For this week’s events, click on “Download PDF.”
Today was our Graduation Sunday in Virch. Congratulations, Graduates of 2020! We love you!
Click YouTube link to watch our virtual service, with a special video just for our grads.
Part 1: Wounded Nation
Good morning, my friends. It’s good to be with you today.
We are in the midst of two pandemics. The Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least 107,000 people in the United States.
And we are in the midst of a racism pandemic.
And we grieve. Oh we grieve, the exponential loss of black lives. We grieve so recently the loss of Breonna Taylor – who’s 27th birthday, would have been this past Friday. We remember and say her name once again today, Breonna Taylor.
This racism pandemic is one that has plagued our nation since it’s birth.
And so not surprisingly the vulnerabilities and inequities laid bare by the covid pandemic have fallen hardest on Black bodies. Revealing to us how we have long been deeply sick as a nation, with no balm for the aching.
As the delayed waves and ripples of awareness make their way across our country uncovering where we have left the wounds of black people raw and untreated, for 400+ years – we have a lot to learn about the power and the tenderness of wounds. …how to let our black siblings rest – and how to get at the underlying work of dressing those wounds.
We are a wounded nation. And we have long been a wounded nation.
On Monday this week our family talked of vigils, rallies, marches which ones we would be a part of in the days to come – realizing what a privilege it is to have the luxury of choice. A part of – what that means… to be in solidarity to be an ally? What we could be a part of changing…. We talked around all of these points – but hadn’t acutely brought Jesus into the conversation.
My daughter interrupted and asked, “But does it really matter if we pray? I mean it’s been so long, people have been praying for so long – and it seems like nothing has changed – nothing is working. So does it matter?”
Scott and I reflexively went into a discourse on prayer, “well – it depends on how you think about prayer, action v. sitting at the periphery… blah, blah, blah…and how our own experiences of faith in our past have led us down these different paths of prayer.”
And she interrupted again and said, “Stop – I want you to answer my question – does prayer matter?”
Such a disruptive question.
A question that holds within it the bewilderment of what she bears witness to. Such deep pain, wounding in the world – and the truth of what she knows of God – to help… and yet calling out that this mode of prayer – does not seem TO WORK.
We need to start paying attention to, and listening to the voices that say, “Things aren’t working”… whether it’s a 13 yr old – or the wounded crying out in pandemics – or a disciple like Thomas, (who we will spend more time with this morning). Because these voices will be what HELPS us into building/creating alternative landscapes of care in our world – that hold both the power of the resurrected and wounded Jesus.
[PRAYER] God, show us what’s in these wounds. Invite us into the most intimate, deepest, HARD & messiest parts of ourselves and others. Help us to keep pressing in – to listen and learn – so we can move trusting that this is where you reside also.
Part II: Scripture
Let’s read together the story of the disciple, Thomas. I invite you into this ancient story this morning – to see how it translates to your own unique, story… let’s read together:
John 20:19–29 (NIV)
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger [IN] where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus has just died. The disciples’ wounds of grief, and despair are so raw. And they are sheltering themselves in a room, they have retreated in fear of the leaders who demanded Jesus’ death, and are still circling – looking for Jesus followers. And so the disciples go back to the last place they were with Jesus alive. To find peace. ..
You see these disciples had imagined and believed for a world that was not governed by state-sponsored violence. They had dared to dream and to hope for a world where flourishing of humanity would lend itself to equitable life…a world where healing could be realized for everyone.
They believed IN resurrection.
Yet instead they saw death. Death on the cross of their friend and teacher, their rabbi. And with his death, the dying of their own vision and dreams – for this new kin-dom of God.
And so here they are in a liminal, in-between space, this waiting room. WAITING.
Their grief is so much though, and maybe doubt is creeping in too – this waiting space between death and hope is hard to be in – when everything is atrociously the same as it was the day before.
What the disciples want in this waiting room is, “peace”. A version of peace that allows them an escape from the loud threats, a place to quiet their inner turmoil and grief, a temporary loss of sensation – some numbing agent – some anesthesia. They want a version of resurrection to burst into that room, like the sun – shining with warmth and permeating, obvious hope… not a version of resurrection that in it’s sunbeams reveals the injustice and suffering of the world, as abundant as dust particles. And they ask their own disrupting questions at that familiar table, “What is resurrection then? What is peace?”
