What The Wounds Reveal

CALL TO WORSHIP: Listen to this word of truth, which is good news for everyone; Jesus lived, died and rose again. We can have fellowship with Him

And with God the Father.

Welcoming God, on the day when Jesus rose again, the disciples gathered together in a locked room, afraid of what might happen to them. We, too, are gathered together as followers of Jesus. But we do not need to be afraid, for we know that Jesus is alive.

By His Spirit, He is among us now. May each one of us be ready to hear His voice saying ‘Peace be with you,’ as He said to them so long ago. Give us grace not just to hear the words, but to take their meaning into our hearts, and to understand what He has to say. In His name we pray. Amen

HYMN 315: WE SING THE PRAISE OF JESUS -StF.

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Today in our prayers of praise, we will be thinking about what it means to be in fellowship with God and with one another.

Let us pray.

Loving, life-giving God, We praise and worship You.

Lord, You spoke the word at the beginning of time, and all things began. You made everything we see around us, and all that is beyond our sight. You made each one of us in Your image. Out of Your great love, You draw near to us, not forcing us, but reaching out to us; and You have made us so that we are not complete unless we are in a relationship with You.

Loving, life-giving God, We praise and worship You.

You sent prophets and leaders to call Your people to turn to You. Even when they turned their backs on You, You still kept loving them. At the right time, You sent Jesus, He lived on earth, showing Your love to those He met.

He lived in a human family, and spent time with a group of friends. He showed Your love for all people in the way that He lived, and in the way He died. On the third day You raised Jesus from the dead. Once more, His friends could see Him, and talk to Him.

Loving, life-giving God, We praise and worship You.

After Jesus went back to heaven, You sent the Holy Spirit to live in all those who believe in Him. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can have fellowship with one another. We can look around our families and know that everyone is made in Your image, and that everyone is someone for whom Jesus died. Your Spirit can fill us with love for one another.

Loving, life-giving God, We praise and worship You. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: ID PLEASE!

OBJECTS: A driver's license or some other photo identification card

Does anyone ever ask you for identification? It happens to me all the time. When I go into a store to buy something and I want to pay for it with a cheque, the cashier takes my cheque and then asks, "May I see your driver's license please?" Why does the cashier need to see my driver's license? The answer is quite simple. The cashier wants to see if I match the picture on the driver's license. Am I really who I claim to be?

There may be other times when you will be asked for identification. You may need a picture ID to get a library card. You might even need a picture ID to sign up for youth football. Many schools are now requiring students and teachers to wear a picture ID at school. Almost every day we are asked to prove that we are who we say we are.

On the Sunday that Jesus rose from the grave, he appeared to a group of his disciples. One of the disciples whose name was Thomas was not with them. When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus and that he was alive, Thomas said, "I won't believe it until I see it with my own eyes. I want to see the nail-prints in his hands and put my hand in the place where the spear was thrust into his side."

A week later, Jesus appeared to his disciples again. This time Thomas was there. Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Then Thomas believed!

A lot of people today won't believe that Jesus really rose from the grave because they haven't seen him with their own eyes. They want "proof of identity" before they will believe. Jesus said, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

How about you? Do you have to have "proof of identity" before you will believe in Jesus, or will you accept him by faith?

Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your son to die on the cross for our sin. Help us to accept by faith that Jesus has risen from the grave and that he is alive. Amen.

HYMN 381: HOLY SPIRIT, BREATH OF HEAVEN-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: Hear what the Bible says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.

Let us pray.

For picking out the wrongdoings of others and forgetting about our own, Lord, forgive us.

For being so convinced of our own rightness that we can’t see how wrong we are, Lord, forgive us.

For letting others take the blame for something that we have done, Lord, forgive us.

For not trusting in Your power to forgive Lord, forgive us.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. If we confess our sin, God will forgive us and make us clean from our wrongdoing. Hear the words of Jesus: ‘Your sins are forgiven’. Thanks be to God. Amen

READINGS: JOHN 20: 19-31

HYMN 314: THIS JOYFUL EASTERTIDE, WHAT NEED IS THERE- StF

SERMON: WHAT THE WOUNDS REVEAL (JOHN 20:19-30)

Jesus surprises his disciples in that upstairs room. After all, he’s supposed to be dead! But he comes among them alive again, more alive than he was before.

How does he explain himself to these people who cannot believe that he is back, whose hearts are racing? Not by the look in his eye. Not by the sounds of his voice.

What Jesus does to explain himself is show them his wounds. He puts forth his hands, and they see the immense scars that occupy his palms. He points to his one side, where yet another scar runs down his body.

Like an old man in a hospital bed who had surgery two days before, and now shows off the incision, Jesus displays the damage done to him on the cross, the marks made by those who killed him.

It is these wounds that identify him as the Jesus they knew before, now back alive among them. He is not some insubstantial spirit or spectre, some hallucination or memory. He is a real person, of flesh and blood and bone, aware of himself and his surroundings, able to touch others and be touched by them. He is the murdered messiah come back to life.

The wounds tell a story: how the heavy hammer blows cut holes into his hands, how the sharp Roman lance tore through his skin and side, how he lost his wind for what seemed the final time, and the dark curtain of death fell upon him.

These wounds, which once emptied out his life, now no longer gape or bleed. They do not require bandages or the embalming power of spices.

Though still the scars remain, his hands and side are healed, and the old wounds now glow with glory, cause of joy to his disciples.

