Broken but Beautiful. (Sermon from 4/12/15)

Text: John 20:19-31
Sermons were meant to be heard, so listen.

When we last left the disciples, at the end of Easter Sunday, they had scattered in fear and grief after witnessing the loss of their Lord and teacher.  Women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus and were told: “He is not here, He is risen.”  And they ran away in fear.

And as we come upon them in today’s Gospel, there they are,still afraid, hiding in a locked room.

There was likely a complex mix of emotions going on in that room.
Fear, yes.
But maybe, just maybe, there was some hope sprinkled around that fear.
Hope that it wasn’t a joke.
Hope that Jesus really had risen from the dead.
And then, quickly on the heels of that hope, comes the questions.
Is rising from the dead is even possible?
Did the women just hear what they wanted to hear?
Was it a product of their grief?

And if it’s true, what does it even mean?
If it’s true, then where is he?

This text, of the disciples hiding in the locked room, and Jesus coming to see them, occurs each year on the Sunday immediately following Easter.
Jesus appears to them, despite their fear, despite their questions.
Despite the locked door.
And there is a lot to be gained from hearing this story year after year.

Because we often feel like the disciples after hearing the good news on Easter Sunday. Not only does it feel like Easter happened a month ago instead of just a week, but we too have that mix of emotions … wondering if it’s simply too good to be true, if maybe we misunderstood it, or if what we heard last week is even possible.

So year after year, we need this reminder on this day, that God comes into the locked places we are hiding, comes to us, not the other way around, and says:
Yes it’s true.
Everything you heard last week is true.
It’s true if you are scared,
it’s true if you are hiding,
it’s true if you are questioning.
Jesus is risen.
Death didn’t get the last word.
Love won.
It is all true.

The text we hear this morning, of Jesus entering in and showing up will be a good enough reminder for a lot of you.
But then, there are a few of us that are, if we’re honest, really happy that Thomas is in this Gospel too.
Thomas of the worst nickname in the Bible.
Thomas asks for something that I think a lot of us also would like to ask for: proof.
Real, actual, let me touch the risen Jesus, proof.
And he’s forever known as “Doubting Thomas”
Yet he’s not so much doubting, as wanting more.
And not only does he ask for it, but he gets it.
Jesus shows up another time, and this time Thomas is there.
He asks for proof, and gets it.

And while I could spend the whole morning talking about doubt and fear and the burden of proof, I want to take some time and focus in on another aspect of this text that we often breeze past in our haste to talk about Thomas and why he’s not really deserving of his nickname.

Have you ever noticed in romantic movies or books or television shows, when someone does something hurtful and ruins a relationship, they run away, then have an epiphany, and then they come back and say they are sorry and have the I love you moment and then suddenly, magically, everything is ok?
You know what I’m talking about?

Literally every single fictional love story ever has these plot points.

And after the big I’m sorry and I love you moment, what was bad turns into something good, and everything is forgiven and it’s like the bad never even happened at all?

I think, as much as we logically know reality is not like the movies, this is kind of what we think about Easter.

Jesus died for us and rose and now everything that happened before is better and happy and shiny and we can all just go back to the way we were and everything is going to be ok.

Jesus is back!  Everything is fine!

But is that reality?
Or is that the Hollywood version?

Because, yes, things ARE different.
We’re in a new normal.  We’re in a post resurrection world now.
Today’s Gospel is a reminder of what happens in this new normal, this new world we are in where resurrection has happened.

For a lot of us, we left here last week and life wasn’t magically better.
We still had empty seats at our Easter meals.
Our cancer didn’t go away.
We were still unemployed.
Our marriages were still struggling.
Our kids still threw tantrums and yelled that they hated us.
Wasn’t life supposed to change?
Isn’t that what Easter is about?

We come to this text year after year on the Sunday after Easter because we need the reassurance that it’s ok to have doubts when things don’t seem to change. It’s ok because even Thomas, one of the actual disciples, he had doubts too.

Last week Pr Chad ended by reminding us that the story isn’t over because you are a part of it now.
You matter in the story of God.
You matter in this post-resurrection world we now find ourselves in.
You.
Do you still doubt?
Do you still think that’s not true for you?
That others can be brought into the story but not you…
never you.
You’re too sinful
have too many questions
or are too skeptical
or too broken

Sin and death aren’t the end of Christ and they aren’t the end of you either.
And, in reality, it is those things that cause you to question your place in God’s story that make you perfect for it.

I want to go back to Thomas for a minute.
Because I think Thomas gets something really, really important about the post-resurrection world.

Notice what Thomas asks for.
He doesn’t ask to see shiny, perfect, resurrected Jesus.
“Thomas 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.”

Thomas gets it.
Thomas gets the reality of resurrection.
The trauma of the old life isn’t erased, but transformed.
Everything isn’t perfect, but it is different, it is new.

