This is the message I delivered at my church on April 15, 2018.
It is based on the gospel of Luke 24:36-49
Years ago there was a story about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident. He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. She called for help. Friends and neighbors, police, the whole shebang showed up. The judge was pronounced dead and taken to the funeral home. The local radio picked up the story and broadcast it all over the airwaves.
But—in the middle of the night, the judge woke up. He realized where he was, and rushed over to alert the night watchman, who promptly ran off, terrified. The judge’s first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her. But he got no further than, “Darling, it’s me,” when she screamed and fainted.
He tried calling a couple of the neighbors but they all thought it was some sort of sick prank and hung up on him.
Finally, he was able to call a friend in the next town who hadn’t heard of his death. This friend was able to convince his family and other friends that he really was alive.
(Bruce Larson, LIVING BEYOND OUR FEARS)
Some things are just very hard to believe – so it is with our story today —
In our Gospel lesson the risen Jesus finally appears in the midst of all eleven disciples, bidding them peace and demonstrating that he was not some sort of ghost but rather he had been restored to life by the power of God.
Jesus told them to touch him – That he was not a ghost –
He was real and he was alive!!
When Jesus first appeared, we are told the disciples were frightened. He startled them, they were unprepared for it. They just couldn’t believe that Jesus could be there so they were afraid. So he showed them his hands and feet. It was still too much, it seemed too good to be true – Jesus couldn’t win! But Jesus was determined that they would believe. It wasn’t until Thomas touched his scars that they came to realize the truth – Jesus took their unbelief, accepted them where they were, understood their hesitation and met it with sympathy and patience.
Jesus shows them his hands and feet and his scars told his story.
We take a look at our own scars and every one of them has a story, some are painful reminders of surgeries, illnesses or accidents – others are funny, some are significant while some are filled with grief, shame or guilt. I’m guessing everyone has one – if not several of them. I have a scar on my side from when I was a toddler, i grabbed a boiling pot of water off the stove and burned myself, I got an infection and was in a coma for three days nearly dying. I have another scar on my knuckle where my brother hit me with a mop after I pulled down some of the army guys he had duct taped to his bedroom ceiling. And there is a scar on my neck from the time my cat tried to jump over me while I slept and missed! Your scars tell the story of your life.
In today’s bible verse, we hear the story of Jesus and his scars. How he showed up at God’s door broken, bleeding and wounded. The nails on his hands and feet, the spear in his side – all left a mark! Scars that last forever, even now.
Thomas touched those scars and believed! Jesus wanted Thomas and the disciples to see those scars and to understand the hope that they represented. It is through those scars that we are saved. When Jesus said to Thomas, put your finger here, see my hands? Give me your hand, place it on my side – Jesus was telling his scar story. His scars preach a powerful sermon. The scars of Jesus told a story that Thomas and the disciples could not deny. They represent the fact that God loves us, no matter what – scars, wounds and all!
Our scars, our wounds, our brokenness all tell our own personal story. A story that is unique to us and sets us apart, yet in sharing our stories with others, brings us closer together. We discover that we are not alone, that others have suffered and overcame. That we have all been wounded and that we have all been healed.
We live in a world of perceived perfection – we try to pretend that we live in unmarked bodies. We see those on television and social media trying so hard to be seen as perfectly put together, hiding all their imperfections. But we soon come to realize that we are all wounded, every one of us! We are all dealing with messy emotions in this scary, sometimes uncertain world.
The thing is, Jesus didn’t die to take away our scars ~ our scars mark the place where a wound was healed. And because we are believers … our scars now tell a new story. A story that includes Jesus and reminds us that we are forgiven, we will be healed, and we are welcome at God’s table no matter what scars we have or what stories they tell.
Jesus still bears the wounds of his experience here on earth. The resurrection didn’t remove his wounds – they stand as a reminder that God is with us in all things, especially the painful, destructive, scary, troubling times. They show us the pain he and the disciples experienced at the time. The arrest and persecution, the fear and doubt, the tears and remorse, the abandoning of Jesus and watching him die. Their emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness – the disciples were all wounded and so are we. But our faith is restored when we acknowledge Jesus as the risen son of God.
