For an intensive course this summer, I was asked to create a ritual and preach a sermon that might fit in that setting. I chose to create a ritual for healing from sexual violence and abuse. This was the sermon I preached. It’s based on excerpts from Genesis 3, 2 Samuel 13:12-21, Ezekiel 37:1-14, as well as a Scripture reading: Romans 6:3-10 and Gospel reading: Luke 24:36-43.
We remember Adam and Eve. We remember their sin and the consequences. In the garden, Adam and Eve had full relationship with God. Outside of it, God’s absence was heart-wrenching, even though God continued to love them. It’s just so human to forget how far God’s love can go.
It’s painful to remember the story of Tamar. Tamar was raped by her brother. Then told by another brother to stay silent. The story continues with her brothers fighting for vengeance. But Tamar never speaks again.
Her silence fills the story with the silence of a million scarred sisters. Tamar’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, sometimes there isn’t one. Sometimes it seems as though we are left alone in our suffering, and the story continues without us. The world just keeps on turning.
But we’re still alive anyway aren’t we? The world just might move a bit faster than we do. The people around us may not notice us where we stand. We’re not those dry bones in the valley in Ezekiel’s story. Not yet anyway. Those bones were dry and dead and forgotten. We’re still here. We’re still breathing and talking and sometimes even laughing. Even when our laugh has an edge. Even when we’re hugging ourselves to make sure we’re still here. Even when the scars don’t seem to fade, because they were never on our skin in the first place. We may not be gone yet, but we’re missing the piece that this world took from us. That someone took from us. And it feels like we’ll never get it back. The world takes and takes and doesn’t let up.
And this world makes us so afraid. It makes us doubt. It assaults us. It wounds us. It breaks us into a million little pieces that we might never get back. Our hearts are scarred by the sin and death and violence that surround us.
Even in Jesus’ story, sin and death and violence surround him in his life. His trial is horrendous. His death on the cross unforgivable. Even Jesus, in his last moments felt the absence of God. He quotes the Psalm saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is our world, this is our pain, and it seems so unbearable, so hopeless.
But then, somehow, hope shows up.
After Jesus’ death, his disciples are sitting huddled together afraid of what is going to happen next. They were witness to the death of Jesus. And in his death all of their hopes died. They were suffocating in this unbearable, hopeless pain.
But then, somehow, Jesus shows up.
“Peace be with you” he says to them all nonchalantly. And they just can’t believe that he’s alive. He must be a ghost, a specter, something from their imaginations, from a dream trying to give them what they been hoping for. But no one’s asleep.
Jesus has scars too.
Jesus tells his disciples to look at his hands and feet. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Thomas to actually put his fingers into his wounds. The point is – Jesus is alive. Again. Not a ghost. A human, with a human body, with human wounds, and he’s hungry.
That’s how you know he’s really alive. It’s that he eats. He is hungry. Ghosts don’t eat food. This is a fact. They don’t have stomachs, or intestines (at least not functional ones). It’s Jesus’ real body, and he needs something to eat.
This is the good news. I know it might not seem like it. It seems a little boring. Jesus shows up, everyone’s amazed, and then he eats some food. La – di – da.
But this new life that Jesus has. Even with his wounds, even after his death, is something we get too. That’s what’s so amazing.
Paul in his letter to the Romans, asks them, “Don’t you know? When you were baptized into Christ Jesus, you were baptized into his death?”
Our baptism draws us into the body of Christ – the church. And that might seem like just a small part of joining a new congregation, but it’s so much more than that. It joins us together as pieces of Christ’s body, pieces of his wounds, and pieces of his hunger.
It joins us in the promise of the resurrection. Not just ghosts, but real human bodies, united together in Jesus’s death, and in his new life.
God calls us and he says “Prophesy!”He says prophesy to our dry bones. And millions of pieces of ourselves that have been broken by the world and scattered through our lives, those pieces start to clatter and they start to come together. We’re broken statues made from love and forgiveness and mercy, and God breathes life into us and our pieces find their way to eachother. God breathed into us and into creation, God breathed in the Holy Spirit, giving us life, that same Spirit promised to us in baptism. Jesus takes us out of that valley of dry bones, and gives us back our bodies, gives us back our voices, because our silence is just too loud. Tamar’s silence is just too loud.
Healing isn’t about making our pain go away completely, or immediately. We have been changed. Scarred. Broken. Alone. But those words and that water, it brought us into something new. It brought us into Christ.
If we die with Christ then we are also raised with Christ. We get to live in Jesus. That is the promise in our baptism. Not just some water, but new life. And in that resurrection of our broken bodies, and the new life outside of sin and death, we share our wounds and our scars with Jesus. We are healing. Our promises are great, and our hope is growing. Our scars are part of our resurrection. We’re not ghosts. We’re not invisible. We’re not silent. Our wounds are real.
And Lord are we hungry.