And then their answer comes. Jesus appears to them from behind these locked doors. Resurrection in the flesh. With Bleeding, Open, Raw wounds – embodying the very thing they don’t want to see aymore – the wounds of injustice… but saying the very thing they hoped for, “Peace be WITH you”. A bewildering picture, but one they immediately notice as their Lord.
Part I(b) – revisited: US
We too – are in a waiting room my friends. This inbetween place… Where like the disciples we are witnessing death and waiting for resurrection.
The kind of resurrection that Jesus brings is one with the promise for tomorrow, a way forward when it only looks like dead-ends – an upheaval of unjust systems – flipping tables and turning everything on its head…it’s hope. It’s resurrection.
But it’s messy and gritty and it will require us to be close to pain. Now for . And move. And act in love.
Jesus likes to disturb, surprise and provoke- to roll back stones, and bust through walls .
He asks us to do the same. He breathes the HOLY Spirit on to these disciples – to send them out into the world – to create a new humanity – to birth something different. New.
And so, instead of “waiting” behind closed doors – Jesus shows us in this scripture how to bring resurrection to our world… and that is to not give in to despair -and not deny the pain – but to get close to the wounds – “proximate to pain”, as Bryan Stevenson the author of Just Mercy tells us.
Many of you who inhabit black bodies, know this pain by lived experience. And my words to come are not to ask you to inspect your pain – you know it so well. My words are for my white siblings to come and lean in closer – but not by probing black people for information, adding a fresh layer of trauma –
But by asking one another these disrupting fundamental questions – like “does prayer matter?”, “Is America possible?” “what do i feel or not feel?” “ IS Jesus alive?”
And with the breath of the Spirit, discover the answers – by walking them out – by going into the wounds of our country, by getting closer, to look at them deeper in ourselves – and follow Jesus in standing in solidarity with the pain of the world around us. We need to try to continue to agitate ourselves to be proximate to the pain.
So that we can look at such pain, such wounds in Jesus’ hands, his feet, his sides… such pain in our nation, and say STILL – HE IS ALIVE… that is resurrection.
Because to be proximate and ask questions – will help bust down long standing walls and structures. And seeing the risen Jesus reminds us that the power of love can not be deadened within us.
Part III: Thomas & doubt:
Thomas loved Jesus so much. He cared so much for the power of resurrection that could be brought to the world.. And he does not shy away from asking the uncomfortable questions – earlier in this gospel, he says to Jesus, “NO, I don’t know where you are going? How are we to know where you are going?” And here in this scripture we see Thomas say to his friends, “Really? You have seen the Lord? Is it so that Jesus is alive? I must see it for myself.”
Because, I doubt it.
This is vulnerable work. He too, witnessed the injustice, the violence the brutality -the death of his teacher, Jesus. And he too knows that Jesus said he would come back, resurrect. He cares so much that this be true, for himself and humanity – that he can’t just stand on the outside and passively accept it as true.
So he says, “I must see and touch the wounds.” The power of vulnerability, how to not just go close to pain and injustice, but to know more about it – to press into it….
A friend of mine says that, “Doubt is the friend of questions and the teacher of truth”. (Padraig O’Tuama). Perhaps Thomas’ disruptive question here, “Is Jesus alive?” – unveils the truth – that yes, Jesus is alive – and this alive-ness looks like resurrection and woundedness.
Doubt, questions are vulnerable – because they challenge the status quo. The word vulnerable from the Latin word, “vulnus” – means “wound.”
So it makes sense that Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubt, invites him to touch his wounds, a vulnerable action. If we re-read the words of Jesus – in these verses – we see that Thomas’ need for proof didn’t strike Jesus as a challenge – but was an invitation for Thomas to open up, to be vulnerable to go deeper. “Put your finger [IN] here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it INTO my side. Stop doubting and believe.” COME IN, Thomas. COME IN from the periphery of the room, the periphery of your faith. Faith in me, is getting close to the pain, the wounding, – within yourself too.. because from here is where the gospel resides and goes forth.
Doubt, our disruptive questions….. are our faculties for understanding what’s about to happen and where we need to go. Jesus says, go to the “wounds”. Go to the places, the people, the cracks where hurt is, pain, discomfort is – and embody Jesus there. BE a prayer there.
