Sermon for Sunday, April 15, 2018

4/15/2018 SSE

3 Easter B

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

 

 

As a youngster, growing up in Seattle in the 50’s, I was one of many neighborhood kids who made our own outdoor fun, and did it together.   We probably risked some degree of peril, I’m sure, in our adventures, but we didn’t care…it would all be fixed by an adult.  For example, we created our own playground equipment out of what was available. My dad’s car comes to mind.  On the day I am remembering, we gathered on the parking strip out front of our house on Queen Anne Hill, and climbed, one at a time, onto the hood of his Hudson, and slid on our bottoms off the car, landing with a bump and then a little run.  Loads of fun . . . until I ended everything by tripping, landing hard, and whacking my forehead on someone’s tricycle pedal that had been left square at the bottom of our makeshift slide.  Blood everywhere, and my parents were summoned.  The improvised playground was temporarily shut down, and I was escorted into the house for medical attention.  Mom had just taken a first-aid course in which she had learned that wounds, head wounds especially, always bleed a great deal at first, but stitches are not always necessary, because consistent pressure on the wound takes care of it.  And so, while my friends, for a time subdued by my bloody specter, carried on with their adventures that day, I sat in the house with a bandaged forehead, putting pressure on the wound, and wishing I could go back to sliding.  Over time, the wound healed, but a lifelong scar was the result. My mother always regretted that she didn’t take me in for proper medical care that day which she later believed would have left me scarless.  As an adult, I think of the scar as representing the fun that we had sliding off my dad’s car and of the loving care my mother took of me that day. Scars carry memories.

 Scars are a present-day recollection of a past event.  They can be physical or emotional and I think it’s safe to say that most of us have a few scars and we can remember what happened to cause them and when – just by looking at them or taking them out of our emotional backpacks and examining them.  I bet you can think of a scar of some sort that you have and the event that caused it. 

Jesus, Luke writes, showed them his hands and his feet.  Huddled behind locked doors, afraid that the authorities would come after them, the disciples were struggling to take in the strange reports of Jesus sightings, and wondering what it all meant.  How could it be? It had been reported that Jesus had appeared to Simon as several disciples walked on the Road to Emmaus, and how he had made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread.  And then, there he was, in the room, right there among them, and, of course, they were startled and filled with fear.  Jesus challenged their fears and invited them to look at his hands and feet and to touch him and see.  So, imagine that you were there in the room with the other disciples and you gazed on the hands and feet of Jesus. How did they appear?  Still with open, bleeding wounds…or healed into scars? The crucifixion had marked him, we know that, but we don’t know of course, what his physical appearance was.  However, those disciples were able to see the effects of the crucifixion and resurrection in some way and the permanent marks of both. He was altered by the events, but so were they, and so are we. It is part of our identity as Christians.

Our scars are unique to us.  They identify us to others. In The Odyssey, there is a scene that takes place near the end of the story. Odysseus returns home after many years of wandering. He is in disguise as an old man. At first nobody recognizes him, not even his wife and child. One night before bed, Odysseus’ aged nurse bathes him. At first, she thinks he is just a stranger; but while bathing him, she recognizes a scar on his leg. She remembers the scar from his infancy. She did not recognize him until she saw his scar.  The disciples had a similar experience.  They began to identify Jesus by his scars.[1]

Jesus, whom we believe to be fully human and fully divine, reminded the disciples that day of his humanity, that he had a body…a body that had been wounded, a body that others could touch and see, a body that was hungry, as he asked for something to eat, was given fish, and ate.  Jesus reminded the disciples that his body bore the truth of the trauma of the crucifixion, but also was a resurrected body.

