John 20: 19-29 - Sermon begins at 2:18

Easter 2 Text: John 20: 19-29

WOUNDS … you can’t miss them in this story from John’s Gospel.
We might have expected the resurrection to have covered them over, or better still, removed them altogether. But there they are, as this story gets told, front and centre ... the risen Christ himself making sure we notice.
At first it looks like a proof … his way of showing them it really is he. And yet all through John’s Gospel, Jesus is never big on the signs themselves. In fact, that’s what he feared … that people would get hung up on the signs …addicted to the signs … that one sign would only lead to the wish for another and then another … when in fact it’s really about what the signs point to.
So there’s good reason to imagine that in this case, there’s more to be grasped through the showing of these wounds than “positive identification.”

I think we’re meant to wonder, what’s with the wounds?
Why show us the wounds?

Well what if we see them first of all for what they are.
These are the marks of torture. These are the marks of shame, of public humiliation, of intimidation … which is what crucifixion was all about. These are marks of domination … of brutality … inhumanity. These marks bear the miscarriage of justice … the story of betrayal. They reveal pain -- emotional, spiritual, physical pain. They reveal the power to diminish, to incite hatred, even self-hatred … the power to destroy life.

And yet here we have Jesus appearing, alive … not only alive but greeting his friends who fled, with Peace … “Peace to you,” he says. Not just “I come in Peace” … but “Peace to you” …like he’s blessing them … restoring them somehow … restoring relationship, restoring their hollowed out, traumatized selves.

You can see it can’t you … there’s way more going on than “it is I!”
This is love’s power wildly at work. This is love’s power rising up through the ashes, refusing to let the worst win the day.
This is love’s power breaking through in ways beyond imagining … beyond what was thought possible.  This is “I have come that you might have abundant life.”  This is “I have come that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full.”  This is all that he has been about all along, brought into focus, that they and we might not miss it … that there is power for life at work in the everyday of our life, this flow of healing unstoppable love, relentless even and especially in the face of all that would endeavour to limit it.

But Thomas wasn’t there to witness this for himself; and he’s not about to take them at their word. He wants his own experience. Don’t we all want our own experience! And because they’ve told him about the wounds, that’s what he fixes on … as though his experience will be just like theirs.

One week later, the story goes, the disciples were once again in the house, still behind locked doors. This time, Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. Like he did for the others, he shows Thomas his wounds. Even more he says “here, touch!” So we’re given to see Thomas reaching out his hand, touching into the wounds … “My Lord and My God!” he says … like something happened! something far more than he’s prepared for.

Could it be that somehow he’s touched not just the raw wounds of Jesus own suffering … but that somehow he’s touched into the vastness of the world’s suffering. And not just the suffering, but the infinite love that descended with Jesus into the suffering, such that now, that love radiates through it all? Could it be this is what Thomas is touching?
A few lines from Leonard Cohen come to mind, where he writes “I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair, with a love so vast and shattered, it will reach you every where.”

I wonder if that doesn’t capture something of what Thomas experiences … what he’s touching … what’s touching him … this love that permeates everything! even the worst.

Maybe that’s what Jesus is offering Thomas … an entry into that mystery … how it is that in the heart of suffering, in the ravages of evil, there the love of God is throbbing … and so Thomas is given new eyes to see and a heart of courage to draw near the suffering of the world, trusting that his care and compassion will be gathered up and enfolded within that infinite flow of healing love.

I know a number of you have heard me speak of Gordon Cosby, that great founder of the Church of the Saviour, in Washington DC who died a few years at the age of 95 … this man who in his lifetime was part of initiating a ridiculous number of life-giving ministries. Among a whole number of tributes written at the time of his death, there was one by a dear friend, Killian Noe, in which she recalls a couple of her final conversations with Gordon. This is what she writes …
I’ve lived in Seattle for the past fifteen years. In the fall of 2012,
I received word that Gordon was dying. At 95 he had had many ups and downs, but this seemed to be different. So I made immediate plans to go to DC. When I arrived at Christ House where Gordon and Mary lived, Gordon inquired, “How is it you managed to come at this time?”
“I heard you were dying,” I admitted. “I heard that rumor, too,”Gordon quipped.
In that visit, Gordon shared, “God asked me to raise money for a credit union for the poor of Adams Morgan. I told God, ‘I am an old man who can barely stand up.’ And God said, ‘You still have influence. Use your influence for the poor.’”
“Gordon,” I observed, “you talk about your conversations with God in a different way than before. You used to say, ‘I try to act on the best, hazy, inner guidance I can get.’ Are you hearing God’s calling with a different clarity,” I asked, “and if so, what
accounts for that new clarity?”
Gordon responded, “Now that my body is failing and all I can do all day long is ‘wait on God,’ the guidance is getting a lot more clear and specific.”
“Makes me think we should be less about action and more about waiting,” I concluded.
“Of course,” Gordon reminded, “it’s always a balance between waiting to be infused by Divine Love and acting on the guidance given.”

Four months after that visit, Gordon and I were talking on the phone. “Gordon,” I said, “at this point all of your days are spent mostly ‘waiting on God.’ What do you know more deeply than you have ever known it before?”  Gordon responded in a weak voice but with palpable excitement, “The immense vastness of the eternal realm of Divine Love. The whole world is a mere seed in the vastness of this Love. I was ignorant before to how vast this realm is. It is more vast than I ever imagined.” [1]

There it is again, isn’t it … “I greet you from the other side of suffering and despair with a love so vast and shattered, it will reach you everywhere.”

So I wonder, what would you be about … what would we be about if we allowed ourselves to trust these powerful witnesses … who have come to see what we might not see until we are 95! … 
what would we give ourselves to, where might we venture to lend our agency, our influence, our care for the cause of abundant life if we allowed ourselves to trust that Love’s power is relentlessly at work, even, especially where it seems beyond hope.

And what of our own hurts that haunt us … our own humiliations and betrayals, the private agonies inside that play on us … that play us.  Christ plays in ten thousand places! writes Gerald Manely Hopkins, who like Leonard Cohen isn’t just waxing poetic, but has touched into something … something astonishingly wondrous!
What of our own wounds and wounding that we may be afraid to re-visit, that we may have left behind, because “what’s done is done.”  And yet, isn’t it there that so vast a love awaits us… to surprise us, restore us, to rise in us, that we too would be wounded healers, powerful witnesses, spiritual activists.

Maybe this is why Christ comes with wounds exposed … maybe this is what he’s offering Thomas and everyone of us:
an entry into that mystery … how it is that in the heart of suffering, in the ravages of evil, in the face of whatever would diminish us, cut us down, there the love of God is throbbing … and so we are given to see with new eyes and a heart of courage that we may draw near the suffering -- in our world, in our own dear selves -- trusting that even and especially there,
we will be met, joined with, this infinite flow of healing love.


[1] Killian Noe, Honouring Gordon Cosby, posted in “Callings” The Church of the Saviour Newsletter - Honouring Gordon Cosby,