There’s an ancient Japanese art form, called Kintsugi, or kinsukuroi.
The story of kinsugi began in the late 15th century when a well-known shogun warrior broke one of his prized tea bowls and sent it to be repaired.
When it was returned to him, it was held together with bulky and ugly staples.
He thought this was unacceptable.
He asked some local craftsmen to find a way to repair it that could make a broken piece look as good as new, or better.
These artists pulled out the staples and mended the pot together seamlessly, with gold.

In doing so, the broken places were clearly visible, but the finished product was even more beautiful than the original product.

In kintsugi, the flaws are not hidden, are not wiped away, but are highlighted, and represent an essential moment in it’s history.

Jesus rose from the dead, but his scars were still present.
It’s the week after Easter, and our scars haven’t disappeared either.
Our brokenness still exists.
You only had to turn on the news this week to hear how broken the world still is.
But just like those artists did with a little gold and plaster,
Jesus takes our brokenness and fills in the cracks with grace and love.
And what we get is much more beautiful than anything that came before.

This Easter we have been resurrected and redeemed and repaired.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

We are a part of God’s story now, and we take our beautiful resurrected selves into this world to continue the work of Christ that started last week.
We go into the broken world with our own patched-up brokenness proudly on display.
We go into the broken world to love and serve others from those places where we are now most beautiful.
We go into the world confident that we are not alone, that we go with God, that God goes with us, and we go with each other.

This is what it means to live in a post-Easter, post-resurrection world.
So go.

Good Friday Uplift, 4/3/15

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”
Matthew 15:37

Taking a slight pause from Psalm 139 this week, for this “good” Friday.
I often wonder what is so good about this day, this strange and uncomfortable day.
and then this article came across my newsfeed and it spoke perfectly to this cross that we come to stand at tonight.
It was written by Shane Claiborne, and called “Holy Week in an Unholy World.”  In it, Shane reminds us that this day is about more than the death of Christ.
He writes about a time where he learned this lesson:
“One of the most powerful Good Friday services we’ve ever had was a few years ago. We carried the cross into the streets and planted it outside the gunshop in our neighborhood. We had our services there. We read the story of Jesus’s death… and heard about the women weeping at the foot of the cross. And then we listened to the women in our neighborhood weep as they shared about losing their kids to gun violence.

Calvary met Kensington.

Afterwords, one woman said to me: “I get it! I get it!” I asked her what she meant. And then she said something more profound than anything I ever learned in seminary: “God understands my pain. God knows how I feel. God watched his Son die too.” Then I realized she was the mother of a nineteen-year-old who had just been murdered on our block.

God understands our pain. That is good theology for Good Friday.”

This is the lesson for us today I think.
When you look at the cross, know that God understands your pain. And in then know that just as God doesn’t leave Christ on the cross, God will not leave you in your pain either.
There is pain on this day, yes, but there is also hope.
Hope for the resurrection.
Hope for the day when love wins.
That day is coming.

AMEN

HOORAY! March is over! (12:30 project continues)

My no sugar month has come to an end.
And praise Jesus for that!

But, as with every experiment, here’s what I learned this month:
1. Sugar is the nectar of the gods.  Seriously.
2. I don’t actually eat THAT much sugar
– I don’t drink pop, I rarely drink juice, I don’t eat candy or sweets except for dessert
3. I have a serious dessert problem
– it’s bad.
– no dessert (ice cream, chocolate, cookies, etc) for a month lost me five pounds.                  Yeah, you read that right.  FIVE POUNDS.  This is indicative of a serious issue.
4. Everything in moderation
– Despite the intense dessert issue I discovered, I missed those moments of                          indulgence … ice cream with the family on a warm day, or a bit of cookie after a                  nice dinner, or even a mocha when I needed a boost.  They shouldn’t be daily, but              never being able to treat myself was difficult for my morale.
5. Some things are easy to give up for good
– I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to sweet yogurt, or sugar in my coffee, or                even juice.  It seems RIDICULOUSLY, almost sickeningly sweet now.  Even daily              dessert can go the way of the dodo.  I learned to end meals with fruit, and even                  liked it.
6. Some things are coming back… TODAY!!
– Occasional ice cream, mochas, and dessert.  Not daily, but denial of things that                 obviously bring me such pleasure seems kind of silly.

So there it is.  No sugar is done.
Phew!

Now it’s April, and it’s my prayer month.
If you’re a follower of the blog, I’m going to challenge you to join me in this one…
Twenty minutes a day of prayer.  Consecutive.
Consecutive because I find myself praying most often in quick one or two minute intervals.  And that’s not bad.  In fact, Martin Luther said that sometimes just lifting your thoughts towards someone is an act of prayer.  So yes, I pray all the time, but I don’t take intentional time and set it aside to pray.  And I want to.  Not because I “should” but because I want to.
I’m going to take those twenty minutes and split them into the following five minute segments:
1. Prayer for myself and my personal situations
2. Prayer for people I love
3. Prayer for people I don’t love
4. Listening to what God has to say

Will this be easy?
No.  In fact, I’m 100% positive that praying for people I don’t like and sitting quietly for five minutes to listen for God might be harder than giving up sugar.  But it’s important.

Anyone with me?