A sermon on John 20.19-end
We have this morning the familiar story of doubting Thomas - which is a story that means a great deal to me personally, as I too have moved in my life from doubt to faith, and I am greatly encouraged that it is Thomas who is privileged to give the climactic statement of this gospel 'my Lord and my God!' There is a natural sermon there... but I talked about Richard Dawkins last week!
There is something very important about this story which occasionally gets missed. First, and this is very important, it shows that the incarnation was not an illusion, that it wasn't just Jesus putting on flesh like we might put on a coat - he really was flesh, and he has raised that flesh up - you could say, what this story tells us is that Jesus wasn't pretending when he suffered
But there is something else here too, even more important, about the nature of resurrection itself - and it says something about what we have to hope for. Jesus is resurrected and I have a question for you, is he happy? [pause]
Of course he is, he has entered into glory. Now what is crucial is that he shows us what the resurrection body is like - full of mystery of course, but still we know some things - we know that he bears the marks of his crucifixion - he is happy, but he is still wounded.
I feel this is worthy of much reflection, and I would like you to take this image with you home today and ponder it - he is happy, but he is still wounded.
A few thoughts about what this story means for us and our Christian hope of resurrection.
First, we carry our wounds with us.
Second, the wounds are no longer painful but they do define us, we are the sort of people that these things have happened to. Our stories, those things which make us who we are - these are honoured by God.
Finally, the wounds are redeemed and healed - but they are not forgotten.
What this means is that what happens in this life is important - God doesn't wipe the slate completely clean and begin again (the resurrection is not like the flood at the time of Noah); God takes what we have and changes it without destroying it. God takes the broken pieces and makes something new out of them.
This means that what we do today is of eternal significance. What we do in this world matters for ever. How we treat each other, how we treat our world, our environment - these things are invested with profound meaning. This doesn't mean that things that go wrong cannot be redeemed - it does mean that just as we carry our own wounds with us, so too those with whom we interact will carry their woundings from us with them, and our world will carry its wounds as well.
I was pondering - should God be gracious enough to me to bring me into the kingdom on the last day - I wonder whether I will still be half-deaf, or whether that part of my nature has so profoundly shaped who I am that I couldn't have full hearing and still be me. Yet I wouldn't want to mislead you either. In the Kingdom there will be no hearing aids, there will be no spectacles, there will be no crutches or wheelchairs. Yet we will still be the people formed by such things, of that I am sure.
This is one of the deep mysteries revealed in this story of doubting Thomas. For the story is not just about Jesus but also about ourselves, about what we can hope for - that we will still be who we are - that everything that happens to us in this life will matter forever - that when God redeems us, he heals us - he heals, and he heals us; he will, in deed, raise us from the dead. Amen.