I love that on this first Sunday after Easter — after all of the fanfare and the music and the beauty and the hope and the incredible “Wow!” of resurrection — one week later the lectionary gives us the story of Thomas, gives us the space of a story within which we can say to Jesus and to one another: “That whole Easter thing is still true, right?”
Because one week after the celebration of Easter, life seems basically unchanged. The disciples still have reason to be afraid, and frankly so do we: one week after Easter, there are still threats and bombings and wars and worries, still inequality and power and fierce protection of the status quo, still corruption and hatred and sickness and hunger … and maybe that’s why we often think that Easter is mainly about life after death, because life before death doesn’t seem to have been improved much by Easter’s resurrection.
So the story of Thomas lets us ask, “Is it really true?”
And in a great twist of faith, the proof that Easter is true isn’t in the fanfare or the music or the beauty or the feeling of hope or the incredible “Wow!” of resurrection. The proof is in the scars.
The proof is in the still-tender and scabbed-over places where wounds once cut deep. The proof to Thomas that Jesus was alive again, the proof to us that Easter resurrection has actually changed life, the proof that God still lives and carries on amidst our fears and outbursts, is in the odd-looking marks that are left over from those moments when we’ve bled and wept and doubled over with pain, when we’ve fought and protested and changed. The proof is in the scars, the healed wounds.
(Which, in many ways, seems both more tangible and entirely less palatable to believe than the happy-happy-resurrection of Easter.)
I spent this past weekend in a place filled with scars, a place created by scars: the shore. You know, a beach is created by more scars than we could ever count. Each shell in the sand bears the marks and healed wounds of a sea creature’s life that has been tossed aside or left behind or attacked or eaten, pounded by the tides, eroded by the salt water, picked over by the seagulls, and finally abandoned — full of scars — on the beach.
In a few decades or centuries or millennia, the broken-up shells that show the scars of a sea creature’s life will crumble into still smaller pieces, eroded and changed by the forces of nature, intermixed with the remnants of stone and sea glass and crystallized salt, piled high as the sand that we walk on … a whole beach full of scars that hint of what life once was and remind us of the life that still is, even amidst the changes and wounds.
There is still life, and there is still more life to come, and we know it because we see and feel the scars.
Thomas gets a bad rap as a doubter, I think; the Gospel of John says that Jesus showed his scars to the other disciples, too, it’s just that Thomas wasn’t there the first time. After the disciples saw Jesus with fresh scabs on his hands and sides, they went to Thomas and said, “We saw his scars, it’s gonna be okay!” To which Thomas replied, “I don’t know, the world still looks pretty dismal from what I can see. I don’t quite know how to believe that it’s going to be okay.”
It’s like when someone tries to reassure you at a time when you have a wound that is still sore and tender, by saying to you, “It’s gonna be okay.” Which doesn’t sit well with you, because you’re not really sure that it is going to be okay.
But the next time that the disciples are together and Jesus appears again, Thomas is there too, and this time Thomas sees the scars and touches the healed-over wounds that are the proof of life.
And Jesus doesn’t say to him, “It’s gonna be okay” or “It’s all better now.” Jesus simply says, “Peace to you. Peace. There is still life. Do not be afraid.”
Jesus says to us, “Peace to you. There is life. Do not be afraid.”
And the scars of shells and of sand and of sea life whisper to us, “Peace to you. There is life. Do not be afraid.”
And the scars of our own lives give the same testimony: “Peace to you. There is life. Do not be afraid.”
I spy a scar: the nicks and marks and bumps and bruises and worn-down places of a sea shell. The scar reminds us that there is still life. There is still God’s life, still God living. Still this life, still this day. And the proof of life — the truth of life — is in the scars.
Be at peace.