Re-Members – Sermon for Easter 2

He couldn’t remember.  He couldn’t remember it.  It’s not that he had forgotten, not that the memory had slipped away like so many do these days.  You know, some of us better than other just how tricky or slippery our memories can be. But it just, it wasn’t there; it hadn’t been and couldn’t be, because he Thomas, just about all the other disciples wasn’t there.  He hadn’t actually seen the nails tear into Jesus’ flesh, he hadn’t seen the cords of rope wear and burn through Jesus’ skin.  He hadn’t seen him that first time when the risen Jesus showed up to the disciples.

 

We’ve always heard, we’ve always read and been told that Thomas was the doubter, the one who needed to see to believe, but it doesn’t have to be that way, what if he needed to see, not to believe, but to remember.  Perhaps he wanted to fill the holes in the story with his touch, perhaps he just needed something solid to save him from his guilt at abandoning Jesus.

 

There is no shame in wanting more than just listening to others talk about Jesus.  There is nothing bad about wanting to experience, to remember, to have a memory of your own.  For it is true that our memories shape us.  In so many ways.

 

Steve Jobs, you know of Apple, computers, iPods, I phone’s, and I pads.  He is quoted as saying, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

 

Steve jobs could say this because in 2003 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died about 8 years later in October of 2011.

 

Remembering, like this isn’t just the ability recall facts, details, names and numbers.  this isn’t a mere intellectual exercise, but to have an experience, a tangible, touchable, memorable thing, a remembering that impacts how we live, changes how we see the world, the people around us.

 

That is, as studies have shown what the younger generations are looking for.  They see no reason to join a church unless they are able to really engage love in real connections and relationships.  They don’t want to talk about Jesus or have someone like me talk at them about him.  They are a lot like Thomas.  Not

             Not that they want proof.  No they aren’t looking for someone to discover Noah’s ark, or Indiana Jones to recover the ark of the covenant.  But also not to just be told, to sit and listen to someone talk about Jesus, to even sing about Jesus, no matter how fancy or hip, isn’t going to cut it.  They are not looking to see Jesus on screen or stage, but to touch him and to be touched by his body even today.

 

To be able to remember the touch of love that is so real it rips a hole in our heart.    Isn’t that what we say here every week.  Do this in remembrance of me. This kind of remembering isn’t just the mark it on the calendar, acknowledge it happened along time ago in a far away place.  No this remembering is different.

 

This is the kind of remembering that allows you to see the wounds, the scars of others.  This is the remembering that allows us to look even at our own selves at those places that are rough and ugly, at the pains.   The remembering that we do here together is a healing that goes beyond any medicine or therapies.  This is where we remember into today what peace looks like, the peace that overcomes fear.  That is the peace that will hold the hand of a stranger, hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look, think, speak, act, even smell like you do.  But to simply be touched and to touch in love.

 

In this remembering we actually heal the dismembering that happens so much in life.  We don’t have to pretend we’re perfect here, that we have it all together here. Like those disciples in our gospel this morning we’ve all got those things we like to lock up and hide, for fear they may get out.  But the risen Jesus comes to us every week and says, just as he did for Thomas that day and says, “Touch, feel, my body given for you.  Now go out and give yours away too, take what I have given you forgiveness, mercy, welcome, and peace and share that with everyone.  That is what is most important, that is a memory worth touching, that is a memory worth keeping, that is re-membering.

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Where does it hurt? (Sermon from Feb. 12, 2012)

Pic provided by Ms. Shayla Montgomery (a creative young lady and up & coming artist in our neighborhood)

