Sunday, March 30, 2008
Sermon De Jour
Easter 2, 2008 John 23 March 30, 2008 Rev. Benton Quest
In my years as a camp counselor, I have had to come up with all kinds of icebreakers when dealing with groups. You know about icebreakers, those silly games like state your name and your favorite generic drug that begins with the first letter in your name. You know those, right? Well I found one that works extremely well. This is to ask people to tell about their favorite scar.
When I first ask people to tell me about their favorite scar, they usually look at me as if I have completely lost my mind. Then, after they realize I am serious, they begin to laugh. Then after the laugh, most people settle down into a contented smile. That’s right, a smile.
It may seem strange that we smile when we think of our scars, but in my experience, that is the almost universal response. When we think about our scars, we aren’t sad and we don’t frown. Our scars are kind of like old friends. They remind us of our heroic moments and our stupid moments. They remind us of when we were heroic and when we just didn’t think things through. Our scars are the chronicle of our lives.
It may surprise you that I would speak so forthright about scars. It may also surprise you that I could make such glowing generalities about scars. But really, it shouldn’t be that surprising: To be human is to have scars. In the process of living, we get scars. Some of these scars are imposed upon us by others and some we impose upon ourselves. Some happen by idly walking into a wall while others happen when the bully pushes us down the slide. No matter what, we all have scars.
There is one common denominator with all scars: they are not acquired without pain. These is pain in a cut, there is pain in a scrape. Scars are what we have left to show that we have endured the pain. Scars are our “trophy” for having endured the pain. Even if we get the scar from surgery, we still had to endure the pain of recovery.
Now, when you get a scar, it is pretty much there for life. Plastic surgeons can work on scars to try to reduce them, they can make scars less visible, but they really can’t make them go totally away. Once you get a scar, it is yours for life.
So, to restate what I had said before: our scars tell the story of who we are. We may not like the pain associated with scars, we may not like the look of the scars; but like them or not, we have scars. To be human is to be scarred.
So why all of this carrying on about scars? Well, there was something in the gospel today that really bothered me: Why was Jesus able to show his wounds to the disciples? Why could Jesus show his hands and side to Thomas? I thought after our death our bodies would be glorified. I though we were to have wonderful bodies, bodies that were so much better than the bodies we have now. So if we are supposed to have these wonderful, glorified bodies, shouldn’t the risen Christ have a gotten a glorified body also? Why weren’t those ugly holes all healed? Why wasn’t the gash in his side made sealed up? Since Jesus is God incarnate, then surely his wounds should have been healed; his scars should have been made clean. This question really bothered me. Maybe the whole thing about a glorified body was wrong.
No, there had to be something more to this. It was then that I started contemplating scars. Our scars are a chronicle of the events of our lives; our scars document the learning of our lives. These scars document what it is that makes each of us special. To take away the scars, to take away events that caused these scars, would be to change us from what we are.
To be human is to be wounded; to be human is to be scarred. Yes, we have been wounded, and yes, we have been scarred; but it is not our scars that make us human. In a perfect world, there would be no scars. God does not want us to have wounds, scars. But God also gave us freewill. And it is with this freewill that we choose to go against God, it is with this freewill that we choose to sin. And it is through this sin that wounds occur and that we obtain our scars.
Now Christ was without sin, but became sin for our sake. He took on our woundedness, he took on our scars. By coming to us, even after his resurrection, as one who is wounded, Christ continues to show us that he is the suffering servant. Christ does not just shake off the flesh and say, “Wow, I’m glad that is over.” No, he continues proudly in the flesh, wounds and all.
The writer of the Gospel of John calls Christ’s wounds a sign. A sign is something that points beyond itself. So these wounds of Christ point beyond what we can see and point us to something larger. The wounds of Christ point us to the redeeming power of God. The world had given all it had to Jesus. The world did everything it could to break Jesus. The world inflicted the greatest torture it could conjure up upon Christ. And to all involved, It looked like the world had won, but in the end, it was God that had prevailed. The worst that the world could inflict, death, had no control over Christ.
And death has no control over us. This is the promise made to us believers. This is the promise of our baptism. The tortures of the world will not hold. Through Christ’s love, we will prevail over the powers of the world
Because we will prevail over death does not mean that we will not encounter pain and suffering during life. It does not mean that we will not receive scars. Because of the world we live in and the people we are, we will encounter suffering. However, I also know that when we suffer, Christ suffers along with us. We are not left alone during these times. By showing his wounds, Christ reminds us that the pains of the world are still with him. He still bears the wounds that were inflicted. These wounds did not go away, they are still there.
It is the wounds that were inflicted upon him because of our sin that he shows to the disciples. But Christ shows these wound not to make the disciples feel guilty nor to make us feel guilty. By showing us his wounds, Christ is saying to us, “I have withstood this suffering for you and I will continue to be here. I will not leave you alone.” Christ’s body is wounded, even after his resurrection, not as a means of seeking revenge, but as a means of providing us what we need to continue in faith.
This may sound odd, but when we think of Christ’s scars, we can smile. The wounds on his hands and feet and the wound on his side are the chronicle of our salvation. We would not be who we are without them. But it is more than just the wounding, it is the resurrection that brings the healing. The scars of life will not go away, but through Christ’s own scars our scars are recognized and redeemed. To be human is to be scarred, but to be Christian is to know that Christ is with us to heal our wounds and to give us the strength to carry on.