Our prayers, our dreams, our hope are birthed often from the spaces where wounds are, where we’ve paid attention to what’s hurting, learned of the injustices, how these wounds were caused.
My daughter’s question at the table – revealed to me, a peripheral version of prayer. A way to shelter behind a word, like the disciples, locked behind doors – hoping for “hollow peace”.. .removed from the debris, the noise, the ache of life. ..” These words prayer, peace – hold no vision if they aren’t embodied…
Proverbs 29:18 says that, “where there is no vision, the people perish” – but Jesus reminds me as he busts through locked doors and hearts – that he and WE can embody both resurrection and woundedness – we can call for justice and peace – and in this people LIVE.
Thomas shows us that the vision that he and his fellow disciples had for the kin-dom of God ..the dreams they held of sharing the good news with so many – the hope they had for a more just world… would only be birthed when they became embodied…. When they took on flesh, broken, wounded flesh.
Today I ask to touch Jesus’ wounds – his hands his feet his side. Because I grieve today – I have grief upon grief … because I need to know that he is tender, and alive in this crazy waiting room of life – where I strain to see resurrection. And I ask to touch Jesus’ wounds as a prayer – to draw me from the periphery of my “stilted” faith, to active faith.
How many of you today, are walking around with fresh wounds?
How many of you have wounds that have been gaping and aching for a long, long time?
Part IV: “Peace be with you”
Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” “Peace be with you.”
This peace goes beyond what the disciples were hoping for when they went into that upper room. This peace is a deep call, an embodied prayer. Birthed from known places of woundedness and injustice. And from a place where the HOLY SPIRIT breathes her powerful breath.
I invite as Jesus does – for those black siblings among us who need peace to be REST.. to rest. To find peace in the familiarity and comfort of trusted friends. And I am inviting those who CAN to find peace in action. To act, to go out and disturb unjust peace – on behalf of those who need rest.
Peace be with you, as you move OR as you rest. For those of us who move – know that peace is not an escape from what is hard, or from what is loud, or painful – but it is a way into the wounds with hearts and eyes and ears wide open. It’s not a word to shelter under, to stay separate from the world. It is what we pray for to STAND IN the wounds, it’s what we pray for to CALL out injustice, it’s what we embody when we get proximate to those who ache, are tired and hopeless. PEACE is a strong, powerful, ACTIVE force that generates and binds us to one another, that helps us resist numbness and keeps us intimately engaged.
So many of us wish to return to normal, rush to regain a sense of previous familiarity. But if the therapists among us are right – we will not return to “normal,” ever again..we will forever be marked by this time… And if the black voices among us are right – we should not want to return to “normal” ever again.
So it is time for us to come close to Jesus, with our doubt, to get intimate, vulnerable, to be uncomfortable…. Not just intellectualize or create policy or laws to help thwart pain and injustices… BUT use our bodies to speak -and drive justice…to change hearts and heal. THIS IS why I think JEsus says “peace be with you.” We can’t feel that peace, without justice… and we can’t feel that justice without going to the source of the pain..
What will we shape, imagine, dream, vision for – and how will we pray? What will we embody?
What do our mouths ask for? – and how will our own bodies/our flesh be part of the answer?
Thomas shows us where to begin – with the wounded, resurrected Jesus.
The one who holds the whole world in his hands. The pain and joy and trauma and beauty – and asks US to also hold it too – asks US to embody him in the world .
May we greet today as resurrected and wounded people, and may we be greeted by Jesus at every turn saying “peace be with you”. “Peace be with you.”
I’m thankful today for how my daughter pushes me to pray connected to wounds and resurrection in my body…. and how the scriptures echo her thoughts, “not to pray like the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the synagogues – (and in front of churches) – and on the street corners to (merely) be seen by others.” Matthew 6:5…..but to pray,
9 “Oh God, Divine parent of us all – *in whom is heaven* (New Zealand Prayer Book).
Holy, Loving, wounded one is what we call you.
May your love be enacted in this world THROUGH us.
and may you be our LIVING guide to create the world now, and as we imagine it to be.
11 Give us what we need to do this work – today, our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us – Oh God, deliver us – from the evil one.’
Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you – today, my friends.