Wounds and Doubts (Second Sunday of Easter)

Sermons on YouTube..

The predictability of the ‘Doubting Thomas’ story the weekend after Easter always irks me. It’s the same story every single year and over the years, I’ve come to resent it. My irritation with it colors my ability to see beyond Thomas: I feel like I’ve spun many words defending Thomas’s ‘doubts’ or discussing the benefits of peace. Important lessons, for sure…

But, I personally knew I needed something other than that this year.

Have you ever watched a movie where the camera view is intent upon the interactions between primary characters and what is happening between them and then gradually, the cinematographer pulls the scope back and you’re privy to a fuller picture…?

That’s what happened for me this week as I read the words over and over again – looking for a unique perspective. At first, I had tunnel vision and all I could see was Thomas and his requests or Jesus blowing his sweet breath (or maybe it’s really stank, after a few days in the underside of the universe) on the disciples (which, you know, I should probably save that for Pentecost weekend). However, as the camera pulled back and my view broadened, all I could think was, “What did you expect them to do when it’s gone…?”

Let me explain.

It’s easy to point out the silliness of the disciples locking themselves away in a room. Exactly what were they hoping to accomplish by doing that? And it’s easy to be grossed out by Thomas putting his hand in Jesus’s side. How much proof do you need there, buddy? And it’s easy to think ‘they just heard the testimony of the women and Peter and saw the empty tomb.’ Shouldn’t you be out spreading the good news?

But, the truth is: It’s gone. Or, more accurately He’s gone.
The way the disciples and the women and all of Jesus’s followers used to experience him, feel him, see him, hear him… is gone.

Which got me thinking about how so often we live our lives without a profound sense of God’s presence. Even if we’ve had a moment in time when Jesus felt tangible – close enough to touch and our hearts ached with fulness – the feeling usually dissipates.
Leaving us with no lasting proof that God exists.
No formula for getting it back.
No certainty.
It all goes.
Leaving an imprint upon your life, which only makes you want Jesus more.
Or, makes you question if maybe you made it all up.
Maybe He wasn’t who he seemed to be.
Maybe you just clung to illusorly hope.
Maybe it is just all an idle tale.

Thomas yearned for a living encounter with Jesus. Who can blame him for that? Don’t we all want that?

Thomas has been marked by Jesus’s presence in his life.
And Thomas is marked by Jesus’s absence in his life.

Maybe he doesn’t have physical scars or marks to show how deeply affected he is by Jesus’s life and death, but nonetheless, his body retains the memories. Afterall, it is with our bodies that we experience deep trauma, deep anger, deep terror, deep joy, and deep peace.

It’s our chests that hurts when we mourn.
It’s our faces that burn when we are angry.
It’s our adrenaline that spikes when we are terrified.
It’s our hearts that swell when we are joyous.
It’s our shoulders, jaws, and minds that relax when we know peace.

Our bodies are marked by the story of our life.
Thomas’s whole body hurts: hurts from loving and from losing; from believing and from doubting. He’s not going to risk another scar upon his heart by placing his faith in false hope. This resurrection thing is too far-fetched. He has no more blood left to bleed over this Jesus-guy.

I get it…

The quandary for Thomas is he also remembers the love, the promise, the care, and the exhilaration that came from Jesus’s presence. His mind may wish to protect his heart, but his body can’t help but remember.

And hope… maybe despite the pain, loss, and scars there could be something to all the resurrection talk.

I know that in our text Jesus holds out his hands and shows his side so Thomas and the others can see his wounds and therefore have the ‘proof’ they need…
But, I wonder if there’s more to it than that.

Maybe Jesus’s freshly wounded body is saying to Thomas and to us: I’m hurt too. My body remembers too. He feels the pain of the cross and remembers the hurt of betrayal as he carries the weight of humanity and the burden of love.

Jesus must have winced, drawing his breath in sharply when Thomas touched his sores. It must’ve been a reminder to Jesus of the humiliation, of the yelling, of the cross, of the tomb. And yet, there he stood, wounds and all, because of his love for Thomas.

Thomas’s wounded heart and Jesus’s wounded body remind me that some hurts and some loves are for keeps. My body will always be one that battled an eating disorder; one that lost babies; one that defended itself the best it could against violence; one whose heart was broken by unfaithfulness and love.

Our bodies remember the call that stopped our heart, when the phone rings at an unexpected time. Our bodies remember the death of a loved one when the house is too still. Our bodies remember the trauma of abuse or neglect when a loud noise shatters the usual hum of the day.

Even after the resurrection some wounds remain.
For Jesus and for us.

Thomas’s body, Jesus’s body, our bodies tell broken, holy stories.
And also, Thomas’s questions, Jesus’s questions, our questions about ‘why’ and ‘how’ tell broken, holy stories.
Stories that hurt; stories that shouldn’t be; stories that leave marks.  
And, they are stories that proclaim the resurrection – because here we are.

Sometimes scarcely breathing, which is maybe why that breathing thing was necessary in today’s reading. You know, they’re alive, but just barely, so Jesus helps them out a little… Ok – mostly kidding. But, also some truth to it, but that’s a whole other sermon.

Jesus breathes new life into their story; into their questions. The locked room is not where they are meant to stay.
And Jesus does this in our lives too. 

Our stories of resurrection matter – the ones where we have encountered grace, experienced new life when none seemed possible, or known a peace only God can give- these are the stories that move us to believe in God’s life changing story for humanity. Stories we should tell.

We want to think resurrection is pure and perfect and clean – like once we are raised, once we know the Risen Savior that we’ll never fall, doubt, or be wounded again. But, I think, the resurrection continues to beat; I think we continue to be made alive not in spite of our losses and sorrows and wounds, but because of them.

All the happy, all the sad, all the angry;
All the gratefulness, the acceptance, the questions, the disbelief…
Every single emotion, every single wound, every single question all smashed together:
That’s where the resurrection lives.

Our bodies know the story of the resurrection to be true.
When our doubts and wounds meet Jesus’s promises and wounds new life begins. And the resurrection happens all over again. During this Week After, may this be true for each of us.