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...

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