Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter 2B-The Wounded God

Lectionary link Here


When I accepted a call as a pediatric hospital chaplain, I knew that I would see suffering. I knew that I would be walking into other people’s worst nightmares.  

And, I knew that there were those who wondered how I would manage to maintain my faith, my calling to the priesthood, in the face of unalleviated suffering.

“She’s not going to be a Christian anymore, not when she sees how awful it can be”

Yes, someone actually said this…

However, being the person I am, I took this not as some inevitable truth but, as a dare. I wasn’t going to the hospital to lose my faith—I was going to the hospital because of my faith.

And, because I was there with an underlying assumption that of COURSE God was there…I found myself attuned to the presence of God.

This did not mean that I experienced miraculous healings or near death experiences with tales of heavenly benediction. What this meant was that I found God at the foot of the cross.

The foot of the cross where pain, suffering, and despair are the powerful testimony of God’s willingness to be as one of us. As one of us…

Born in the flesh, to learn, live, love, grieve, suffer, despair and die.

God as one of us, understands what this is. What this life is—with all its joy and all of its sorrow.

And, because of this, my faith was not destroyed in the face of suffering—rather, it was strengthened by the constant and enduring presence of a God who can understand all that it means to be a human being.

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her compilation of sermons “God in Pain”, writes, “Christianity is the only world religion that confesses a God who suffers. It is not that popular an idea, even among Christians. We prefer a God who prevents suffering, only that is not the God that we have got. What the cross teaches us is that God’s power is not the power to force human choices and end human pain. It is instead the power to pick up the shattered pieces and make something holy out of them—not from a distance, but right close up.”

God suffers, so do we.

And, because of this, neither God, nor we, have ever or will ever suffer alone.

The disciples gathered with their shattered lives and shattered hopes…they had each other in the midst of their fear and despair. And, so, into the midst of a gathered community came the peace of Christ.

The peace of a man who knew what fear was, what pain was, and how easily we can be fractured by despair.

The peace of a God made man, whose skin would forever be a testimony to suffering.

Today is a day when we consider the wounded God. The wounded God who shows up to our pain and our suffering. The wounded God who shows up to our fears and our worries.

The wounded God walks into the midst of our nightmares and stays there.  

God stays.

When everyone else has left. When fear has driven them away. At the cradle and at the grave, God stays.

God stays when we cannot, God goes when we cannot. And, in the wounds God wore, we find strength grounded in weakness and vulnerability.

I did not lose my faith in the face of suffering—because, it was in the face of suffering that I found God.

Which brings me to the joy of today’s texts…where Thomas’ doubts fall away, not because Jesus is “all better”, but because the wounds are still there.

God is still wounded.

And, by God’s wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53).

What does this healing mean?

It means, fellowship. It means unity. It means the common good.

First the followed Jesus, now they served the Christ. And, to serve the Christ is to serve each other in a new way of being.

As theologian Henri Nauwen wrote, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
Today we declare a new covenant of reconciliation…shattered pieces made holy because God has chosen to share our pain.   

And, in sharing our pain, we share Christ’s body. A body that shares one heart and one soul. A body that transcends the boundaries of death through the communion of saints. A body that does not deny the wounds, but rather, recognizes the wounds as part of what makes us human, the wounds as part of what will make us whole.  

Last year I attended a conference with a colleague who was living out his ministry as a member of a L’Arche Community. L’Arche was started as an attempt to offer to people with intellectual disability the opportunity to live together with others as a new kind of family--a family of diverse needs and abilities in which people with and without disabilities learn and grow in faith together. As my colleague shared with me, L’Arche operates with the assumption that every one of us has gifts, abilities, and disabilities—and that in sharing all of these things, gifts, abilities, and disabilities, the community is able to model to the world what it is to be the fully inclusive, unified and holy, body of Christ.

L’Arche is very deliberate in proclaiming that what the world would see as a wound, is the very thing that gives the body it’s strength.

As the psalmist proclaims, “how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!”.

Shared suffering, leading to a shared hope—and a life lived in recognition that the wounded body is a holy one.