However sometimes things get in the way of our faith…
Fear is certainly one of them. There is a great deal of fear in the world. People are afraid of losing their health, their wealth, their loved one. Some people fear change, or rejection, or God. Fear can make it hard to develop a deeper level of faith.
Some people have a difficult time believing that God loves them just as they are. Some people look at their scars and wounds and weaknesses and think that there is no way God would consider them special. A loving relationship is just too hard to believe.
But God understands – he accepts us all right where we are at. Just as Jesus came to the disciples knowing exactly what they needed to believe, God continues to come to us through the works of others and power of the holy spirit.
Sometimes our faith is deepened, or we bring others to faith by sharing the story of times we were wounded, when we tell them how we got our scars. It can be hard to share, it’s hard to tell the truth about our lives and admit that we were hurt. I can be uncomfortable and risky and yet – there are times when we share our vulnerabilities that we experience transformative moments. Moving from fear to joy, just as the disciples did when exposed to the scars of Jesus. Instead of hiding our scars, we can say, look and see where God has healed me, where God redeemed me. In doing so we remember how Jesus took the fall for us, suffered on the cross, was crucified, died and rose again. He is the one who knows our pain and who accepts us for who we are.
Jesus has a beautiful scar story to tell – a story of hope for all of us.
Adapted from sermons by Christi Brown and Pastor Davis at tarsusdarkstar.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
by Sally Larkin Green
… There are times in each of our lives when God will call us out to do something unusual, to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable in order to make his kingdom great. You don’t have to preach sermons, or become involved in a church, all you need is a heart for God and a willingness to take action…
Do you live inside your comfort zone?
Your comfort zone is that invisible barrier that make you feel safe and secure.
All of us have comfort zones, some of us surround ourselves with them and stay there, some of us maneuver in and out of them, and sometimes we are forced out of them.
When we rest in our comfort zone we feel happy and secure, but we sometimes become afraid of what might happen if we try to do something different. When we get comfortable, or when we have done something in a particular way for a long period of time, we just don’t want things to change. But sometimes God doesn’t give us a choice.
Other times, we get that gut feeling. We realize that God is telling us that change needs to happen in our lives. When that happens, we may take up the challenge and change, but quite often we resist, procrastinate, and put off doing the things we should because it makes us uncomfortable.
You know what? life really stinks at times and so many times it’s not fair. We become familiar with disappointment and grief that making an effort to change becomes a struggle. There are some people who are so focused on their problems that fear, stress and worry becomes normal.
Life can knock you down hard and then sometimes, as soon as you get up, it can knock you down again. Your struggles can be used to keep you down or you can search for strength and continue to get up each time. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
It is said that God places many blessings outside our comfort zones and then challenges us to come get them.
So I encourage you today to ask yourself, what is God asking me to do? Am I willing step out in faith, push through the fear and dismiss the voices of naysayers in order to move outside my comfort zone?
It’s so easy to stay where you are. Maybe you’re thinking God just doesn’t perform miracles anymore. If you step up, you will say or do something wrong. Maybe You feel you don’t have enough faith or maybe you’re looking at your life and saying ….look at this situation I’m in! I’m really not sure God can fix it. So we stay inside our comfort zone and refuse to change.
There are times in each of our lives when God will call us out to do something unusual, to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable in order to make his kingdom great. You don’t have to preach sermons, or become involved in a church, all you need is a heart for God and a willingness to take action.
It may be as simple as walking across a room and talking to someone you would have normally ignored. Or inviting a neighbor over for a cup of coffee, or taking a co-worker out to lunch and asking them how they’re doing.
There will be times when your life spins out of control. When something happens that causes you worry and stress. It’s during those times that you have a choice. You can choose to hide and cower in the darkness or you can choose to keep your head up and deal with it. Because when you face your fears head on you realize that no matter how wounded you are and no matter how dark it gets, you can always find a burning star, a ray of hope, a golden beam of light to pull you up and lift you out of the darkness. But you will need to step outside your comfort zone and search for it first.
