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sermon 4/7/13- If Scars Could Talk

click here for audio

 

Sermon Preached by

The Rev. Fulton Porter, III

 The Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2013

at

St. Thomas Episcopal Church

John 20:19-23

 

If Scars Could Talk

 

 

In the name of God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

 

As I considered our Gospel text for today, I was fascinated. I was fascinated not only by the fact that Jesus again performed another feat of supernatural proportions when he appeared to the disciples even through locked doors. I was fascinated not only by the fact that Jesus imparted his holy spirit to them simply by breathing on them. But perhaps what was most fascinating to me, as I considered our text, was the testimony Jesus gave, not by oral proclamation; not by working a miracle; not even by the showing in scripture where he had been the fulfillment of the promised messiah; but I was fascinated by the testimony of Christ’s scars.  It was the scars that Jesus received on the cross at Calvary that told the disciples who he was.  It was his scars that clearly identified him and gave testimony to the fact the he was the Christ. It was the nail prints in his hands and the laceration in his side that told the world that he was the messiah and had overcome death. And just as the bible says that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord’s scars, so too ought we rejoice because it is by the stripes that he received, the scars that he sustained, that we are all healed!

 

And when I consider the testimony of Christ’s scars on this Sunday, I can’t help but realize that we too bear scars of our own. If I could survey this great congregation, and take a poll of the bruises and spiritual hurts that are across this broad body, how many reports of deep inner hurt would come back.  How many apprehensions? How many anxieties?  How many misgivings?  How many fears?  How many disappointments?  How many betrayals?  How much love unrequited?  What a mountain it would make, if I cold take a poll of all the scars represented here today:  Sickness endured; The loss of those whom we loved; Our miscalculated ambitions and frustrated hopes, Our broken dreams. What a mountain.  What a mountain it would make.

These mountains of despair and calamity at times span high enough to overtake us under their shadow, and we live our lives in reaction to our psychic bruises.

 

How ironic it is, that even in the midst of our disappointments, we continue to navigate the dangerous waters of life alone, and in full control,  All the while sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of failure and heartache.  In the spring of 1987, I realized this in a very real way.

Early one march morning after pulling an all-nighter studying for a college chemistry exam, I received a phone call that would forever change my life.  I was always in control.  I controlled my academic achievement, I controlled where I went, how often I went there, with whom I went since I left home and went away to college.  I was a 19 year old man, in control of my destiny, but there was a rude awakening for me on the other end of the phone that morning.  The voice on the other end said “come home right away, you mother has been shot.”  There were no further details, so being in control, I created my own scenario as I sunk further into denial.  Probably some accident that grazed her foot, some accidental flesh wound, even though I knew she didn’t own a gun.  So I took my exam and then took the first flight out.  But by the time I got home, it was too late, she was dead. And with her death I died a thousand deaths.  All my best made plans and calculations did not and could not have prepared me for this.  And after months of trying to get myself together, re-planning and re strategizing, and failing miserably, I suddenly realized that I am not in control, and the control that I was exercising was only making things worse.

 

It is no wonder that stress related illnesses are continuing to rise as we seek to shoulder an infinite burden, which is life, on finite frames.  It is no wonder that suicide rates are up as we lose the will and capacity to live in light of the lurking dangers of illness and unemployment.

The burden is too great and the body too frail to carry the load.

 

These mountains of despair and calamity at times span high enough to overtake us under their shadow, and we live our lives in reaction to our psychic bruises.  And some of us need to stop being afraid to talk to somebody about our issues, because our issues are ruining our life.  I came to debunk the myth that professional help, psychological and spiritual guidance, somehow indicate that we are “crazy” or “inferior” or that it is even taboo.   None of us want to be thought of as crazy, (even though some of us are)  but the fact of the matter is that life on earth is crazy.  We have to deal with crazy in our homes. We have to deal with crazy and dysfunction as we grew up.   We have to deal with crazy on the job and in the economic markets and in our relationships.  We become wounded and scared and when we choose to live out of our scars, they can either propel us to victory of sink us into the depths of despair.  And when we have trouble negotiating the winds and waves of life and instead of passing the issue on to generations to come, we need to go and talk to somebody.  Yes, we should pray.  Yes we should immerse ourselves in the word of God, but in addition, God has given us professionals on earth to help in our divine healing. 

Its ok to go and talk to somebody.  It’s ok to see a mental health professional.  Its ok to stop pretending everything is ok and go talk to your pastor.  It may be the best thing you ever do for yourself because the bible reminds us that we overcome not only by the blood of the Lamb, but we overcome by the power of our testimony.  Go tell somebody!

