Broderick Greer

Culture | Theology | Justice

"Show me the receipts"

 

    Celebrating Easter in a world rife with terrorism, accelerated climate change, chemical warfare, racism, heterosexism, reckless masculinity, and growing economic polarities can be tricky. On one hand, we process down these aisles singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today.” On the other hand, the porches of our church serve as beds for people experiencing homelessness in Midtown. On one hand, we proclaim, “Alleluia. Christ is risen,” while on the other hand, we continue to lose our loved ones to death. Easter is tricky. 

    This is no more evident than in today’s Gospel narrative. The resurrected Jesus stands among his disciples, announcing peace to them and breathing on them, empowering them with the Holy Spirit to absolve sins. But St. Thomas isn’t present when this pronouncement occurs. And he won’t be convinced until he sees one thing: the mark of the nails in Jesus’ side. In the words of Whitney Houston in an interview with Diane Sawyer, Thomas wants to see the receipts. It may be late on Easter Sunday, but Thomas wants to see the scars from Good Friday. And rightfully so. 

    How can one suffer what Jesus suffered and then have the imprint of that suffering magically erased in resurrection? How can anyone go through what Jesus went through from Gethsemane, to Pilate’s court, to Calvary and not retain scars? While it would be easy to simply gloss over Jesus’ suffering, Thomas dives head in, asking the difficult questions about resurrection identity; questions that haunt us even today. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, I will not believe.” Unless I see the scars of crucifixion, imprints of struggle, and the wounds of suffering, I cannot trust. 

    In my formative years, I heard preachers berate Thomas’ forthrightness as a flaw in faithfulness. “If he had true faith, he wouldn’t need to see the scars,” they'd say. Today, I am of a different mind than those well-meaning peddlers of what could be called blind faith. Today, I stand alongside Thomas, demanding that Jesus show me his battle scars, those visible reminders of the violence and trauma dealt him in his unjust trial and crucifixion, because I know my own scars make me who I am.

    When Thomas demands to see the nail-marks in Jesus’ hands and side, he is not exhibiting a weak faith, but a robust, fulsome hope. A hope that resurrection does not erase recognition, that transformation does not negate trauma. It is a robust hope that is not afraid of memory. Not afraid to say, “I survived an unspeakable form of violence.” A robust faithfulness that is able to live in what the Reverend Richard Lawson calls the “tension between memory and hope.”

    That Jesus retains the scars of his crucifixion in his resurrected body tells us that God respects our traumas too much to forget them. God’s memory is love. God is unbothered by our scars and stretch marks because those scars and stretch marks make us who we are, they tell our stories. That Jesus retains the scars of Good Friday in his Easter Sunday body is a sign that the discomfort celebrating resurrection in a cruciform world is not only natural, but faithful. It means we as the crucified and risen body of Christ are given permission to embrace life’s savage and beautiful nature. It means that celebrating Easter in a Good Friday world may not be as tricky as first thought.

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Second Sunday of Easter

John20:19-31

Grace-St. Luke’s Church 

Year C