It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”
Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
When I was 5 years old I was obsessed with Star Wars, The Muppets, my dad’s jazz albums, my mom’s Motown records, CHiPs, Happy Days, Evel Knievel, comic books, the idea of being a firefighter, and my parents vegetable garden. Of my childhood obsessions I still hold my passion for comic books, Star Wars (with the absence of Jar Jar Binks), jazz, Motown, comic books, and vegetable gardens.
When my family lived in Washington State we were in the twilight of our perfect existence and we had the most beautiful vegetable garden I have ever seen. I would sit on the back poach and watch my parents tend to the leafy greens that populated the rich, dark earthy floors. I admired the tall baskets and cages that held in the amassing bulk of peppers and tomatoes. I gazed at the bright yellow squash that would be on the table for dinner later that day.
I loved that garden. The dogs loved it too. Our two canine aunts would traipse around the garden and eat what ever they could reach. Their faces smeared with fruit stains and breath painted with the sweet scent of onions their tongues hung out of their tired mouths, far to full too move or play.
My parents were tired as well. They erected a tall fence that protected their efforts in the garden. That fence was maybe 4 feet tall. But to my 5 year old self it seemed like it was Mount Kilimanjaro. The fence prevented the dogs for ravaging the garden. The garden prospered in their absence. My parents were pleased.
The gardens zenith it’s little gated ecosystem attracted insects of all sorts. I loved to wander around the garden and examine the bugs. That garden was my little wilderness and as I grew up in the church I related to the naked wanderings of God first creatures in their garden as I wander mine.
One lazy weekend, my father was home watching us as mom was out with the ladies of the church. Some game was one and attention was sparse. I wanted to explore the garden but the gate was closed. I was too short to unlatch the gate. I looked up and began to climb the fence.
I was all the way up the fence when my twin brother came out to find me. He wanted to climb too. We raced up the fence to see who would unlock it first. I was winning. He was sore. He shook the fence and I faltered. My leg slipped and I recovered to hold on but he unlatched the gate.
I was going to show him and raced to climb over the fence and be the first one in the garden. As I straddled the fence to lift my leg over in victory, he shook the fence again. This time I did not recover. I lost my footing and fell off the fence. Only I did not hit the ground.
I was left suspended, upside down in mid air, maybe 2 feet off the ground. I tried to kick my leg over and realized I could not. My right leg was impaled on the top of the fence.
When I say impaled, I am serious. There was an old red post that my parents had set in the ground to make the fence. It had a pointy arm radiating upward to the sky. My leg was, now, part of it. The red fence post had penetrated my leg and I was held upside down. When I realized what had happened I went in to shock.
My twin brother realized the severity of it and ran to awaken my napping father. My father ran out and lifted his impaled son from the post and deposited me on the front poach. He then left my brothers with a neighbor and drove me to the hospital.
I still remember the doctor cleaning the wound and exploring the hole in my leg saying, “You were lucky. You missed any real major damage. You’ll recover from this with no real permanent effects. For the most part the doctor was right.
All I was left with was a tender scar on my leg that won’t grow any hair.
The theologian, reverend, author, and friend, Carol Howard Merritt wrote a beautiful article this past Friday. Where she talked about scars being the visible reminders of the life we have led and how these scars mark our entrance in to the divine story of a “powerless God. A God that bears scars like mine. A God that bears scars like yours. A God that understands that the scars we bear are earned, often in a sea of tears and a cloud of misery. Scars can be enforced upon our bodies, a product of an others will. The powerlessness of God is an interesting idea in a post-Easter world.
“I tremble to put “powerless” and “God” in one sentence, but I suppose I would rather think of God as powerless than cruel, and those feel like my only options. It’s clear to me why Thomas doubted. How could one believe after witnessing such brutality? How could one believe when God’s back had been turned to sight of such rending?
Yet, it seems his faith restored when he saw the scars. Somehow, therein lies the power and mystery of Christianity. Because we know that God did not turn God’s back on the cruelty. God bore it. The scars prove it. And the presence of God’s Spirit still blows with peace, standing beside us as we caress our own ruptured skin and trace the roadmap of tragedies that we bear.
There is much to that disfigured flesh that teaches us how to be survivors together. Somehow, even the markings our torn incarnation witness to the divine with their thin, sorrowful beauty.”
I want you to remember your own scars. Your roadmap of tragedies that delivered you to today. Thomas, put you fingers upon the wounds of tragedy. Believe that, as death no longer holds its sting that the scars that litter your bodies cannot contain the peace that Jesus has to offer.
Scars can remind us of those tender days we creation walked naked and unashamed in the garden with God. No more disbelief. Believe!