Bear the Wounds of Resurrection

The Holy Gospel: John 20:19-31
Sermon given at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrenceburg Indiana:
Sunday, April 8th, 2018
Listen Here: SoundCloud Recording

The doors of the house were locked for fear.

Yet Jesus entered the house, appearing to the disciples, saying “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus presents himself to the disciples and can’t believe it when he’s told of Jesus’ return. Unless he sees it, he cannot believe it.

Thomas must see the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion in order to believe the resurrection. “Unless I see the mark of nails in his hands, I cannot believe.”

So, Jesus returns a week later to the same house and Thomas, the doubter, is there. And Jesus says to Thomas: “Here, touch my wounds and believe.”

Jesus wouldn’t have let Thomas touch his wounds if he didn’t feel it was okay for Thomas to need to see him and touch him in order to believe. But those who believe and have faith without needing to see and touch him are indeed blessed.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet, have come to believe.”

This story is recorded, the Gospel writer John explains, so that we may also believe for generations to come.

And here we are, generations and thousands of years later, with no physical Jesus to talk to. There’s no Jesus standing before us today with the bleeding wounds of crucifixion to prove to us that this whole thing indeed, factually and actually, happened.

Yet, here we all sit worshipping a God we have never touched. Loving and following a Jesus we have never actually and factually, met in the flesh.

Good news everyone: We are blessed!

You are blessed. You are blessed because you come here to this place and because you have faith. You have not seen in the same way Thomas needed to see, the way Thomas needed to actually touch the bloody wounds of Jesus, and yet you sit in these pews and come to this church.

Who can blame Thomas for his need to see? Who hasn’t wanted to physically meet Jesus, and ask him all the obvious questions?

Who hasn’t had doubt enter their minds at some point about this whole story? We all know why Thomas feels this way. We all know what it feels like to want tangible and concrete proof. We’ve all had doubt, we’ve all been there.wounds of Jesus

Yet, we return to church. We come to this table, to eat of the bread and drink of the wine. We attend church activities and volunteer at church events.

There must be some reason why you are here. Some compelling reason we all come to church every Sunday, some reason for you that has more to do with a belief embedded in hopeful faith than a belief embedded in factual proof or tangible evidence.

Jesus doesn’t have bleeding wounds for us to touch today. Jesus isn’t here to prove anything is literally or factually true. Despite what some may say, Jesus can’t do that for us.  

What Jesus has to offer us is peace and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the promise that what was once dead can have new life, that what was once old can be made new.

Proof of this promise, of the power of the Holy Spirit, is out there today however. Proof that the old can be made new in God is accessible, tangible even. You’ve probably witnessed it yourselves.

I recently witnessed it when I went to London in January. While there I had the opportunity to worship at an Anglican Church called St. Peter’s. This church is an old one, dating back hundreds of years. The building itself has survived both World Wars and is located in a neighborhood that has seen so much change that it is unrecognizable from what it was just twenty or thirty years ago.

About eight years ago this church had dwindled down to just twelve members. Their doors were about to close, they themselves were old and struggling. But those twelve got together and recognizing their faith in a God who gives new life to things that have passed away, they initiated a conversation with their Bishop requesting change:

We are willing to change and be made new. Whatever it takes.

And that’s exactly what happened. The Bishop sent thirty of his passionate people from a larger church in town and they began a new community at St. Peter’s. It was essentially a church plant within an existing church.

They changed the worship style, they moved the furniture, they added programs, they even took their worship outside the walls of the church and into the surrounding neighborhood.

And St. Peter’s is now growing with about 80 members. When I visited the church for worship on Sunday morning it was full with young people, families and small children scurrying around the knees of the older members- the original members of this congregation- who were smiling and marveling at the amazing new life that was sprouting up in this old place.

The dead can have new life. What was old can be made new. The Holy Spirit will guide you.

There was no Jesus at St. Peter’s to talk to and touch. But the body of believers present were there and the stories they shared with me were stories of death and new life and of old being made new. St. Peter’s witnessed and bears the marks of resurrection.

St. Peter’s took risks, opened themselves up to possibilities they hadn’t even thought of yet and most importantly, they had faith. They had faith that their God would not abandon them. They were willing to follow the Holy Spirit and let it lead them without knowing what would result.

This is the message Jesus has for us this morning.

In order for resurrection to have taken place at all Jesus had to die. Jesus had to undergo change and transformation in order to be resurrected and made new.

Jesus had to follow the Holy Spirit without knowing the outcome but following nonetheless in faith. Jesus shows us what is possible when we put our faith in a God who gives new life to that which has passed away, who makes the old new again.

“Peace be with you.” The resurrected Jesus says. “As God has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Go and do as I have done. Follow the Holy Spirit, take risks, allow God to change and transform you.

Is this why you come to church? To be changed and transformed? Do you come to hear the promise God gives us in Jesus, that what was once dead can have new life? That what was once old can be made new?

This is what Jesus calls us to: a life of resurrection.

We are called to follow a journey of transformation and change. We are called to follow the Holy Spirit, to be made new again, to be given new life. And we are most certainly called to share the possibility of resurrection and new life with the world around us.

By our faith, in following Jesus, we bear the marks of resurrection and the possibilities that exist in our God. Our God who promises to always be with us, even in the pain and suffering of death. Who promises that there is always new life on the other side of struggle and change.  

With all the violence and hate that is unfolding around us in this country. With the pain, suffering and death that is coming at us on the news, day after day…… the world needs us to bear witness to the promise of resurrection.  

“Peace be with you.” The resurrected Jesus says. “As God has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

Have you witnessed resurrection in your life? Have you seen it take place here in this community of Lawrenceburg? What does it take for resurrection to happen?

How are you, here at Trinity Episcopal Church called to bear witness to this possibility of new life? How does your faith help make resurrection possible for others?

May we, like Jesus, have the courage to take risks and follow the Holy Spirit. May we allow for the possibility of change and transformation.

And may we bear the wounds of resurrection and bless others around us with the promise of God’s redeeming love and the promise of new life.




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