The following is the text preached by my friend Canon Ted Karpf yesterday at Holy Trinity Geneva. Like re-watching Children of Men, it was a shot of the arm of thinking about how life, faith, and hope come together.
I hope you enjoy it as I did…
“Our wounds, His body
Fear, disorder and distrust of their senses filled them. They had seen him executed as a criminal. Now word had come by one of the women, and their shattered new leader, Peter that somehow, he had was no longer in the tomb. Somehow, he had been raised.
They didn’t comprehend what this strange news could mean. The dead don’t walk. Locked away in their Upper Room for fear of more killings at the hands of a crazed mob; ashamed of returning to their hometowns in Galilee in disgrace; they waited in that room for something to happen. And it did!
He appears among them showing them his hands and side. His wounds. He breathes on them, some calling it the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of Life and Truth. He pronounces a word of peace on them: Shalom. For the most part, it quells their fear and releases their joy. By showing them his wounds, he reminds them of the reality of his death. By his wounds they are halted in any retreat from reality into an ecstatic fancy, and rescued from reverting back into complacence from which they had come. This encounter with the wounded risen Lord does not end in passivity.
As we have seen, Easter brings together the images of our woundedness; our longing for peace; for home and safety; and, for glory. When Jesus appears, showing them the wounds in his hands and his side, he greets them with words that speak to the depth of their souls: Peace be with you! What they would have to learn and what we will come to know is that there is no peace without wounds; there is no peace without responsibility; there is no peace without accepting risk; there is no peace without the challenging, irritating urgency of the Spirit. No peace without judgment and forgiveness!
In this one appearance, Jesus empowers this rag-tag band of followers to heal the wounds of others by forgiveness and faithfulness. This is an outrageous claim and unabashed reality, if you think about it. For the risk here is that not only will they be responsible for healing one another but, by this action they will participate in creating a new order of reality, extending care and compassion to the rest of the world. They would now have to be about living life as God intended it to be lived—redeemed and wounded—as a sign from God that the wounds of Christ are the means of forgiveness.
This showing of the wounds raises the discomfort of awe, wonder and even disbelief within us. And it should. Yet as any one of us knows from the experience of been forgiven or of forgiving another, it is filled with that same awe and wonder. By freeing others of the burden of their guilt and shame, and by being freed from it ourselves, we enter into the unfathomable mystery of the Reign of God in our lives and especially over our hearts.
It is not a matter of forgive and forget; rather it is a matter of forgive and remember: who you are-a child of God-and whose you are-God’s own; and, who forgives and brings you peace.
This kind of recognition sets our lives free in radical ways. To extend forgiveness to another is to release new possibilities for life in another–it is to fulfill the promise of God to love us where we are. To withhold forgiveness and acceptance is to effectively consign another to the hell of guilt, shame and separation.
As we are coming to know, Easter is the radical explosion of the NEW into our lives. The Love of God is indiscriminate, out of control, and relentless. This means that you and I are freed to being whoever God calls us to be, but above all, free to be inclusive. We need no longer fear our differences. We may be fully alive, aware and awake to the subtle nuances of creation; we may see the creation whole instead of fragmented. But as you might guess this is not always Good News.
Many of us may not believe that real forgiveness or acceptance of another is desirable, possible, or even valuable. Some of us have chosen forgetfulness; others dullness of spirit; and still others are wrapped in fear. For if the creation is NEW and the re-ordering of life, a reality; then life lived under the shadow of unbelief is a life of despair: a life of forgetfulness of what God has done and skepticism of what God can do.
Thomas is one of these. He withdraws from the possibility that the Lord is among them. He withdraws from the peculiar pain of the challenge to live life to the full. He hesitates if living life to the full means putting his hands into life’s wounds. And so do we, at least the first time. Thomas raises the eternal questions which haunt us, such as: What in me today most needs to be touched? What do I fear most: life or death/crucifixion or resurrection? What in me needs to be raised from the dead? What part of me, long since rejected and forgotten, needs to be touched and restored to life?
So how do we live out this kind of Resurrection Life: this Easter Faith in a Good Friday world?
Jess Trotter, the late Dean of the Virginia Seminary, was in his earlier years professor of Apologetics—defense of the faith. Late one spring, when the world had come alive after a long and dreary winter, his son committed suicide. Trotter numbed, bewildered, and stricken with grief in the face of such a tragedy was, in every way, hopeless. As any parent would be. He went through the self-recriminations, self-flagellation and self-doubt of what he might have done to cause the death of his son or prevent it.
It was also earlier in this same year that Trotter had been requested by the senior class of new clergy to give the commencement address in May; you know, the kind of speech that sends the eager forward into a brave new world. He didn’t deliver the address as planned, but did attend the senior farewell dinner and this is what he said:
I thank you for your understanding. I thank you for your presence. Your prayers have made a difference. Where I’ve been and where I am, I can tell you but a little. I’ve been to the bottom and found it firm.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ, many of us here have also been to the bottom and we’ve found it firm; some of us may be heading to the bottom and hope its firm; and, still others have never been to the bottom, but trust its firm.
It really doesn’t matter where you are in that particular aspect of the journey today. What does matter is that you are in the midst of the community….this community. Our Lord only asks that you look at the wounds of the family of God around you to see the face of your humanity and Remember. For the transformation wrought at Easter is that the Body of Christ—you and me—is Christ’s body.
Just as the Risen Lord sees into Thomas’ heart thus enabling Thomas to see the Lord, we are called upon to look into the hearts of each other and see the Christ. The response is always the same: My Lord and My God! For what compels Thomas to belief is what grips us: the signs of God in human suffering.
Hear the Gospel again: Peace be unto you! And he showed them his hands and his side. It is as if God in Christ is saying to us, Hesitate no longer! Receive the Covenant of Reconciliation. Receive the wounding of my peace! Receive the Resurrection! Receive yourself, ALIVE NOW. For Easter is Now! Alleluia, Alleluia! Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia! AMEN.+”
Preached on 30 March 2008