Have you ever been in the presence of someone who wanted to prove a point or make an impression by saying, I did such and such and I got the scars to prove it?
Whenever I hear someone make that statement I pay careful attention to what comes next. What kind of scars physical, emotional, or spiritual? Every scar has a story attached t it so it doesn’t matter if the scar is visible or invisible, the fact that an individual makes a reference to it means that the person experienced some level of pain and my believing it adds to its being validated.
Perhaps the pain stemmed from a surgery, chronic illness, a broken heart, a dream put on hold or shattered the death of a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, friend or pet. Maybe this person was bullied long before the word bullied existed and is still harboring anger or worse yet, experienced a breach of trust from a clergy member or faith community.
The good news is that when a physical, emotional, or spiritual scar exists it means that healing on some level has taken place. Physical wounds heal from the inside out and the same can be said about emotional and spiritual wounds too, but those particular wounds have no visible scars. Behaviors and how a person reacts to various life situations may give us a clue that a scar exists but clues can often lead to judgments.
In the Gospel lesson for today, we heard Jesus exercising great patience with the disciples who still struggled with the reality that Jesus was standing right there in front of them.
I found myself shaking my head and thinking, here we go again. That was until I imagined myself at the Lord’s table ready to proclaim the words of institution and feel someone tapping on my shoulder while whispering, “I’ll take it from here Chris. It’s my body and blood that you’re talking about.”
I must admit that I would probably turn pale, get weak in the knees, break out in a cold sweat, have a sudden onset of unworthiness and feel heart palpitations unlike any other. “Have I died in the middle of a service?” “Is this heaven?” Within seconds, I would come to my senses, look up at Jesus and hear Him say:
“Chris, every time you preside you repeat what I proclaimed at the last supper, This is my body given for you do this in remembrance of me. This is my blood, shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me. So Chris what would make you more comfortable at my table? Seeing me in the flesh standing beside you or not seeing me in the flesh and believing that I’m standing beside you? To be honest Lord, if I have the faith that I say I have then I should be right at home with both. Yes, you are correct but are you? No Lord, in the end I am no different than the disciples who kept asking to see the nail marks on your hands but the fish may have sealed the deal for me.
Saint Augustine reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead with his wounds healed and his scars kept in place so that the disciples wounds of disbelief could be healed.
The second Article of the Creed reminds us that the resurrection is established beyond all doubt.
In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.
The strongest proof of its reality is found in the fact that the disciples themselves were so unwilling to believe it, but were obliged to do so by the evidence of their own senses.
So when Jesus said to the Apostles, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29) He was talking about us. The disciples had 40 days of face to face conversation with the risen Christ but we received more than 40 days on the day of our baptism because we received the promise of eternal life!
The Small Catechism reminds us that through the sacrament of baptism, God adopts us as His children and receives us into membership in His church. Therefore every baptized person may say, God is my Father, Christ is my Redeemer and the Holy Spirit is my sanctifier.
My friends in Christ, we must remain mindful of the fact that all of us have been wounded in one way or another but the wounds that bind us together are the wounds that brought Christ to the cross. So every time that we gather to hear the Word of God or receive the Bread of life we touch the scars of Christ and those are the scars that make it possible for us to be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.