These wounds are there for his first disciples. These wounds remain for us. When Jesus ascends to prepare a place for his people, he goes as a man whose body still bears the marks of execution.

Now he reigns in glory, but still his wounds remain. And, when he comes to judge the human race, we will see again those wounds upon his body. They will tell of abundant mercy. They will reveal our judge as one who chose to die for us.

Yet the wounds of Jesus as a permanent feature of his flesh leave me bothered and bewildered! It seems that God should respect the standards we humans so often set, standards of unsullied appearance, rather than carry through all ages scars on hands and feet and side.

We humans long for what is clean and flawless. We expect the same from God.

But the God of the Gospel does not sit around eternally self-satisfied, always picture-perfect. No, this God reaches out to us, always reaches out, and in Jesus even undergoes our death that we may share his life.

This God chooses to bear forever the disfigurement of nails and spear. This God sacrifices stainless perfection for our flesh-and-blood fulfillment.

Yes, it is through the wounds of Jesus that God reveals himself for who he is. Through these wounds we see how, in Jesus, God does not avoid our existence, but plunges straight into its guilt and pain, feels the entire shock of our destructiveness, then bursts forth from the tomb to fill the world with life.

The human body of Jesus now forever marked with scars, now forever bright with glory, is the emblem of this triumph.

This is saving truth: that through the wounds of Jesus, God reveals himself for who he is. This also is saving truth: that through our wounds, we discover who we are.

It may be that our wounds have been left unattended, and now they stink and spread disease.

Or it may be that our wounds are becoming glorious, a source of new life for us and for others. We cannot escape being wounded and feeling the hurt and sting, but these scars can shine with glory when we put our faith in the God who works through wounds.

Do you put your faith in this remarkable God, who can work through the wounds of Jesus, and your own as well? This God works through wounds of every kind. Ours need not remain wrapped in the filthy bandages of denial. Ours need not be left open and tender through perpetual self-pity. God can work, even through our wounds. God can make them glorious, a source of new life for us and for others.

One fruit of such faith is an appropriate respect for the human body, accepting our flesh for what it is, and not assuming that we must be free from every wound.

All of us today are under intense pressure to have a body that can’t be wounded. Our defence may come from makeup or muscles or medicine. The blessings of beauty and fitness and health then become demons ever hounding us. We begin to treat our bodies as machines, whether pleasure machines or power machines. We forget that there is more to life than security; that wounds need not be the end, but the path to something greater.

What we must do is care for our bodies, through habits that are chaste and sane and healthy. This means declaring our independence from all sorts of obsessions: obsessions with dieting, muscle-building, and redesigning face and figure, obsession with those impossible, unreal

standards of physical appearance that bombard us every day, threaten our self-esteem, heighten our anxiety.

We must not grimly pursue some media-inflicted notion of human perfection, but instead open ourselves to the fulfillment God wills for us. Better Franklin Roosevelt in a wheelchair than Joseph Stalin on his own two feet! Better the wrinkles of Mother Teresa than the plastic profile of Michael Jackson!

In my work I have the privilege of encountering life at its extremities: both birth and death. I go to the hospital room to greet the newborn and the family. It is a pleasure to see that small human face and to experience the joy of that family. There’s something divine about it all.

Yet there’s also something divine about what happens when the dead body of someone who lived on earth eighty or ninety years lies here in church cushioned in the casket. That body bears the wounds of a long lifetime: it has to it a wondrous character that it did not yet have when it was small and soft and newborn.

So often it is through the wounds of body and soul that God worked in the person’s life, that the person gained a greater and more true identity, and that— strange to say— healing happened and wholeness began to be revealed in that unique and precious life.

The God who, in Jesus, still bears the marks of the cross, wants to work in each of us, not only where we think we’re in control, but also where we were wounded. That is where God feels at home. And that is where healing begins to happen— for us and for others. AMEN.

HYMN 370: BREATHE ON ME BREATH OF GOD-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: As we pray for others and ourselves, we shall be thinking about some of the groups to which we belong.

Let us pray

Lord, bless Your people And draw them together in love.

First of all, let us pray for the church to which we belong. We pray for the church in this country and all round the world. We think of its leaders making decisions that may affect many. We ask that they may do this remembering that You are the head of the church. We pray for churches that are threatened by danger. May they be open to the work of Your Holy Spirit.

Lord, bless Your people and draw them together in love.

Now we pray for the communities in which we live. We pray for councils and committees who decide how money is to be spent. Help them to be wise and sensitive in their decisions.

We pray too for the community groups and clubs to which we belong. Show us how to offer friendship when we are there, and how to bring the love of Christ.

Lord, bless Your people and draw them together in love.

We pray for this church fellowship. We spend a moment to think about the groups to which we belong. We remember others in the group and we thank You for them. Help us to value each other, and to love as Christ loves us.

Lord, bless Your people and draw them together in love.

We pray now for our own family and our friendship groups. As we do so, we also pray for ourselves. We are all different, and so are our situations; but You call us all to bring the light and the love of Christ wherever we go.

Show us how to do this, so that our homes and our lives may be filled with His presence.

Lord, bless Your people and draw them together in love.

Amen

HYMN 351: IN CHRIST ALONE, MY HOPE IS FOUND -StF

BLESSINGS: Here is the message that comes from Jesus; God is light and with Him there is no darkness at all. As we go from this place, Let us walk in the light and be in fellowship with Him.

The Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.