At 8 years old, I was infatuated with Superman. Wore the red cape, flashed the yellow shield on my chest. I was playing in my friend’s backyard, a patch of green grass with a picket fence around it that ended beside the driveway. Feeling especially bold about my powers, I channeled the Man of Steel and climbed the fence, ready to fly, certain about reaching the soft pile of leaves waiting on the other side. After a trip to the emergency room and a dozen stitches in my chin, I moved on to Batman.
“Show Me Your Scars” – Sermon by Brian Combs 4/30/14
If you find me in an especially vulnerable place, I will tell you that I don’t shave because a beard adds a decade to my baby-face and that a beard lends authority to my pastoral role. But the real answer, the most naked answer, is that I don’t want you to see my scar.
The Gospel is a terrifying story for those of us unwilling to reveal where we’re bleeding, to rip off the bandages that hide our wounds (Barbara Brown Taylor paraphrase).
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
What’s the post-Easter response to resurrection?
To believe that just as Jesus was particular in his appearance to Mary, the disciples and Thomas, that he will come to us in the way we can most receive.
Know that Jesus can handle our doubts.
We live in an every increasing world of preening at perfection, at pretending to be embodied in unmarked bodies. Yet, greater than our need to be loved, is our need to be seen and our need to show.
Scars are the body’s record of daily crucifixions, and Christian community can only begin once we witness to each other with the stories of our skin: See these stretch marks on my abdomen, they came from 27 hours of labor. See these scars on my knees, they came from pleading at the feet of my spouse after the infidelity. See these mutilations on my wrist, they came from the razor blade night I was suicidal.
It is important to show our injuries because it makes it easier for others to show theirs. See and touch the Good News, we are created to grow, not stronger, but more vulnerable, wide open with wounds exposed to the light of truth, the air of revelation.
There is an exhibition traveling around the world of enormous portraits, huge photos of nude women from the waist up. Some look at the camera, others away; some are crying, others laughing. But all have in common flat chests, and the mastectomy lines of a surgeon who removed their breasts, and the message that cancer is not about hiding behind a pink ribbon. Instead, it has everything to do with being completely exposed as a whole and complete woman. The name of the exhibition is the Scar Project.
God raised the Son from the dead, but not without his wounds still visible. So that Jesus could say to Thomas, “touch my pierced side, see my bleeding hands.”