Highworth United Reformed Church

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A week later

by the Revd Robert Jordan M.A.
26th January 2014

Bible Readings:  Revelation 1:4-8;   John 20:19-31

How long is  a week?   One answer could be that is 168 hours and that is 10080 minutes.   While this is accurate and correct it's not much help really.   A week can be very little if you are preparing an exam and have not studied anything at all before,  or it can seem an eternity if you are waiting for the results of a crucial health test.   In this day and age where all has to be immediate, a week could be a long time, though in the plans of God a week could be flash.   If creation happened in a week then lots of things go on,  now if creation is a process of billions of years,  then a week is nothing.

The author of the Gospel is presenting the story to those who had not witnessed the events.  They had only heard what others told them,  and similar to the church in the world today,  the early generation of believers were facing the reality of life but needed to be grounded in hope and empowerment so that their faith could sustain them.   So it was not only an empty tomb but the assurance of life overcoming death which was the issue.   The death on the cross was not the saving act of God - many before Jesus had died on the cross,  many after Jesus had as well.   The cross was not the source of personal salvation,  the promise of life.   The grace of God which saves us,  the power of God in the world is not even found in an empty tomb - as the rumour went round that the body had been stolen - it is resurrection which nurtures our faith and challenges life.   The belief that the powers have been defeated and there is a new reality expressed in the vision of the Kingdom - be it historical fact or faith fact,  that is the central point.

So the Gospel of John sets this out in the encounter in the upper room,  behind closed doors,  where Peace is given to all and the Spirit is offered to all,  and where all hear the message of being sent out.   The risen one will always bear the marks of the pain,  but in that pain he has broken the gates of rejection and offers the gift of new life to all - the deniers,  the betrayers,  the ones who run away,  the doubters,  and those who live in fear:   remember,  the disciples are still meeting behind locked doors - even after a week.   God's grace is made evident in these moments.   Grace abundant and generous  grace for all comes especially when we are at our lowest.

Let me share a story with you:   In a story (re)told by the Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak,  two men appeared at heaven's gate and were ushered into St Peter's presence.

One of the men looked just terrific.   Tan,  fit,  a nice head of hair,  clean nails,  great suit and shoes.  

Except for the fact that he was dead he could have been in G.Q.   He smiled confidently at Peter.

The other man limped into St Peter's presence.   He had a welt on the back of his head.   His clothes looked worn (and not because he had purchased the "distressed" model).   His teeth were imperfect and there was dirt beneath his nails.   The look on his face suggested he thought he was in the wrong place.

St Peter assayed the two people before him.   He then turned to the first and asked,  "Where are your wounds?   Was there nothing down there worth fighting for?"

When the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples,  he bore his wounds.   They were evident on his hands and feet.   Resurrection did not mean life's wounds and scars had been air-brushed.   They knew it was him because he was wounded.   (Daily Devotional United Church of Christ)

And God gives us time as well,  none of this happens in one go - as we read:  the second scene for the narrative continues "a week later",  for the group plus the one who had been missing - Thomas with all his doubts is welcomed:  "Thomas,  here,  put your finger into the wounds.." and in that love,  Thomas is conquered.   And so the Gospel is telling us that it is love that overcomes our limitations,  our broken humanity and it is what will empower us.   It is in love that we live and share,  invite others and meet others.   It is that love expressed in the word "Peace" that this group of people diverse and broken as they are, are sent out to share.   Love is inclusive,  not excluding.

It is love,  and only love,  which will redeem us.   It is the love of God in Jesus and his marked body that reaches out to us in our wounded bodies and empowers us.   The sadness of the time gone by,  is that too often the church has not realized that it is the broken that are sent,  not by fixing the brokenness but through our brokenness sharing of life.   I have found that the words of the poet sum up this attitude - "there is a crack in everything,  that's how the light gets in" (Leonard Cohen).   The sooner we realize that God calls us - cracks and all and will let the light shine through these cracks to reach others,  the better.

This is the way God works and what happens on Easter and even "a week later" shows us God has a vision of time,  and of needs that don't always coincide with ours - they are better than ours,  because while we want the urgent and it seems we want the whole,  God will give us time and God does not reject us because of our brokenness,  on the contrary  he offers Peace.   God calls us to live our life and offers fullness of life and God sends us (warts and all) to proclaim that love and that hope and that peace to others.   So isn't a week a great time to discover that love of God and be involved in loving?   Amen.