 

If scars could talk. Every scar, mark, engraving or aging line on the body has a story to tell. Perhaps that's what Debra Neal had in mind when she wrote:

 

  This line was a boyhood scratch

  This line's from a manhood match

  This line traces a thousand smiles

  This line shows hard times and miles

  I touch and feel and know from afar

  the life you lived, written in every scar.

 

Sometimes our scars cannot be seen because they are from injuries of the heart. Traumatic experiences leave scars. Death, failure in love or life, mistreatment and disappointment, all leave scars etched along the corridors of the mind.

 

People could learn hidden secrets and great truths about each other if they had a chance to listen to the testimony of each scar. We all have some scars from our experiences in this world. Some tell of failed lives outside of Christ. But there are others that tell of our victories through Christ. Our scars, if we let them, can testify to the saving power of the Lord and to his goodness and mercy for giving his life for these wretches he has called his own.  If scars could talk.

 

Our text first considers Jesus in the evening of the resurrection day. He had appeared to Mary Magdalene earlier that day and she had given them the report that Jesus had risen.  The disciples themselves were secluded in a room with the doors shut and locked and Jesus appeared in their midst saying "Peace be with you."  The disciples were amazed and thought they were seeing a ghost. But when Jesus showed them the wounds in his hands and side they instantly believed him and were glad. Thomas, who was not present at Jesus' first appearance to his disciples came to the second meeting very skeptical. He had heard their stories about how Jesus came through locked doors and appeared in their midst but he vowed not to believe until he himself could put his fingers in the wounds of the risen savior himself. When Thomas finally saw Jesus and saw the scars left by the nail prints in his hands and feet, it did not require his touch but he instantly responded, "My Lord and My God." (John 20:28)

 

It was the silent, but potent, testimony of the scars that made believers of the disciples in the first meeting. It was that same testimony that convinced Thomas, who knew their story all to well, that Jesus was Lord.  This testimony is so convincing that even today those who see the scars and learn the story behind each one commit themselves to serve an everlasting God.

 

Those who have had an experience with the Lord are never the same. He leaves his special mark or impression on our individual characters such that we will never forget the experience.  Consider Moses.  Moses climbed to the top of a mountain and stayed 40 days and nights and there came into the presence of God. When he came down from the mountain, his hair had turned white and his face shined brilliantly. Jacob wrestled with Lord all night long and as the morning sun began to rise he refused to let go until he was blessed by God. The Lord blessed him and touched him with his finger and left a reminder in the lameness of his thigh. I have come to understand that when you have been touched by the Lord, it leaves a mark and you're never the same again.   Some of us can sing  "He touched me, he touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul, something happened and now I know, he touched me and made me whole!"

 

Finally brothers and Sisters, Jesus showed the disciples the scars and prints in his hands and the silent witness of the scars was enough to convince them of his Lordship. What was the testimony of these scars? What story did they have to tell? If scars could talk what a story they could tell. If scars could talk  what would be their testimony?  I can hear the scars testify.  I hear the scars declare I am the scars made from the crown of thorns. The soldiers took the savior and made him a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  As they pressed it on his head the blood came streaming down. This crown was a crown of:

  --defeat, but he made it a crown of victory!

  --shame, but he made it into crown of glory!

  --humiliation, but he turned it into a badge of pride!

I want to testify that they gave him a crown of thorns but when it's all over the hosts of heaven will all declare, bring forth the royal diadem and crown him! Crown Him! Lord of all!

 

I heard the scars testify that: We are the scars left behind from the nails driven in the savior’s hands, feet and the spear thrust in his side. Roman soldiers nailed his hands to hold him to the cross. The same hands that were lifted against the winds and the waves and they ceased to roar.

The same hands that touched a blind man's eyes and he was able to see again.  They drove nails into his feet. The same feet that walked on the water and climbed the mount of transfiguration. The same feet that blazed a trail to heaven on a straight and narrow path.  They stuck a spear in his side and the blood came pouring out. The same blood he said would cleanse us and make us whole.   I just want to testify that he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities and the chastisement of our peace is upon him and by his stripes we all are healed.

 

And so, my beloved brothers and sisters, even though we have our own scars with which we must deal;  Even though it has not been easy, and you have been battered and torn;  The scars of Jesus testify that Jesus is  the same one who died on Calvary for your issues and for mine!  But Early Sunday Morning he rose up from the Grave! And because he rose, we are healed. We can take our issues to Calvary and be healed!  We don’t have to drag around those same hurts and insecurities which life has burdened us with.  We don’t have to keep living our lives out of the stories of woe and abuse that have haunted us.  We can take those things that have burdened our life to the cross and be healed!

 

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,

And the burden of my heart rolled away,

It was there by faith I received my sight,

And now I am happy all the day!

 

 

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