I have a couple of scars in my body.
Right below my left knee the area is numb and without feeling and there is a small whitish mark. That scar is from the time I thought it was a good idea to do a cartwheel in the girl’s locker room and I ended up hiting my leg… hard… against the corner of the wall.
I have a few tiny scars on my belly from my gall bladder surgery a few years ago. They are nearly imperceptible… unlike the scars many have from days when that surgery was performed open and not lapriscopically.
And I have a scar on my left forearm from an iron last summer. After going through the entire pile of t-shirts for Vacation Bible School and getting all of the transfers ironed on… I reached over to unplug my iron and my arm hit the hot plate. There is a triangular shaped mark on my arm to this day!
But none of those are extremely noticeable. Especially not compared with some of the scars that others have in their lives.
My dad is one such person. In an accident at work, his hand was caught in a gear of a machine that processes hot sugars. After months of surgery and rehabilitation, he lost two fingers on his right hand, part of his pinky finger, and had a large skin graft around his thumb and forefinger. His right hand will never be the same. And while his hand looks a bit gnarled and ugly, to me it is a sign of his perseverance, his incredible work ethic, and a reminder of how he got through that difficult part of his life.
The scars in our lives tell stories. Whether they are small marks or large ones, they are visible reminders of the lives that we have lived. Maybe it is not a physical scar, but a nickname you bear, or a tattoo, or an item that you keep around in your life to remind yourself and others of something important that has happened.
I want to invite you to turn to a neighbor or a small group around you and share what kinds of scars and battle wounds you might have. If you feel comfortable, share a story about that scar with the group.
There was a classmate of mine in high school who had a large scar that ran down the center of her chest. She had had open heart surgery when she was fairly young, but will carry that scar with her for the rest of her life. And I remember the day I discovered that scar. We all went swimming at a friend’s house and for the first time, she revealed her scar. She had kept it carefully covered up all those years. She wore shirts with high collars, or scarves, or jewelry, anything that would keep people from seeing the scar she thought was ugly… and embarrassment. But when she told us about the story of the scar, I thought it was such a powerful sign of her strength – that she got through that journey and came out on the other side a strong and healthy and powerful young woman. She continued to feel uncomfortable about her scar, but that scar helped me to see the strength and the beauty inside of her.
Did anyone learn something about a friend based on those scars? Anyone want to share?
Will you ever look at that person the same way again?
There is a reason that twice in our gospel reading for this morning Jesus hands and feet are mentioned.
The first time is when he appears to some of his disciples on the evening of the resurrection. They were huddled together – scared, frightened, unsure of themselves – and suddenly the Risen Lord shows up. He breathes into their lives peace. He forgives them. He gives them a job to do. AND he shows them his hands and his side.
He shows them who he is.
He shows them what he has been through.
He shows them what he has overcome.
And then, a week later, the disciples don’t seem to have moved. They are still there, in the house, only this time Thomas was there also. Thomas missed the first appearance, and said that unless he had seen the nail marks and put his finger where those nails were, that he wouldn’t believe.
So when Jesus stands among them, the first words he utters are: “Peace” – but then he offers an invitation. An invitation for Thomas to come and to reach out his hand and to touch his scars. And Thomas recognizes those scars, remembers what they have all been through together and cries out – “My Lord and my God!”
The Rev.Dr. Janet Hunt writes:
Our scars tell part of the story of who we are, what has mattered to us, what has happened to us, the risks we’ve taken, the gifts we’ve given. And as we are reminded in the story before us in John’s Gospel, this was surely also so with Jesus, too.
Which is why Thomas insisted he needed to see, no more than that, feel the scars in his hands and put his own hand in Jesus’ side to be sure that it was him. One would think he would have recognized him with from the features of his face or the sound of his voice, but no, for Thomas, Jesus had become something more since that long walk to the cross a week before. Jesus’ very identity was now defined by the sacrifice he had made in our behalf. A sacrifice made most visible in those wounds that by then could have only begun to heal. (words.dancingwiththeword.com)
So what are the lessons that we learn by seeing the visible wounds of Jesus? What are the lessons that we learn from seeing the visible wounds of one another?
We see Jesus wounds, and in spite of how the disciples failed him… in spite of how we have failed him, Jesus tells us that we are loved… we are forgiven… that peace is freely offered… and that we have a job to do.
1) We are loved: Jesus comes to us. When someone shares a scar with us, when they are vulnerable with us, it means that they trust us and care about us and are willing to share their lives with us.
2) We are forgiven: Each of us played a role in the crucifixion of Christ. Each of us is responsible for the wounds he bears. And yet, he tells us we are forgiven. When we encounter wounds in our lives, they can be symbols to us of our failings… but they can also be symbols of forgiveness, healing, and love.
- Story of running into a pole in Brandon’s car… I was in a bad place, my grandpa had just died… he wasn’t happy, but his love for me in the midst of that experience of loss and grief that got me through. My mind was in a million places when I was backing up the car and I did not even notice the parking pole before I slammed into it. The bright yellow scrape on his car marred it in the same way that my soul was grieving and broken and needed some healing. But just as that car was patched up good as new, so too, with time and love, did we both make it to the other side of the grief process.
3) Peace is offered: This may seem to go with the idea of forgiveness, but it really is about releasing ourselves from a heart full of fear.
- In her reflection, Kathryn Matthews Huey talks about life one week after Easter… when we return to life as usual: “wars and uprisings that drag on for months and years, with hundreds and thousands dead and maimed; an economic crisis that still threatens thousands with foreclosure and bankruptcy, high unemployment, high gasoline prices, high health care costs, and a political season poisoned with ugly rhetoric and personal attacks. And then there are our own private griefs and burdens: health problems, kid problems, too much work, too much worry, too much coming at us, so much to run away from, so much to fear. What’s an overwhelmed person of faith to do? Even one week after the music of the trumpets and the splendor of the lilies have faded, how are we to live “as Easter people”?
- William Sloane Coffin once said, “As I see it, the primary religious task these days is to try to think straight….You can’t think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks safety, not truth. If your heart’s a stone, you can’t have decent thoughts – either about personal relations or about international ones. A heart full of love, on the other hand, has a limbering effect on the mind. When our hearts fill with a fear we can’t organize or get our arms around, a fear that makes us feel weak and small and inadequate, all of us disciples receive that same gift of grace, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit, a gift that limbers up our minds and our hearts, turning them from hearts of stone to hearts full of love.”
4) We have a job to do: The visible wounds of Jesus and of our own lives can also remind us that there is a job to do.
- Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, and there is a world full of people who need to know that love and grace.
- Jesus takes our wounds and scars and uses them to ministry to others
- There are wounds in this world that need healing. And in the end, Jesus sent his disciples out from that upper room… and “Jesus sends us out into the world, to put our hands on the marks of its suffering, to bring good news and hope to all of God’s children.” (Kate Huey)