“No other god has wounds” (Easter 2, Year B, 15 April 2012)

Readings
Acts 4.32-35 
John 20.19-31

 

 

Peter Campbell: On the Run, from ‘Of Time and its Distance’ 1975

For we bear the face of Jesus,
no other god has wounds;
prepare to take your place beside the King.

 

One time, four Yorkshiremen—Josiah, Obadiah and a couple of others—were having a conversation over a bottle of fine wine—in fact, a bottle of Château de Chasselas. They were talking about the old days, before they were well off:

In them days we was glad t’ ave t’ price of a cup o’ tea.
A cup o’ cold tea.
Wi’out milk or sugar.
Or tea.
In a cracked cup, an’ all.

Of course, this is an excerpt from the famous (and hilarious) Monty Python sketch, Four Yorkshiremen. I mention it because one talked about drinking from a ‘cracked cup’. Today, I want to talk about cracked things, wounded things.

Here in the church, since Good Friday we’ve had a cracked jar—or if you like, a crack(ed)pot. It has these lines through it that show that it’s had some damaging experiences. Is it useless, do you think?

Paul talks about clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4.6-7. He speaks of God shining within us ‘to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’. However, he doesn’t want us to get bigheaded about it, so he reminds us:

…we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We contain a great treasure; the clay jars in which we have this treasure are our ordinary human bodies. These clay jar bodies are all different: some are tall, some short, some taut and terrific, some flabby. They may be black, yellow or white bodies, male or female bodies, young or old. They’re all different but they have one thing in common: these clay jar bodies of ours—and we ourselves—are cracked. We are each flawed or damaged in some way. Does that make us useless, do you think?

Evidently, this jar isn’t useless. It’s still a lovely thing. It’s broken, yet still beautiful. You and I aren’t useless. What do we hear every Sunday after the confession of sin?

You are forgiven.
You are set free from the past.
In God’s eyes, you are beautiful.

That’s the truth about us: we are cracked, we are wounded, yet we are still beautiful to God.

You and I and the pot aren’t the only cracked things. Jesus is cracked as well. When I say that Jesus is ‘cracked’, I’m not being disrespectful. I’m talking about the wounds in his hands and side, still there in his risen state. No other god has wounds.

I’m always astounded by this story of the way the risen Christ appears to his disciples in this story. Last year, I spoke of how Jesus forgave them. (I wouldn’t have, I assure you!) This time around, my attention has been taken with the wounds that Jesus had in his risen body. When he shows himself to Thomas so that Thomas may believe, what does he point to?

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.

Jesus doesn’t show Thomas some characteristic facial feature (‘Can’t you see it’s my nose?’); he doesn’t point to a birthmark. He shows Thomas his wounds. No other god has wounds.

There are some who seem to think that we’re not meant to have wounds. That God requires perfection. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, when we look at the example of the infant Church, it does seem perfect. What did we read in Acts?

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

That’s so perfect, I once lived in a Christian community that tried to put that into practice. It failed eventually—and I failed first of all, after two years.

Yet when we read on in Acts 4, we find that things weren’t perfect even there. Ananias and Sapphira tried to fool everyone that they’d shared the proceeds of a sale. I see them as wounded people, who just couldn’t bear to be honest about their need to keep some of the money back. It was ok, they could have done it openly, but they couldn’t and didn’t.

Our wounds can bring us a great gift: the gift of openness to others, the gift of compassion for other wounded souls. That’s why Christian faith has championed the establishment of hospitals and schools for the poor. Jesus was offering the gift of compassion for other wounded souls to Thomas. And Thomas responds:

My Lord and my God!

No other god has wounds.

Peter Campbell was an Australian Christian singer-songwriter in the 70s who was important to me as a young man. He has been described as an ‘acid-folk poet with progressive & West-Coast leanings’ (I think they should add something about citrusy flavours and plummy notes!); Peter wrote these words in a song called On the Run, in the 1975 LP Of Time and its Distance:

For we bear the face of Jesus,
no other god has wounds;
prepare to take your place beside the King.

We don’t need to be perfect. We can take our place beside Jesus, wounds and all. Jesus can teach and heal wounded people. Jesus can help us to find something good out from our woundedness. No other God has wounds.

There’s another songwriter, better known than Peter Campbell, who speaks of cracked things. Leonard Cohen has written these wonderful lines in Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering;
there’s a crack in everything—
that’s how the light gets in.

Thomas had no perfect offering to make. None of the disciples had. They each had their own wounds, their cracked bits. Peter had denied the Lord, the others had cut and run.

We are so often ashamed or afraid of our cracks. We criticise ourselves for having cracks; we try to cover them over with some spiritual Spakfilla so no one else will notice. We hope the Lord will be pleased with our efforts to hide the cracks from others (and even ourselves). But our cracked bits don’t make us useless. The light of Jesus wants to shine right through the cracks.

Note this though: Jesus’ wounds are scars which are visible in his glorified body. They’re no longer bleeding. Now, they are signs of the light of his victory. Jesus’ wounds invite us to join his victory, but we sometimes fail to recognise what it is. It’s not the world’s kind of victory. It’s the victory of the light of Jesus shining through those who seem to be powerless. It’s the victory Jesus describes in the Beatitudes.

Remember the Beatitudes? Blessed are the poor in spirit; the meek; the pure in heart; those who long for justice… (We looked at the Beatitudes last year during Lent and Easter.)

Jesus gives us a share in his victory by forming us into people who embody the Beatitudes. He wants to form us into people who are poor in spirit and who therefore look to him for help; people who hunger and thirst for justice, who are peacemakers, people whose hearts are pure.

People whose hearts go out to others who are in pain, that we may walk with them on their journey. It is our wounds that make it possible for us to be people of the Beatitudes.

It’s these people who have found their vocations in ministries of healing and care and service of others in the name of the wounded God. It is they who most share the face of Jesus.

Jesus is Lord of all—but he doesn’t call us to be perfect. No other god has wounds. Don’t be afraid of your wounds, don’t be afraid of them. Take your place beside the King and let his light shine in through the cracks.

 

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