Friday, April 13, 2012

John 20:29-31 - Sermon - Scars

Image from Art and the Bible

John 20:19-31

I have some cool scar stories and some lame ones.  Under my chin I have a scar from falling off my bike and having my chin be the first to thing to hit the road.  I had one some on my knees from similar stories and incidents.  There is a faint scar on my thumb when I sliced it open with a pocket knife the night before we left for England.  I had a choice to either go to the emergency room and get a stitch or two or suck it up and hope it heals as we flew overseas.  Then there are the lame stories.  I have this coolest looking scar on my hand but I got it in youth group playing football and the guy trying to intercept the ball had long fingernails and sliced me.  Then there is the one on my forehead.  Alycia gave that one to me…well some stories shouldn’t be told from the pulpit.  Just kidding but it is a lame story for another time.

You cannot go through life without some sort of scaring.  There are the scars we get on the outside but there are also those that no one can see that tear up our insides, our emotions, our spiritual lives.  It is how we deal with those scars that tells us a lot about who we are and whose we are.

I want to introduce you to someone.  Her name is Claire Wimbush.  I’ll let her tell you more about herself.  [video]

I love the theology Claire uses here.  Or to say it another way, I love the imagery Claire uses to talk about God.  “God became a particular body in history, in Jesus Christ.”  We forget that God, when he chose to be born into human flesh was limited to a human body.  Yes there were times when the divine power took over and he could do things that we mere humans cannot but he was still in that human form.  At the resurrection and after he still had the scars of his crucifixion on him.  To quote Claire again, “And God, who can make oceans, and elephants with ears the size of table cloths, and blue butterflies and all the wonderful things we see around us could surely find the power to close those wounds and to resurrect the Son of God in a perfectly whole body.  So the fact that God did not choose to do that tells me something mysterious about how God wishes to be in the world.  God never chooses to be with us except to be with us in our brokenness.”

That is powerful coming from a person with spastic cerebral palsy, a person who has known no life except one fill with imperfections when it comes to her body.  But we all have that don’t we.  In our society we have this grand idea of perfection.  We look at magazine covers, movie actors, sports stars and we attempt to hold ourselves up to that ideal and that image.  Yet is that what God is calling us too?

Usually in the story of Doubting Thomas we concentrate on Thomas.  We look very hard at the one who doubted because of all those who have doubted in the past or continue to doubt the resurrection of Jesus.  It is a great soap box for us preachers to stand up on the Sunday after Easter.  But what I found interesting is looking it from Jesus’ perspective.  In this story what does Jesus use to prove his resurrection?  He uses his scars.  He uses the holes in his hands and the slice in his side to prove to Thomas that it is really him.

The painting shown on the screen is called Doubting Thomas or as it is known Thomas Putting His Finger on Christ’s Wound.  The painting is done by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio [car-a-vahj-o].  This painting was done around 1602-1603 and what makes Caravaggio unique is his use of light and darkness.  It almost makes the image look 3D.  I love this painting for many reasons.  One reason is how real it looks.  His ability has a painter is amazing and the position of all the characters in the painting almost invites you to bend in for a closer look.  I love how you can see the little flap of skin resting on Thomas’ finger and I have always wondered when Thomas did this in real life if it tickled.  The other reason is a little more recent discovery.  When I was looking at this painting again something struck my eyes for the first time.  We see one of Jesus’ hands holding back his robe, exposing his wound.  What is his other hand doing though?  It is on the wrist of Thomas guiding it into his wound. 

When I saw that I was amazed because of what it tells us about the character of God.  He is okay with our doubt.  He is okay with us questioning him.  He will caringly and gracefully carry us through the process of making sense of it all and coming to a place of belief.  In this painting Jesus is in control and like a father allowing their little child to poke around and explore his face while sitting on his lap, Jesus is allow the disciples to soak up as much hands-on experience as they need to belief in the resurrection.

Let’s hear a little bit more from Claire. [video]

Wow.  What a person of God.  What a child of God Claire is.  Many of us would be holding a grudge against God for the hand that we were dealt if we were in Claire’s shoes.  Some of us are mad at God for the life we have or the situations we have gone through.  But is it worse than Claire’s?  I look around and I see able body people.  I see people who are dealing with life, some more than others, but you all can wash your hair.  You can get dressed by yourself.  Life, when compared to someone who has spastic cerebral palsy, is quiet good. 

I am not diminishing your wounds or your scars.  But I think Claire gives us a great perspective this morning.  Here is one quote from her, “As a culture we have fallen into the trap of allowing imperfections to be deeply stigmatizing.  We believe imperfections only diminish us, if we have [a life altering disease, cancer, if we are over weight, if we don’t move like we use to or if we aren’t the ideal we always hoped to be than] we are somehow less than we should be.”  When we do this though do you understand what we are doing to God?  We are telling God that he got it wrong.  When our DNA cocktail was mixed up and he implanted talents, gifts, and feelings into our soul, that somehow God didn’t know what he was doing.  What it comes down to is we are unhappy with who we are.

I wonder if Jesus is unhappy with the marks on his body?  When we meet him and we see the scars in his hands and feet, the flap of skin on his side, they flogging scars on his back, will he hide himself from us, ashamed of his past?  I don’t think so.  I think he will give us permission for us to take it in so we can find belief in what he had done.  I think he wears those scars as badges of honor and ways to show how God’s glory, God’s grace, and God’s love for us was carried out in this world.  I think he will look at us and say, “Put your finger here.  Look at my hands.  Put your hand into my side.  No more disbelief.  Believe!”

The good news is we can do that to.  Claire’s message and her theology about her life will always be stuck in my head.  She has shown us her wounds, her scars, her imperfections and by doing so has shown us the glory of God.  She said that we strive to this image of perfection that is glossy, shiny, and pretty but that is false.  There is truly only one perfect person in this world.  He died a little over a week ago and last Sunday came back to life.  He was resurrected from the dead and boldly shows us his scars in order for us to believe. 

Our job as followers of this perfect person is to hold ourselves up to his standards, not the worlds.  He looked at each one of us as we were being formed in our mother’s womb and he knew us.  He knows what you are going through and the little and big imperfections we have to deal with.  Instead of being ashamed and stigmatized by them, maybe we should use them as a way to point to the glory of God instead.

Claire said that her job is to reminder her congregation where they are going and when they get lost to remind them to “learn to become so aware of yourself and so aware of what God is doing in your life and in the life of the community around you, that everything you do shows forth the glory of God, even the imperfections.”  So may you look at your imperfections, your wounds and your scars with new eyes.  See them not how the world sees them but see them through the eyes of the Risen Christ, as proof of what he has done for us and does through us in order for others to believe.  That will bring glory to the Risen God we worship everyday!

And all God’s people said…Amen.


John Bryant said...

How do you know Claire? I worked with her at the VA during my CPE unit.

Unknown said...

Claire was in a video that was shown in a retreat I went to. Due to a request I cannot post the videos yet (although I hope too by this time next year). She seems to be an amazing woman and minister.