Deborah Lang, an Oblate since 1997 of the Order of Julian of Norwich, is a postulant for the Order of Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. A member of St. Paul's Church in McHenry, she preached this sermon on the Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018, at St. Mark's Church, Barrington Hills, where she is doing her field placement work.
Her sermon is based on Luke 24:36b-48, which you can read by clicking here.
It is the evening of the third day.
Since dawn, the Risen Christ has appeared first to the women, then to some apostles and disciples; now he has returned to Jerusalem and has come to the eleven.
Jesus is alive. And while we join our voices in rousing Alleluias, this fact is not without its difficulties, today as well as then.
The apostles are as confused and frighten as ever.
And Jesus, despite all he has endured, is yet again challenged to prove who he is.
Jesus willingly obliges, but in a rather unexpected way.
In response to their bewilderment and doubt, he does not take them to the streets to perform miracles of healing, nor does he begin teaching them with a parable.
Which is really quite astounding given the fact that he has just experienced death and resurrection— a teaching moment if ever there was one!
No, he does none of that.
In this tender scene, Jesus identifies himself by showing the marks of his crucifixion. He shows them the evidence of his suffering and simply says "Touch me and see."
In this Jesus shows us his most human face.
During his life, Jesus shows us the signs and wonders of the Son of God.
As the Risen Christ he shows us his humanity. "Touch me and see."
See that I bear the marks of suffering.
It is the cry of every human heart. Touch me, see me.
Friends, we all bear the marks of suffering.
Physical pain, emotional and spiritual pain, loss, grief, disappointment in others, and, more keenly, disappointment in ourselves.
It is a given, to be human is to know suffering.
The first time I left the house after my father died I went to the grocery store.
I was saddened and dismayed that everyone behaved as if nothing had happened.
Didn't they know that everything had changed? Didn't they understand nothing would ever be the same? Couldn't they see that I was utterly brokenhearted?
As I asked these questions it became clear that if they could not see my pain, I could not see theirs.
Everyone in that store suffered something.
In that moment I felt as one with them all.
The Risen Christ is identified and known by the marks of his suffering.
It was true then. It is true now.
Jesus shows us and says "This, this is how you will know me."
Jesus shows us his wounds and in so doing draws us in to Himself.
And there, in Him, we are one.
By God's grace, when we identify the presence of Christ in our own woundedness, we can begin to know him in the wounds of others.
It is no less than Christ who is there.
Seeing and touching Jesus in the suffering of others breaks down all barriers, all illusions of difference, and affirms the truth that we are one.
For in the Risen Christ suffering does not have the last word.
Suffering gives way to Compassion and Love.
Wounds are not taken away, rather they are transformed into a visible sign of hope.
This is Risen Life.
It is to this Risen Life of compassion and love that we are called.
Barbara Essex, Minister and Director of Pastoral Studies at the Pacific School of Religion, writes:
"Jesus commissions us to declare the presence and power of God in the midst of tragedy, despair and death. They are not ultimate— God is.
"The Risen Christ makes himself known to us in ways large and small.
"As people of faith, we are called to be witnesses to Christ's presence among us, in our words and in our deeds; our faith demands nothing less."
We are called to give witness to the great Joy that is ours.
Jesus is alive. What more do we need?
Touch him, see him.
And make him known. Alleluia!
Doubting Thomas, Bangor Cathedral, Wales.