Jesus lives! We can still see signs all around us, if we look closely that show us that Jesus still lives today in the hearts of those who seek him. But we still struggle.
So I’m inclined to ask … If following Jesus does not exempt us from struggles and brokenness… Then why should we follow him? Why pray or go to church? What’s in it for us? The struggles we each face can be challenging and scary. And Following Jesus gives us a pathway to peace. He shows us the way to find Gods loving embrace. He takes away our fears and replaces it with determination and renewed strength. Our problems don’t go away when we follow Jesus, but the way we tackle them changes. Our attitude towards our problems change when we know we are not fighting them alone.
On this life journey, it’s the proclaiming our faith and the expressing our doubts, the questioning and the searching for answers, the falling and the getting up, the yanking and the pushing… it’s life pulling us in all directions, it’s the chasing and the crying and the celebrating that we do together, that leads us to discover the spirit of God in each of us. By following Jesus it fills our spirit with the love of God and brings us comfort knowing we are never alone. God is always with us.
Some of you endure the pain of life on a daily basis.
A lost marriage.
A broken home.
Death and separation
Sickness and pain.
Children facing difficulties and challenges.
No strong person I know got that way from walking away from their doubts and fears. It’s by tackling problems, by questioning, by searching for answers that we become stronger and more resilient.
Psalm 34: 18-19 says .. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.
Brokenness connects us to God. Think of the word BROKEN! When we’re financially strapped, we say we’re broke, when we lose someone or something we love we’re brokenhearted. When we were dating someone and they make us mad we break up with them. When we get together for meals we say we are “breaking bread together”, when we’re an emotional mess we have a break down. But it’s the broken ground that we plant seeds in to produce life,its broken clouds that bring rain, rain that yields flowers and food.
You know, it’s striking at how much the weather is a metaphor for our lives. This year especially we have realized that our never ending winter has finally moved into spring. We knew it would. That rain brings fruits and trees and rainbows. That storms destroy things that can be rebuilt even better and more resilient than before. Our lives are spent being broken and being renewed. Being cast aside and being lifted up. Being rained on and feeling lousy about it and then blossoming into a beautiful flower. We face storms, we struggle, we deal with the loss of loved ones. But it’s the harsh winters make spring much more appreciated. It’s in dealing with death, as we all do at times, that makes us appreciate life even more. Without storms we wouldn’t appreciate calm. Without death we wouldn’t appreciate life. God has a purpose for us ~ to live our life, to face challenges knowing that spring is coming and that whatever is broken or knocked down by the gusts of wind can be rebuilt and renewed – Are you hungry for God’s love? Are you passionate about learning more and removing those fears and doubts? Are you ready to discover the confidence that comes from tackling your problems with Jesus by your side?
We all have doubts and fears. You may be shattered by the loss of a loved one, dealing with health issues, facing a financial crisis, seeking spiritual fulfillment, needful of an emotional pick me up or just feeling sad. Yet, as followers of Jesus – together we can lift each other up. You don’t have to do it alone. We can be “Broken Together” and that’s okay – because we know that God uses broken things. God can put our broken pieces back together in a different way so that they will have a new meaning and make us feel loved and complete.
There’s a story about a king who bought two beautiful eagles to fly above his kingdom. He hired a bird trainer to work with the Eagles. The trainer set up an area with large perch made from a cottonwood branch. One of the birds would soar and fly until the trainer called him back. The other bird would fly low, circle around and land back on the branch. No matter what the trainer did he couldn’t get the second bird to fly very far. The trainer went to the king and told him about his dilemma. The king made a call for assistance and a local farmer stepped up and said he could help. The next day when the king looked up, he saw both birds were flying high above the castle. The king called the farmer and asked, “what did you do?” The farmer replied, “I cut off the branch!”
Sometimes God will march into your life and cut the branch you are sitting comfortably on so you have no choice…
you will either sit on the ground or soar above the clouds.