Where does it hurt? As a mom, I’ve asked this hundreds times, if not more. I’ve been asked it too, where does it hurt? It is a logical question, we can’t always see what’s going on; we can’t see the problem. That, however, isn’t necessarily the case in our gospel story for this morning. After all, this guy is a leper. Now he may have suffered from the actual disease leprosy. Or he may not. That label was given to all sorts of conditions and diseases that we now know are not the same thing. But they didn’t. What the folks of his time and place did know though, was that one way of keeping disease at bay was to send the sufferer away. This also took care of any issues of guilt, because in their thinking the guy was probably being punished for something. That’s how it worked—so they thought.
So let’s see, where does he hurt? His body, for sure from the pain of disease. And his heart as well from the pain of unease, the pain of being cast aside and away, torn from mother, wife, brothers, children, aunts and uncles, from that guy who always lent a hand, and his other friend, the one who knew the best jokes. Where does it hurt? It hurts in the places they used to be.
Now before we get all high and mighty about how simple-minded and ignorant those bible-time folks were way back when, there’s a lot of folks walking around in pain today. Yeah sure, we all know someone struggling with disease or the conditions of aging. We know what it’s like to lose more friends than we make. Where does it hurt? Well right in our own homes, and in our families, in our own hearts—that’s where it hurts—even if it’s not all that obvious right away on the surface.
Like it is for others. You know the ones we’ve pushed to the curb so to speak. One thing about being the church here in town on our corner, we will probably see someone this morning. Some man or woman walking down the street (hopefully on the sidewalk). He may be just be walking, just to keep moving, to keep warm, to get to a meal site or some shelter. She may be walking these streets hoping to make some money for herself, for her kids, maybe even for some drugs. We don’t know; we can’t see all the pain. These are folks through the choices they made with the limited options they were given, who walk a different wilderness—not a desert far from rest of us, but a wilderness of loneliness where we can see, we can see some, at least some of where it hurts.
The thing about Jesus is though we don’t hear him ask the question. The man begging for his life simply says, “You know if you wanted to, you could do something about this.” So, Jesus raises his hand with the answer. But, his hand doesn’t shoot up in the air, but down to touch the man right where it hurts. Jesus could have just said—be clean, be healed—you know in that best authoritative lord and savior tone of voice. But that would have just removed one piece of the pain puzzle.
Instead Jesus does what, frankly a lot of us, would think at least twice before doing. He puts his hand on him, and I’m pretty sure this wasn’t some tap on the shoulder, keep your chin up old man. Jesus put his fingers, his palm, his hand on the man, he put it right where it hurt, in that lonely spot. Think of it this way, it’s just about as if Jesus kissed him and made it better. You know, like I’ve done so many times as a mom, as perhaps you’ve done as a parent, or perhaps your mom or dad did for you. You know that healing miracle of touch. Of course, every time we do that, we know the boo boo, the bruise, the cut—we know that the body will continue to repair, the blood will bring these wonderful white blood cells, and clotting agents, and ok that’s the end of my biology knowledge. We know the body will attend to the damaged tissues.
But when I’ve asked where does it hurt, and I’ve bent down and held my little one close and kissed him. There’s been a healing, and you know sometimes the hurt really does go away.
I remember one evening as child—I was probably a tween somewhere between 11 – 13ish, and I was upset. Ok I was crying—sitting in my room, on my bed sobbing. And that night, not my mom, but my dad came in, sat down next to me, talked to me, put his arms around me, and actually held me. The thing is, I remember all that. What I don’t remember is what brought me to tears that time. I don’t remember why I cried. Now I couldn’t tell you anymore where it hurt.
I think that’s what happened to that guy. He wasn’t running all around town, knocking on everybody’s door rehearsing his sufferings. Woe is me. He was done with that. Look where that had got him. So he isn’t telling us where it hurt. Instead he’s got a whole new story that whether Jesus likes it or not is gonna get out. The news is gonna spread that he’s been held and healed.
The thing is, wherever it hurts for us, Jesus is still reaching out to embrace and to heal—not just the broken bodies, but the broken hearts, the broken relationships, the broken trust, our broken communities, our broken world. Yeah, things may not on the surface look much better, but the healing is going on. It’s as if, when we come here together, when we are alone at night on our knees or in the very least in prayer, or walking down the street ourselves—the divine one of immense love bends down to kiss us and make it better.
Like I said though on the surface we may not notice the change at first, but Jesus is still doing this and when we look deeper at ourselves, at what’s going on here, we believe that Jesus is still doing this, and get this—he’s using us to be that touch.
When we offer more than just a handshake (nice to see you this morning). But in putting our hand-out we offered more, offered our hearts. We would stretch out not just an arm but a life. Now just a note. What Jesus did was risky and unconventional. What he did had consequences. The thinking back then was that Jesus was contaminated with the disease, with the punishment, with the guilt, with the consequences. Well, while we understand the spread of disease a whole lot better. By stretching out more than just our hand, it still takes more than a handy wipe. Things may get dirty, they may get messy, things would take longer. When we sit with, especially our elders, alone in their apartments, rooms in the nice nursing homes we’ve built for them to fill. You know it takes more to actually hold a hand in love and listen. If we really sit with and listen, not just to the superficial stuff of stories, but really look at each other, at the person who wanders in off the street, if we sit with someone at Community Night or our Lenten journey and really listen and look for where it hurts, things will change. We will be changed.
Jesus went to where it hurt, and the thing is he stayed there. The crowds forced him to stay outside of town—so that’s where he stayed. We stay there too because he stays in, with and through us. We stay so that one day, we can Jesus touches us, and frankly we don’t know where it hurts anymore. Alleluia. Amen.

Easter 2

John 20:19–31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

“4 reals”
I like Thomas. I like Caravaggio’s image of Jesus and Thomas. To me it seems like Jesus is grabbing and guiding, pulling a hesitant Thomas into his wounded side. This isn’t an antiseptic and polite interaction. Touch makes things real; love isn’t real until it is touched and felt, skin to skin, my lips on my childrens’ cheeks and forehead, my husband’s arms around me, the tears of the grieving and troubled on my shoulder. This isn’t shameful; this is living through death. This is sacred.