Connecting Beyond the Walls

 Today’s word of hope comes to us from our own Rev. Emily Hull McGee, pastor of First Baptist Church on Fifth, Winston-Salem.

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Eastertide, where we turn to the familiar story of Thomas who history has called ‘Doubting.’ Thomas, of course, didn’t take the disciples’ word of the risen Christ at face value, for he wanted to see and touch and feel for himself. “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.” Those wounds of the crucified and resurrected Christ mattered to Thomas. They’ve mattered to millions throughout history whose own suffering they find reflected in Jesus. And as we see countless wounds — of body and spirit, economy and community, hope and a future — inflicted by the coronavirus all around us, I wonder if Jesus’ wounds take on special significance even now.

Each week, I find a metaphorical pile of scraps on the sermon-writing floor — stories and words and phrases and images that couldn’t quite fit into the sermon for Sunday. And due to our new rhythms of recording worship videos — preaching on Thursdays, oh my! — I wanted to share such a scrap with you today. I invite you as you read on, to imagine the wounds that are being inflicted on the world right because of the virus and what healing might surprise us by such wounds.

This from Robert Schreiter in his essay “Jesus and His Wounds” from All Shall Be Well: Readings for Lent and Easter:

But how do wounds heal? How do they make someone else whole? Wounds, first of all, mark a break in the surface of things. A smooth surface does not prompt reflection or thought. It takes the disruption of that smooth surface to give us pause to ponder.

Wounds are an invitation to become aware of how fragile the human body is, how easily it is penetrated. They remind us that all our arrangements, personal and social, can be easily disrupted. The violence that wounds do to the tissues of a body — cutting through the delicate layers, disrupting the functions — puts into question how much we can rely upon things to be as they should be. Wounds are question marks about existence.

… People are usually afraid to touch wounds, either for fear of hurting the wounded person or for fear of contagion. Jesus, however, invites others to touch his wounds. His wounds have become redemptive. They heal others; they are contagious through the spread, not of disease, but of the alleviation of suffering. The wounds of those who have experienced the trauma of war or of torture are not worn as badges of honor, although others on occasion may treat them that way. They more likely still ache than glow. But those wounds give the reconciled the possibility of entry into the wounds of others. They become healing wounds, wounds that render the wounds of others less painful. Their wounds know about healing — how long it takes, how incomplete the healing will always be. It is the knowledge of the patience needed, and the realization that wounds can always produce new pain that make the wounds of the reconciled so sensitive to the wounds of others.

Wounds that heal? Seems preposterous to a world engulfed in suffering. But to those of us like Thomas who have pressed hands into flesh given for the sake of the world, we can’t help but to cry out: ‘My Lord, and my God!’

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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