Second Sunday of Easter 2010
Gospel: John 20
Hands are going to play a huge part in the forthcoming General Election. The hands of politicians try to show or hide aspects of who they are. Hands will be shaken to show warmth and concern. Hands will point in accusation at the political failures of others. Hands will be used to emphasise a political point. Hands will, for some, be raised in celebration at election and, for others, used to cover defeated faces. Hands reveal who we are, who we want to be, and how we feel.
And it is Jesus’ hands that form the pivotal moment in today’s Gospel. The disciples are afraid, “for fear of the Jews” we are told. Presumably they are worried that they will be given over the death, just as Jesus was a few days before. Then Jesus appears to them for the first time since his death, and he is both the same and quite different. He shows them his wounded hands and wishes them peace. Then Thomas, who is absent, cannot believe his friends and demands to see for himself the “nail marks” in the wounded hands of Jesus. Jesus appears again and offers one more time his wounded hands and an offer of peace.
Jesus’ offering of hands and peace, given twice, remains quite a paradox. In one moment, Jesus offers the brokenness of his hands, a sign of defeat and suffering, alongside the promise of peace, which means both healing and wholeness. God’s victory is that, in the flesh, in the here and now, all of our brokenness, all of our hurt, all of our failures, can be transformed into peace, healing, and wholeness. That paradox, that promise, is contained in the hands of Christ, the source and site of defeated death for all who share in Jesus’ resurrected humanity. And a simple gesture of the hand reveals to us the saving of all that is broken and defeated.
Where do you see yourself in this resurrection story, I wonder? Most often, I suspect, we see ourselves as the disciples, filled with fear, or as Thomas, full of doubt. Do you ever see yourself as the hands of Christ? St Paul tells us that we, as the Church, are the “Body of Christ”. It’s an image of how our common baptism, faith, and God knits us together. With God’s grace, we can see the world through the eyes of Christ, we can talk with the mouth of God, we can work alongside others with the hands of our Lord. We are what most people see of God. Most people, like Thomas, want proof that God exists, and look to us for it. Who we are, how we live, is either a convincing proof for God or an unattractive turn-off.
We are, as individuals and as a community, wounded. These wounds are obvious to all for good or for ill when we offer of hands in fellowship with one another and offer hands in outreach to others. We are wounded by division across the churches; we are broken in how we relate to other people, maybe in our family, maybe in our marriages, maybe in our friendships; we are torn open by past failures and hurts; we are injured by a spirit of negativity from which we feel we perhaps cannot escape. In a sinful world, we are all hurting and in need of healing peace. As a church, however, what condition our wounds are in shows a great deal about how we have, as individuals and as a community, received God’s wholeness despite our brokenness.
Are the wounds in our hands which we offer one another and the world open, infected, and life-threatening? Do we find the work of our hands broken by negativity, or fear, or hatred, both within worship and in general life? Or are our working hands, like the wounds of Christ’s hands, scarred but healed, showing both the reality and the promise of restoration and healing? Do we abandon ourselves to God, despite difficulties, in spite of the small crucifixions we experience in our lives? Do our wounded hands offer more damage, or do they offer Christ’s peace?
A scar, like a broken bone that has healed well, is tougher, stronger, and more resilient than what was there before. But wounds, like broken bones, need to be offered up to a physician for healing. Whatever damage, whatever wounds we have, let’s offer them together to the physician of peace, our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. He has the medicine of eternal life: the balm of His Spirit in baptism, the tonic of Holy Communion, and the care of His called community, the Church. Offer to each other hands that bear the memory of hurt and failure, but hands that share God’s peace and wholeness. Offer to the world the same hands to draw them into God’s family.
Jesus tells us “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus extends us like his hands to give forgiveness and share God’s Spirit. God has the world in his hands. We are both held and share in the holding as Christ’s Body, the Church, on earth. When we are held, we are healed. When we hold others, we are called to give them God’s healing. In this General Election think about those who need to be held in loving hands – the poor, the asylum seeker, the elderly, the young, the homeless, both at home and abroad. Use your hands to vote wisely, full of the Holy Spirit. In this celebration today of Holy Communion, extend your hands in peace to those around you as a commitment to work through differences that damage. Then approach the altar with empty hands to receive healing yourself from God. Offer up your wounds as you offer up your hands. Let God give healing and power to those wounds that you may love one another as Christ loves you. Empty, wounded hands will then become the site of new life, both in yourself and in those whom those hands touch. Those hands will be an inspiration for belief to those in the world who doubt like Thomas. Our hands will build a new Jerusalem here and now, even today. After all, the most convincing proof for God are our own resurrection moments. Amen.