“A Word of Peace”

“A Word of Peace”
1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-29
Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert
April 16, 2023

I was at an event through the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce last week, and one of the people who spoke was this guy who said, “A few years ago my friends and I wanted to start a bar so could drink and hang out and then we realized how bad it was to be drinking all the time. But we wanted to keep hanging out…so we founded a juice bar.”

And since then, that’s been his business -making healthy juice blends and smoothies and also offers vitamin infusions where you go into this bar and get a literal shot of a healthy, vitamin rich concoction geared toward helping an area of the body in need.

This person is now bringing his infusion practice to Georgetown, starting one day a week.

Any questions? He asked.

First hand up, “How can I schedule an infusion?”

And actually, this guy’s presentation is emblematic of something I am seeing in droves around Georgetown in recent days.

At another event, a woman shared how she was founding a yoga studio here in Georgetown. “But more than that, there will be different healing practices, sound bowls, mediation.”

And I know of pharmacies planning to pair medicines with more holistic offerings, including outlets for different types of counseling.

All of this is part of a single movement underway in recent years and is arriving amid Georgetown’s growth with its own significant growth and popularity.

It’s the Wellness movement. Mind. Body. Spirit. Relationship. Holistic wellness.

And actually, our Parish Nurse, Penny Leone, was at the 830am service and reminded me that her position serves the heart, mind, body, and soul and we’ve had this position for over 25 years which means…really, FPC has been on the cutting edge of the wellness trend.

There are unique reasons I think we could point to as to why the wellness movement has been growing rapidly these recent years, but at heart, this hunger for wellness in all facets of life – its an ancient impulse.

In biblical times the word was Shalom.

Often translated “peace,” it’s a word that means “wholeness and flourishing, even health and prosperity” in every facet of society, and every aspect of mind, body, soul, relationships with God and one another. It’s rich, it’s full, it’s a blessing of complete wellness. Wholeness.

How striking the very first words Jesus speaks to the disciples when they see him for the very first time after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.”

“Shalom be with you.”

“Wellness, wholeness, flourishing in every aspect of your collective and individual being.”

Three times in our passage this blessing is repeated. If Jesus, risen from the grave, has a singular thing he is about, it is this: I give you Shalom.

But notice how it is given.

The disciples are hiding behind a locked door in fear lest they too be punished for their association with Jesus…and Jesus somehow comes in and stands in that fearful space, speaks the word of Peace, and “After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.”

He communicates shalom through his wounds healed unto scars.

And even the book of Revelation says that when Jesus is raised high, he will be worshiped in the form of “a Lamb looking as if it had been slain.”

The scars of Jesus are central in resurrection.

Why?

If Jesus has conquered the power of sin and death, if he is the Lord of Lords who is above all else…wouldn’t it be far more effective to communicate the blessing of wholeness…with a shiny, whole body seated in a shiny, powerful throne – offering shiny, whole bodies to everyone else?

Like a fit, flawless Wellness CEO making clear the product works?

Why are the scars so central?

A number of years ago I was in an Atlanta softball league.

One night, I was playing left field, and a ball was hit my way. I was running towards it, I dove and somehow I didn’t catch the ball, but I did manage to land on top of my hand, crush it, and a few days later I would have a surgery where these two scars were made so that metal plates could be permanently placed in my hand to hold the three breaks.

Ever since, I’ve had two visible scars.

I remember one time a few months after the surgery I was tutoring some elementary school students, and a few of them were huddled around me looking at something and I put my hand down in the middle of the table for some reason.

And this one kid goes… “Wolverine!” (and I did not correct him).

And I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted to tell a bigger-than-life, heroic story when people ask me about these.

But what I’ve come to realize is that people just want the real story, the clumsy story, the painful story.

So you dove on your own hand and broke it?  Funny how that pathetic reality has opened people to then tell me their own pathetic clumsy story.

So you conducted a wedding two days later in a huge cast doped up on painkillers? Funny how that imperfect wedding picture has opened others to share a story about a special occasion that didn’t go as planned.

So you did physical therapy for weeks?  Barely able to move the left hand at all. For a season unclear if the motion was going to return. 

Funny how those questions have opened others to then share stories of broken times in their lives – when things were difficult or very uncertain or in fact remain difficult and uncertain.

Nobody ever asks me about my perfectly good right hand.

We relate with one another along the lines of our wounds, our weaknesses, our pains and failures and hurts.

In his very first time with the disciples since resurrection, Jesus makes clear that it is in

…the place of scars…

…the place where pain and weakness and suffering was most acute and the tender healing fresh…

…it is to those specific places that Jesus draws near.

And eventually we hear Thomas react to touching the scars… “My Lord and My God!”

How good not just knowing love theoretically is stronger than sin and death, but to touch the real scars of that story. Touch the very worst that could happen to someone and feel the truth that love is stronger.

It’s true, in our passage Jesus commends the faith of those who never see the scars upon the resurrected Jesus but they still believe…

….and yet it also cannot be denied how often God ministers Shalom to us through the visible body of Christ on earth – particularly the scars if some in the body have risked sharing them with us.

Have you known others to minister love to you through their scars?

Not their strength, their perfection, their accolades…have you ever known a renewed sense of hope or courage or love precisely because another risked sharing the scars that testify to having known real pain or shame or failure – but then also God’s power somehow being perfected in weakness?

And then what about us?

  • Can we name where some of our own scars are on us? The church? The nation?
  • Where do we point and name the brokenness, the hurt, the cracks and aches, the gaping wounds – and God’s power has been made perfect in such weakness?
  • Or perhaps there are very real, current and even gushing wounds that are not at all scars and honestly show no signs of healing or hope…we’re praying into them, crying out about them, perhaps hoping someone might touch it with their scar.

Just know that if we currently know wounds and pain and brokenness – Jesus’s arrival makes clear: the promise is not that the wound will go away like it was never even there. Like it never happened.

The resurrection promise of Jesus is that a love stronger than sin and death shall transform the wound into a visible scar that will forever be part of and even central to the journey.

Because our wounds (as individuals, as a church, as a nation) become the way.
The wounds are where Jesus meets us.
And our wounds-healed-unto-scars are the way others see body of Jesus on earth today.

In fact, Jesus says it clearly:

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

“As I arrive to you, and heal you with my scars, so I send you to show yours likewise. Others will relate, connect, be healed when you share yours.”

We live in a society where the ache for wellness, for mind/body/spirit/relational wholeness…is real. Because there is a lot that is breaking and broken, a lot that is hard and fearful.

And the first word of resurrection life that Jesus declares to the disciples bound in fear:

“Shalom.”And it is communicated by way of the scars that make clear love stronger than the worst.

May we know Jesus meeting us in just such spaces today.

And may we have the courage to be show others the body of Christ on earth – the spaces most especially where love has met us in the depths and raised life. Amen.

About Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert