Photo: Here I am reading today’s gospel reading from the Spark Story Bible as children of Trinity and the TLC Christian Preschool gather around.
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
In the name of the risen Christ. Amen.
I was a good trumpet player in High School. I was first chair trumpet my junior and senior years. As first chair trumpet player, I received solos and responsibilities.
But, I was also a shy, insecure, and self-conscious teenager. Crowds terrified me. Once I was given a solo in jazz band, I was so nervous at the concert, when it came time for my solo, I literally didn’t produce any sound at all. I completely bombed.
Another time, I was asked by my conductor to share a solo with band class that I had been working on for the upcoming State Music Festival. I got so nervous in front of my classmates that my mouth went so dry. I was so bad, our conductor stopped me in the middle of my performance.
As an example of how nervous I got in front of crowds, I remember my senior year of high school, I was inducted into an honor society and received a scholarship. At the awards ceremony, I was asked to light a candle on the table in front of the gathering. My hand shook so badly, it was difficult for me to get the candle lit and some of my classmates laughed at me.
I carry those scars with me decades later. I share them today NOT as ongoing therapy to help me work through those disappointments. Rather, I share them to proclaim the work of the risen Jesus Christ using a terrified teenager afraid of crowds, to work publicly in front of crowds!
I share my scars today, to witness to the living and risen Jesus Christ who, has called me and equipped me to serve in crowds far bigger than those in high school, to positions of far more responsibility than first chair trumpet in my high school band.
I share them in response to today’s gospel reading.
In today’s Gospel, we read that Thomas knew the resurrected Jesus, when Thomas placed his fingers in the scars of the resurrected Christ. Thomas said he wouldn’t believe, unless he could see, and feel, and experience for himself, the scarred hands and feet of Jesus. For Thomas to believe, he needed first-hand experience, he needed to see for himself that the cross had been defeated, that death had been overcome, and that Jesus lived.
Thomas saw the power of the resurrection in the scars of the resurrected Christ. Thomas didn’t receive the resurrection in a great cloud of glory, with a bright light and booming voice, it was in the scars that Thomas saw the resurrected and living Jesus Christ.
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on this Second Sunday of Easter, we are invited in faith, to see and experience the risen and living Christ, alive today, leading us past our wounds and scars. We are invited in faith today, to see and experience the risen and living Christ, alive and active today, leading us out of sin, sadness, and sorrow to new life!
Some examples …
Sobriety anniversaries. Occasionally, you’ll hear people say they’ve been sober, haven’t taken a drink, haven’t smoked a cigarette, or that they’ve been clean for 3 weeks, or 8 months, or 5 years. This confession is the revealing of the scar of addiction.
We know that the scar of addiction never goes away. People are in “recovery” are “recovering” but are never “recovered.” But, in the anniversary, is the proclamation of healing and life. Granted, not all people in recovery are Christian. But in sobriety, we see the work of the risen Christ overcoming the pain and death of addiction and leading people to new life.
Another example … when my grandmother was about 70-years-old, she had to have her foot amputated. This was devastating for our family and the first time we had to deal with a disability in the family. But, I remember the Sunday, after a long year of therapy and learning to walk with a prosthetic foot, when Grandma walked forward for communion.
In faith, I claim that as the work of the risen Jesus Christ alive in her, in her healing and recovery, allowing her to walk around like nothing happened. I always recoiled when my family used the language such as grandma’s “good” leg with its biological foot, and the “bad” leg for the one with its foot removed. In faith, I say that the risen Christ had given her two good legs, even if one carried the scars of amputation, it also bore a prosthetic foot allowing her to walk around.
Another example … there has been a lot of talk and attention recently about the treatment of our Latino and African-American students in the Worcester Public Schools. In the scars of structural and institutional racism, I see the work of the living and risen Christ in people standing up and speaking out.
In the wounds, in the scars, the risen Christ lives and speaks in people saying, “Hey, we can do better than this. We are a better people than this. Let’s solve this, let’s turn this around, let’s make sure brown students and their families and black students and their families, and all students and their families, are afforded the same respect, dignity, and esteem.”
With the eyes of faith, like Thomas today, how might we experience the work of the risen and living Jesus Christ leading us out of our wounds and into new healing? How is the living Jesus Christ actively working in places of failure, heartbreak, sorrow, to bring about new life, new hope, and new healing? How is the risen Jesus Christ who lives, alive in our own wounds and scars as individuals, as a congregation, and as a society leading us past sin and death to righteousness and life?
Here’s how this would work here at Trinity Church …
How might we as a congregation, commit to following Jesus Christ, not by pretending that we have everything figured out, but in the honest sharing of Christ at work in the broken and hurting places of our lives? Instead of picking at each other and pointing out each other’s flaws, how might we instead trust the power of the living Christ to raise a broken group of sinners to new righteousness, power, and life?
How might, together, we trust the work of the living Christ, exactly in the messy and dirty places of our failure and sin – trusting that the living Christ, has the power to lead us to new life and healing?
What might it look like for us as a congregation, to intentionally create an environment where vulnerability is safe? Where mistakes are received as learning experiences? Where we can say in an environment of trust and love, “I admit I messed that one up!”
Think about it – the resurrected Jesus didn’t hide his own scars and wounds – he allowed Thomas to feel and experience them, and in them to know the power of the resurrection. We are no better than Christ. If Christ can show his scars and witness to God’s power of new life, so can we!
The Good News today, is that Christ lives! Christ’s pierced hands and feet and side, the wounds of the cross, have been overcome in the power of the resurrection! Death and sin are defeated – life and healing reign!
In Christ’s body broken and blood shed, in the bread and cup we share today, we experience the wounded and broken body of Christ alive and living! In the bread and cup, we experience the living Christ, alive in us, for the sake of the healing of the world.
Joined to the living Christ, let us go forth today in boldness to love, and serve, and speak!
And when we fall flat on our face, when we bomb in our big opportunity, when we are shaking so uncontrollably in our fear that people laugh, let us find our hope in the power of the resurrection in the living Christ! Let us know that Christ is alive and lifts us to new life, new hope, and new opportunities!
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!