Christ Lutheran Community Church
April 28, 2019 Worship Sermon - "The Wounds of Christ"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 118:14-29, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31
I wonder if they still hurt, those wounds in Jesus’ hands and side. It had only been a week and wounds that deep take a while to heal. Was the Jesus whom God raised from death still able to experience pain and suffering? Or did all of that come to an end once he breathed his last breath on the cross.
I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. The Bible doesn’t give us any indication one way or another. But the question arose in my heart as I was trying to hold together the joy that we celebrate on Easter along with the pain of the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter morning. Christians in Sri Lanka, and around the world, were gathering to celebrate God’s victory over sin and death. And then, as if to negate the whole basis for our celebration, suicide bombers promulgated death among followers of Jesus in Sri Lanka, and heart-ache among people of all faiths around the world.
Do the wounds of Christ still hurt, I wondered as I thought about the Sri Lankan believers whose Easter joy had been turned into Good Friday agony. They must! The wounds within the body of Christ – and by that I mean the church – those wounds still hurt us. How can they not hurt the God who is in us?
Sometimes people call the second Sunday of Easter “Doubting Thomas Sunday” because we always read this story of Thomas, the disciple who, unfortunately, was not present on Easter Sunday, when the risen Christ appeared to all the other disciples. I’m grateful that we have this opportunity every year to explore the question of doubt and what it means for those of us who seek to follow Christ. But this year, it’s the wounds of Christ that I really can’t stop thinking about.
It’s possible that one of the reasons why John included this story in his Gospel is because some people were having doubts – not about whether Jesus was alive – but about whether he had actually died. If Jesus was truly sent by God, how could God have let him die, they asked. So, there were quite a few people at the time when the Gospel of John was written who didn’t believe that Jesus died at all. They thought that he only appeared to die. The name theologians gave to this belief is Docetism. Docetism taught that Jesus, as God’s anointed messenger, could not suffer and die.
Ultimately, the church rejected the teachings of Docetism. Instead, the church proclaimed the much more challenging teaching that the God who created the heavens and the earth somehow experienced pain and death in the body of Jesus Christ. And stories like this one in John, where the risen Christ shows his wounds to his disciples, provided a basis for this proclamation.
I truly hope the church is right about this. I truly hope that God understands human pain and suffering. I hope that the wounds of Christians in Sri Lanka are experienced in the very being of God, because then we are not alone in our suffering.
Some commentators have speculated that the attack in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the recent attack on the mosque in New Zealand. It’s important to note that just as Christianity is not represented by the white supremacist who killed Muslims gathered for prayer, so Islam is not represented by the terrorists who bombed the churches in Sri Lanka. But it seems to be the case at this particular point in history that some people in all the major religions are falling into the trap of nationalism. They’ve forgotten the core principles taught by all of our faiths: compassion and love and respect for all persons. Cloaked within the disguise of religion, there is this demonic brutality that seems to be attracting individuals. Instead of teaching humility, religion is being used as a weapon by some people to prove that they are right and everyone else is wrong. I can see why some people might be attracted to that; but that’s not what Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Buddhism teaches. All of these religions teach that our human ability to know the truth is limited; so we respect those who don’t believe what we believe. That’s the core principle; but for some, it’s so much more tempting to consign those who don’t believe to hell. In their ideology, there’s no room for doubters. And they can find a verse or two in their sacred text to support the violence they perpetrate. Those verses are in the Bible as well as the Koran.
So our world needs a lot of prayer right now. Our world needs a lot of healing right now. We who practice Christianity need to double down in our witness to a God who seeks to save lives rather than destroy them.
Christ Lutheran Community Church