Two brown shoes. And a half-full iced coffee.
Start my Sunday with a serious sweeping of the steps and sidewalk. This exercise always takes me back to when I first started to reclaim the steps. The folks from last night left things in pretty good shape. Set up comes next. Deacon James arrives in tie to help me with the chairs.
Our friends Carman and Lotte are here this morning. She’s back from Denmark for another performance of her 14 song cycle about child sexual abuse, The Girl from Diamond Mountain. She has another Danish friend with her. And there’s Debra, a woman from the neighborhood.
This is one of my favorite Sundays of the Easter season. Today’s gospel reading is doubting Thomas. (John 20: 19-31). It’s starts with the disciples behind locked doors. For fear of the Jews.(19) Though of course, they were all Jews. Even though they have already had an experience of the Risen Christ, even though we’re in post-resurrection time, they are still afraid. It is as if they are dead, still in their own spiritual grave.
After Jesus gives them some visual I.D., like the marks on his hands and side, they rejoice. But it’s not enough. To bring them back to life, Jesus must breathe into them, must breathe into the them the Holy Spirit. Ruach in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek. Breath, spirit, all the same. Like God’s spirit blowing across the water separated the dry land from the sea, brought the first human to life, breathed life back into Ezekiel’s dry bones, Jesus breathes into his disciples to bring them back to life. When he says, As the Father has sent me, so I send you. (21) he’s saying it’s time to come out from behind those closed doors.
As John R points out, this is John’s Pentecost story.
Sometime later, our friend Thomas enters the scene. He will not believe unless he sees, touches the wounds. Hence, doubting Thomas. And someone says, so that’s where that came from. (It’s also true that since the gospels of John and Thomas were in some respects rivals, this may have been John dissing Thomas. John made it in. The Gospel of Thomas did not.) Jesus is ready to show him the marks and Thomas answers, My Lord and my God!
So here’s what interests me. Jesus is resurrected. You would think in resurrection, he would be perfect. Made whole and new. And yet the wounds remain. It is the wounds that identify him as who he is. His experience on the cross integral to his identity, even in a new life.
Likewise for us. It is our wounds that make us who we are. Even as we come out from behind the doors we have locked, we need our wounds. Not to ignore them, cover them over or hope they go away. But to own them and allow them to be transformed both for the healing of ourselves and others. I look and see heads nodding around the room.
Debra says that this brings to mind two songs for her, one is Gillian Welch’s By the Mark. The other is Spirit, which just happens to be in our hymnbook, so we open up our books and sing. John R tells her, you need to come here every week.
When it’s time for the offering, Andre sings He looked beyond my fault, not remembering immediately how high that Danny boy tune goes. I wait breathless and his fine baritone voice reaches up and hits it. And we all say Amen and applaud.
The Midnight Run people left a box of sandwiches and other food and another with clothing here last night, so we see that they are distributed.
As I’m leaving, I see the shoes are gone.