The founder of L’Arche, Jean Vanier, writes  
“Jesus invites each one of us, through Thomas, to touch not only his wounds, but those wounds in others and in ourselves, wounds that can make us hate others and ourselves and can be a sign of separation and division.
These wounds will be transformed into a sign of forgiveness through the love of Jesus and will bring people together in love. These wounds reveal that we need each other. These wounds become the place of mutual compassion, of indwelling and of thanksgiving.

We, too, will show our wounds when we are with him in the kingdom, revealing our brokenness and the healing power of Jesus.”

So yes, I went to the hospital and kept my faith.

My faith in a wounded God.



"God walks towards the suffering"...a retired chaplain attended our service on Sunday and used this phrase in response to the sermon. I invite you to contemplate this sentence throughout the week.

Also, this...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter 2018, The Naming

The texts can be found here (I used the option for John)


What’s in a Name?

In the beginning, there was light from dark. Sun and moon. Earth and stars. Oceans and land.
And then, from Genesis, “The Lord God formed from the fertile land all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky and brought them to the human to see what he would name them. The human gave each living being its name.” (Gen 2:19)
Creation was incomplete without the naming.
The book of Exodus begins with a list of names, and would have been known to Jesus not as the book of Exodus, but as Shemot—the Hebrew word for names.
 “She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I pulled him out of the water.” (Exodus 1:10)
She pulled him out of the water and into a new life. Moses too would draw life out of the water as he led his people through the Red Sea waters. 
His name encapsulates the entirety of his story.
Moses’ name points towards liberation.
Naming in scripture is an essential part of the biblical narrative—in fact it is such an important matter that the Gospel of Matthew begins with naming
“A record of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob…”
So on and so forth.
Rahab, Ruth, Josiah, and Zerubbabel…until
“Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary—of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
Jesus who is called Christ.
Jesus is the transliteration of the Hebrew name Jeshua or Joshua.
Jeshua, which means “deliverer”. 
The name matters.
It encapsulates the story—from beginning to end. The garden, the exile, the liberation, a new creation.
All in the names.
So, is it any wonder that amongst the first words Jesus spoke in this new life is a name?
It is this, it is this moment in which Jesus speaks her name, that she recognizes him for who he is—
Teacher. Deliverer. Gardener. Sower of Seeds. Shepherd of all.
Death could not claim him, and in love she would name him.
And, in that naming, is the recognition that no, her love is not gone.
The recognition that all that had been lost had been restored beyond all hope.
That all that had been taken from her had been returned in abundance.
On this morning, the good news began with a name—the good news that the powers of evil in this world had not, could not, and will not EVER defeat the love of the God who first loved us.
In the quiet of a garden, to a weeping and devastated woman, God reveals that death has been destroyed.
It is the custom in some churches to place a large wooden cross in the church on Good Friday—and then on Easter morning to cover it with flowers. This symbolic action is a powerful reminder that the violence of the cross has become the means by which death itself has been overthrown. Rome has no power in the face of the power from above and the instruments of death have been reclaimed as a means of new life.
What we would use to inflict pain, God would use to comfort the afflicted.
And, on this day we celebrate that death has been destroyed--not through any act of violence, but through an act of restoration.
All revealed in the speaking of a name.
Think on this—think on this…
God knows your name.
Your name.
Mary, Bob, Jon, Holly, Nick…
God knows your name.
And, God loves you, with a steadfast love. A steadfast love that cannot be taken away. Nothing and no one can take this love away from us. No matter what, no matter who, no matter, we are loved.
Because, it is a love grounded in the ineffable mercy of a God who knows the depth of human suffering and the breadth of human love and has transformed all of it through God’s own experience of us, with us, and alongside us.
He loved her and she loved him and in their naming of each other they proclaim a truth that the world so often cannot see—the truth that love is more powerful than death. That love ventures even into the grave and out of that love comes life eternal.
This is a day when we declare Christ risen and a love more powerful than anything the world can imagine.
And those who hate are met with love.
And those who rage are met with love.
And those who weep are met with love.
And those who suffer are met with love.
And those who die will live in love.
From a name. From a garden. From all that is holy.
She knows him because he knows her.
God has named her.
She has named God.
And, out of this comes a new life for us all—a new creation taking place in a garden where love has the final word.


Just for fun--here's a link to "Baby Name Wizard" for all of your naming purposes!