Thank you for the gift of time away -- my family delighted in a week of camping in southwestern Colorado and getting to explore the phenomenal beauty of God's creation and then a week closer to home at a cabin in Allenspark. I'm grateful for everyone who helped make it possible for me to be away: from those who led worship, those who preached, to those who fielded pastoral calls and everyone else. Thank you! And it is good to be back.
This week, our worship theme is "Wounds and Healing." We will hear two parts of Joseph's story (you know the one with the rainbow coat) -- the part when his brothers sell him into slavery (Genesis 37) and the part when, years later, they are unexpectedly reunited (Genesis 45). It's well worth reading the whole saga - Genesis 37, 39-45.
The story has got me thinking about the ways we harm each other and the possibilities for healing. So often, we simply want to smooth over the hurts without feeling the ones we've received or taking responsibility for the ones we've caused. Can't we just be nice now and have everything be better? But healing doesn't work like that.
Healing requires the humility to name our hurts (no, we are not invincible) and how we've harmed others (no, we are not without fault or sin).
Healing requires vulnerability -- feeling our wounds is messy, painful business. Feeling the impact of how we've wounded others is usually no easier. Often, in the early stages it seems like it would have been better just to keep the wounds hidden, festering somewhere below the surface.
Healing requires risk. Having considered what healing looks like, we may need to risk ending a toxic relationship. Or we may need to risk approaching someone to seek reconciliation -- not knowing if the other person will reciprocate.
Healing is messy, humbling, vulnerable, risky business. For Jesus, healing (as resurrection) only came after betrayal by a friend, abandonment by his followers, a tortuous execution, the shadows of a tomb and finally emptiness. Jesus had to go through all of that -- to face it and live it -- before he could experience resurrection.
He couldn't jump from that last dinner and foot-washing to his glorious encounters with Mary Magdalene and his disciples. And were those encounters really glorious? Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardner and accused him of stealing Jesus' body. His disciples were hiding behind locked doors. And then they demanded that they see and touch Jesus' wounds for themselves.
Yes, healing is messy business. It usually means facing our pain and going through it. It usually means touching the wounds -- as Thomas asks to do.
So what wounds are you carrying? Personally? Relationally? In your faith?
What wounds are we carrying communally? As a congregation? As church more broadly speaking? As a town? State? Nation?
Surely, we are carrying new wounds now during this pandemic as we seem so often to be facing a menu of bad options without being able to safely fall back on the things we counted on to get us through hard times.
We cannot simply play nice or return to normal pretending that everything will then be fine.
We need to go through our pain.
We need to tend our wounds -- the ones we carry and the ones we've caused.
Only then can healing come.
And the promise of our faith is that healing will come.
And the healing will not bring back the life we had but will bring new life, renewed life, abundant life. Life illuminated by hope, faith, love, compassion, justice and grace. The promise of our faith is that healing is not simply the mending of the old, but resurrection itself -- new life rising from an empty tomb.
It's messy, painful business. But it is also the life of faith. The life of hope. The life of following Christ who is and was and will be.
With love and hope,