Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Scars

    Rachel Hollis, TV personality and author of Girl, Wash Your Face, posted an Instagram photo of herself that went viral with this caption: “I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini… because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it… They aren’t scars, ladies, they’re stripes and you’ve earned them.” Liberating, this robust view of what women have tried to cover up for centuries.

If you get a tattoo, you choose to be wounded a bit, to be marked forever. Stretch marks, like many wounds, are more accidental but no less telling. I love the insight Graham Greene shared in The End of the Affair. A woman notices what used to be a wound on her lover’s shoulder, and contemplates the advancing wrinkles in his face: “I thought of lines life had put on his face, as personal as a line of writing – I thought of a scar on his shoulder that wouldn’t have been there if once he hadn’t tried to protect another man from a falling wall. The scar was part of his character, and I knew I wanted that scar to exist through all eternity.”

The scars in Jesus’ hands and side, earned when he gave life to all of us, were not blotted out by the resurrection (John 20:27). I love Jean Vanier’s remark: “These wounds are there for all ages and all time, to reveal the humble and forgiving love of Jesus who accepted to go to the utter end of love. The risen Jesus does not appear as the powerful one, but as the wounded and forgiving one. These wounds become his glory.” And what do we sing in “Crown Him with Many Crowns”? Behold his hands and side. Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. I’ve sung that a thousand times, and have never given it the briefest thought. How profound…

All this after the scene of intense fear: doors are locked. In all the post-resurrection appearances, they are slow to recognize Jesus. “I think they are blinded by their unfulfilled expectations and their feelings of loss and despair” (Jean Vanier). To such people Jesus utters a word, with the power of the one who commanded stars, sky and earth to come into being, and it’s the one who stilled the storm: “Peace.” As Jesus clarified earlier in John, this peace isn’t the one the world gives! (John 14:27). Jesus doesn’t give you some peace of mind or serenity you think you want. Jesus’ Peace is his personal presence.

In Jesus’ presence there is no fear. Or maybe the way Jesus banishes fear might get us a bit agitated and in rapid motion. Elie Wiesel famously said “If an angel ever says, ‘Be not afraid,’ you’d better watch out: a big assignment is on the way.” Jesus comforts with one hand and then shoves them (and us) out into hard labor and danger with the other.

James

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