The Wounds are the Way

Sermon from April 28, 2019
John 20: 19-31
St. Alban’s, Waco, Texas

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Good morning!
I am Jeff Fisher, Bishop Suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
And for those whom I do not know, I was the rector of St. Alban’s, from 2006 to 2012.
Or as I like to say it:
I was the rector of St. Alban’s,
Before Waco became cool.

Now a few weeks ago, the annual Boston Marathon was run.
In the media coverage of the Boston Marathon, attention was given to the winners of the race.
Yet in the social media coverage of the marathon, my attention was captured by a different runner, a runner who did not win the race.

The video that captured my attention – was of Micah Herndon.
Micah Herndon was so determined to finish the 26.2-mile marathon,
That Micah crossed the finish line, crawling on his hands and knees.

Micah Herndon is a Marine veteran.
And Micah was running the Boston Marathon in honor and tribute of three of his war buddies, three friends who fought with him in Afghanistan, three friends who were killed in bombing attacks.

Yet near the 22-mile mark of the Boston marathon, Micah’s legs locked out.
So Micah then got on his hands and knees.
And he crawled the remaining 4 miles to the finish line.

When asked how we did it, Micah replied:
“I just said their [three] last names out loud, and I just repeated, over and over:
Ballard, Hamer, Juarez.
Ballard, Hamer, Juarez.
Ballard, Hamer, Juarez.”

Micah then said:
“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through.”

As Micah Herndon crossed the finish line, dragging himself on his hands and knees,
His wounds on his elbows – were clearly visible.
And in Micah’s determination, the wounds of his three dead friends – were clearly visible.
And in Micah’s crawling body, the wounds of all veterans – were clearly visible.

herndon

Micah Herndon crawls across the Boston Marathon finish line (WBZ-TV)

For the video of Micah Herndon dragging himself across the finish line leaves me with no doubt:
The wounds are the way.

The wounds of the risen Jesus are clearly visible.
For on the second Sunday of that first season of Easter, the followers of Jesus are all in one place.
Yet this time, the apostle Thomas is also with them.

The risen Jesus invites Thomas to see and touch his wounds, saying:
“Put your finger here and see my hands.
Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

This invitation to see the wounds of Jesus elicits one of the strongest statements of faith in the entire Bible, as Thomas responds:
“My Lord and my God!”

In my opinion, Thomas gets a bad rap.
Thomas should not be pegged as a doubter.
Instead we should give thanks for Thomas.

Because without Thomas, we would not know that even the wounds of the risen Jesus are still visible.
Without Thomas, we would not know that
The wounds are the way.

And this is not the first time that Thomas helps us to see the way.
Way back in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, Thomas asks Jesus:
“How can we know the way?”
And Jesus answers Thomas with:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This phrase of faith:
“I am the way, and the truth and the life,”
Can make some people bristle,
Because it can seem so exclusive.

Yet once the risen Jesus shows Thomas the visible holes still in his hands and feet, the way to God is not exclusive.
On the contrary, Jesus is the way, and it is inclusive of all of us,
Inclusive of all of us who are wounded.
For the wounds are the way.

Back when I was growing up, in regard to parenting techniques, it was “my way or the highway.”
And as a child, if I ever questioned my father about why his way was the correct way, he would reply:
“’Cause I’s the dad, and you’s the kid.”

These days, I hear parents raise their children, not always with a “my way or the highway” directive.
But rather, I hear parents today use an open invitation to their children, saying:
Make good choices.

Jesus is the way.
Yet it is your choice.

You can view this life as a giant marathon race –
Where the goal is be the fastest in your age category,
And to wear the best moisture wicking running shorts,
And to be able to drive around town with that sticker on your car that says “26.2.”

Or
You can complete that race –
By crawling on your hands and knees,
Repeating the names of your dead and wounded friends, over and over and over.

It is your choice.
For God does not command you, saying:
“My way or the highway.”
God invites you, saying:
“Make good choices.”

For my friends, there is no doubt in my mind:
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.
And the wounds are the way.

And there is no doubt in my mind:
Your wounds are still visible.

Your wounds from chemo and miscarriages.
Your wounds from substance and porn addiction.
Your wounds from PTSD and depression.
Your wounds from loneliness and eating disorders.
Your wounds from sin and separation issues from God and from others.

And all of your wounds, all of my wounds, are crawling across that finish line, into the loving embrace of Jesus, who says to each one of us:
“Put your finger here and see my hands.
Reach out your hands and put it in my side.”

And, my sisters and brothers, the good news is this:
Even though the risen and ascended Jesus now lives and reigns in glory,
His wounds are still visible!

Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.
And the only way to God – is through the wounded life of Jesus.
The only way to God – is through the wounded marathon of your own life.

Yet the way to God is not exclusive, exclusive to only the most well-trained and religious and perfect people.
No, the way to God is inclusive of all people, inclusive of all of us who are wounded.

My dear friends:
Make good choices.
The wounds are the way.

AMEN.

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