Wounds and Imperfections

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

Opening Prayer (adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.34)

Loving God,
as your son met with Thomas
please meet with us.
Receive our questioning and thoughtful hearts;
receive our praise and thanksgiving.
You know us and you love us
in all our sameness and diversity,
our integrity and our many contradictions.
We bring to you our devotion and our doubting;
our strengths and our insecurities.
You have chosen us and called us
because you see our potential.
We have responded, sometimes gladly,
sometimes protesting,
because deep down we know
that this is a way worth following,
a truth that can be trusted,
and the only kind of life worth living.
Amen.

HYMN 380: Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Edmond Louis Budry 1854-1932
tr. Richard Birch Hoyle 1875-1939 alt.

Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory over death you’ve won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes, where your body lay.
Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory over death you’ve won.

See, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for the Lord is living, death has lost its sting.
Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory over death you’ve won.

No more we doubt you, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without you: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors through your deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to your home above.
Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory over death you’ve won.

Think about the words of this hymn. In what ways do they help you understand the mystery of Easter and resurrection?

Prayer of Adoration (adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.34)

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe, said Jesus.
Living God, we are among the ones whom Jesus said were blessed.
We have seen no risen body, no walking through walls,
no nail-pierced hands and side.
And we believe—in something—
even when we are not always sure what.
How much easier it would be if we had seen with our own eyes;
if we knew where he was, and could invite others
to come and see for themselves.
But that is not how it is, nor ever was meant to be.
Resurrection is not an argument, but an experience
of a relationship that death cannot sever.

It is an act of trust, not a test of logic or a feat of willpower.
Loving God, we give thanks
for every experience of resurrection
that we have known, however fleeting:
for hope returning after the darkness of despair;
for a comforting touch; a word of peace. Amen.

Reading from scripture: John 20:19-31
19 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.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So 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.”
26 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.” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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.

Reflection

The part of the passage I want to concentrate on is when Jesus appears to Thomas. The figure that stands before Thomas is not the shining Jesus of the transfiguration, as we might expect. Jesus is not s a figure of glory at all, but one of gore. He bears the marks, not of the triumphant victor, but of the defeated victim.

John the gospel writer is emphasising that Jesus has not taken on a heavenly nature, but has somehow remained in his earthly body, with all its wounds and imperfections.

This is the risen one: the man who was wounded on the cross, as nails drove into his hands and a spear pierced his side. This is unmistakably the same person; his body bears the marks of his crucifixion.

Yet he has risen; he is somehow transformed; he has entered into the realm that lies beyond this earthly existence, and into a sphere that we do not comprehend from where we stand.

And yet, the marks on his body indicate that he has not left behind his earthly life. Who he was, and what he did on earth, have marked and defined him forever. Jesus has taken the signs of his death into eternity, and the torments imposed on his body, the wounds in his hands and side can still be seen.

Some years ago, I was acquainted with a person with a deep Christian faith. She had been raised in a devout Christian family; as an adult, she worked as a servant of the church.

In her manner of life, her actions and deeds, she exuded the love of God. And she needed a wheelchair to get around; without the chair, using crutches, she was able to walk only slowly and painfully over a short distance. This woman once shared with me her favourite verse in the Bible. It was this verse that we have heard today: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

For this woman, her hope rested in the fact that the risen Jesus brought the marks of his bodily pain into the resurrection life.

Yes, he was changed; and yes, she would be changed—but not in such a way that she would leave behind her disability. For that disability was part of her, which shaped her in profound ways.

In the same way, the cross of Jesus had shaped him in deep ways; he was not the same after he was nailed onto the cross. But he did not escape from the pains of the cross; rather, he took those pains with him, and transformed them in his resurrection life.

The hope of Easter, for each of us, springs from this story, of Thomas, and Jesus – and us. For all of us have known and experienced pain, disability, discomfort, and incompleteness.

We are acquainted with grief and familiar with limitations. We hurt, we despair, we hope for something better. The good news of the resurrection is not that this hurt or pain will magically be removed from us as if it never happened.

Rather, the good news of the resurrection is that the limitations that we know in this life, in these bodies, will shape us and prepare us in ways unknown for who we will be, in God’s grace, in the life beyond this life.

The resurrection does not give us a guarantee of glorious immortality; rather, it offers us the promise of God’s transforming, renewing power. It holds before us the hope, that as we come to belief through the trials of life, and as we hold to our faith through all the tribulations that may beset us, God is mysteriously shaping us as God’s own people, as those who are blessed for our faith, as those who will share in the hope of resurrection.

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

Some questions to think about:

Reflective Prayer (from Spill the Beans Iss. 34)
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
Blessed—that is us, isn’t it?
We did not see and yet here we are,
trying our best not to be Thomas.
But hang on… is that right?
We have not seen and yet believe?
Have we had our eyes closed?
All around us is the evidence.
The Scriptures.
The Easter Story still fresh in our thoughts.
The visible structures pointing to the man Jesus,
(yes, I mean the churches and cathedrals), the art work, the music,
the libraries of theological books,
the great writings of Church Fathers,
the list goes on and on….
But not just the physical evidence,
the things we can touch, there is more, much more.
There is love in action, there is the welcome,
there is the community, there is us!
Each one of us a pointer to something bigger.
Okay, we were not the ones who walked with Jesus
on those dusty roads 2000 years ago.
Instead we walk today’s paths and roads,
pointing the way for others.
Those who do not believe are blessed by our presence.
We are the blessing as we have been blessed by others.
We did not see but we are both blessed and a blessing.
Incredible. Wonderful. Beyond imagining.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Amen.

Blessing

May the God who raised up Christ,
bless you and uphold you by day and night,
May the Christ who breathed his forgiving soul into his friends,
bless you and dwell within you day and night,
May the Spirit who makes life inspirational for us,
bless and enthuse you for this day and for eternity. Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth was minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, between 2018 and 2023. Elizabeth retired in December 2023 and has moved to Dungog in the Hunter valley, with her husband Rev Dr John Squires.

Over the years, Elizabeth has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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