New Testament scholar and dean of Duke Divinity Richard Hays wrote, “Isn’t it curious that God could raise Jesus from the dead but didn’t heal the nail wounds in his hands? Was this an oversight? Surely not. The power of death is conquered, but the [scars] remain. When Jesus showed the disciples his scars, he was saying, “Here is my signature.” [2]

The reality is that the resurrection brought Jesus back to life, but this life had left him scarred.  Here is Jesus, the man, appearing to his friends and showing them the scars that his life, his suffering, and his death, inflicted on him. He showed them that, in whatever occurred at the time of the resurrection the scars were NOT obliterated. They remained. They were still there.  So, we have a permanently scarred God who comes, scarred, to be with us with whatever scars we bear, with whatever wounds we carry, and with whatever doubts we harbor.  To me, it is an amazing demonstration of God’s love for us, that he would continue to carry the scars, the reminders of the pain and humiliation he went through and walk among us as he does.  It is love and hope.

We, as disciples, who bear our own scars, and live more than 2000 years later, are still marked by the resurrection, by the love and hope of the resurrection.  What are the effects of the resurrection on our body here at St. Stephen’s?  How do we, both as individuals and as a faith community, reflect the resurrection? I think it has to do with what we do with our scars, how we offer ourselves to others, also scarred.

I am always saddened when I hear people say that they don’t think that they can come to church, because everyone at church is so good, so perfect, that they feel they don’t fit in.  I always respond by asking if they really think that our church, any church, is filled with perfect people…because the truth is that we all bear scars, just as Jesus did.  As disciples, we all bear hurts, disappointments and marks of the past and of a world that sometimes wounds us, yet we show up, and we act in the world…even in our  brokenness, because we know that  we follow the one who bore the scars of the crucifixion and resurrection and who invites us to live with our hurts, fears, and failures, and in hope.

After the death of Stephen Hawkings, social media was filled with comments of love and loss of a man whose body and life were greatly scarred and yet he gave the world so much despite it.  Interestingly, some of the comments I read were things like, “. . .at least he won’t need a wheelchair now that he is with God.” Stephen’s wounded and scarred body were such evidence of life lived in the light of the resurrection.  Scarred, wounded, and in pain and yet so aware of life, giving so much.

During Easter, we joyfully proclaim in our liturgy that “Jesus is risen!”  How do we live that proclamation?  Does our liturgy give us permission to proclaim it without living it? I think not. 

This last week, your Outreach Committee met in its quarterly meeting to consider the needs and concerns around us, the scars evident in the world, and where our outreach funds would best be used.  They decided that one of the recipients of those funds is Chaplains on the Harbor, and I think it is a good choice. 

Chaplains on the Harbor is a relatively new organization founded by the Rev. Sarah Monroe in 2013.  Sarah and the other three chaplains do street ministry work in Grays Harbor, Washington, an economically depressed area, and build communities of support among those most impoverished.  They are currently using a building in Westport for support services, and many in their street community meet weekly, and on Sunday afternoon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen.   Their work is among the poor, the jailed, the users of drugs, the disenfranchised, the scarred.  There they build communities of hope and connection among those who have been without hope. Their mission statement is:

” We are a group of chaplains who seek to build a freedom church of the poor by pastoring, organizing, and empowering the leadership of poor people in Grays Harbor County. 

Chaplains on the Harbor stands alongside the poor of Grays Harbor who have lost resources, land, and spirit, by…

  • Providing spiritual and material support to people in jail and on the streets
  • Creating wrap around support toward healing
  • Supporting the leadership and expertise of poor people
  • Building regenerative community ownership through community-led social enterprise and job creation”[3]

Amidst the many wounded individuals, Sarah and her chaplains, aware of their own scars, work daily.  They write, “Over and over, people talk about finding a path out of the endless cycle of jail, streets, and grinding poverty. Over and over, our young people talk about their hope to be the “restorers of streets to live in” (Isaiah 58).[4] 

Communities of God’s beloved, scarred and living in pain, hurt and poverty, look to a time when there will be a place for all, and healing in our world.  That is resurrection life.  From their own wounds, they live in the light of hope of resurrection both for themselves and the world.

Jesus showed the disciples his wounded hands and his feet and they knew him. Though we are marked by the scars of our lives, we live, as a people, in hope and light and love of the resurrection, and they will know us by our lives lived in that love.