Bring your scars

Leonard Dow served as pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, for almost 20 years and is currently the Stewardship and Development specialist for Everence. He is also a worship speaker for MennoCon19. Leonard loves the Lord and is married to Dr. Rosalie Rolon-Dow, and they have three children.

“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said.  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!”  John 20:19-20

Friends, the wounds inflicted upon Jesus on Good Friday as he endured what James Cone refers to as “the lynching tree” are still visible on Resurrection Sunday. On his body, Jesus carried the physical scars from 40 lashes on his back, having his side pierced and being nailed to the cross through his hands and feet. He undoubtedly held emotional scars of shame and embarrassment from being betrayed by his disciples, publicly disrobed, spit upon, mocked, and suffering an agonizing and painful death. Surprisingly to me, when Jesus rose, he rose with all his scars still visible and intact. For the resurrected Jesus there is no sanitized spiritual makeup or cosmic surgery to cover up his scars and wounds. When Jesus rose from the dead with resurrection authority, he saw fit to keep and show all the scars inflicted upon him.

Friends, it was not Jesus’ voice, the quoting of a scripture, the sharing of an inside story or his family genealogy characteristics whereby Jesus was joyfully recognized by his disciples. Rather, when Jesus suddenly appeared, he was fully known to those closest to him by his scars.

In addition, we find out about the disciple Thomas who, absent on the day of Jesus return, understandably doubted his fellow disciples report on Jesus. In fact he declared: “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). One week later, Jesus appears before Thomas. This reminds us to be careful what we ask for because Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubt was to show him his scars in great detail: “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

And to my surprise, instead of being troubled by Jesus revealing his wounds to his disciples, I find it quite comforting that he willingly showed them his scars. I believe Jesus did this because he understood that in this life, it is our scars, not the absence of them, that will more accurately articulate our redemptive journey. Yet how unlike Jesus I am (and I don’t think I am alone), because a quick glance of my posts on social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram will reveal a life absent of scars and therefore no need of redemption and healing.

But thanks be to God, Jesus is showing his disciples in every generation a better way!

Jesus invites his disciples then and us today to be vulnerable when we come together by creating the space to reveal the scars of our ongoing redemptive story.

Because it is only in revealing our wounds that we can acknowledge both the pain and hope, fear and faith, grace and ultimately love.

And it is vital to note that Jesus’ scars and wounds came from a place of real pain that ran deep in him. Yet miraculously his pain did not keep him from forgiving those closest to him who abandoned him, who doubted him, failed him, deserted and misunderstood him. And the good news of the Gospel and what I am just beginning to fully understand and recognize in my life is that having scars doesn’t mean I am NOT being healed and restored by God. Though the scars remain, the gift of the Holy Spirit, that was in Jesus and is now in us/our church communities, is that daily we are being healed, and daily we’re becoming more, more like Him!

So as we anticipate coming together for the MennoCon19, let us also be open to show our scars and wounds to one another and more so to our Lord Jesus:

  • Our sense of deep loss due to those congregations who have transitioned out of MC USA
  • Our fear of not knowing exactly what the future holds for our church and/or MC USA
  • Our sense of hopelessness as our country daily impacts the lives of the most vulnerable: the immigrant, the poor, children, people of color, women, the sexual and religious minorities.
  • Your personal pain and trauma caused by those who took advantage of your trust in the family and/or those in the church.
  • Our increasing uncontrollable rage expressed against those we disagree with politically or theologically.

My prayer is that we’d be like the disciples who came together, wounded by fear. But even then, Jesus showed up and breathed the Holy Spirit on them. I pray that we too would anticipate that this same Jesus to show up and breathe on us, and that together we would be open to receive for the first time or once again the Holy Spirit.

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