mind, and soul that it longs for.

And then there is Thomas.  God bless Thomas.  He needed to see, to touch.  He needed proof, to experience for himself, not rely on the news of others.  That doesn’t bother Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t insist he believes anyway or suggest that he’d missed knowing because he wasn’t there when he first came.  Jesus comes back, potentially just for Thomas.  It is OK for Thomas to do what he needed to do to know, to be sure.  And there was peace. Today, this week, in our times of excitement, rejoicing, confusion, despair, pain – however we are feeling, may we know the peace of God, the presence of Jesus, and the forgiveness God offers that we can pass on.                                                                         

~ by pamjw on April 22, 2022.

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