By Rev. Kevin Strickland
Scripture: John 20:19-31
It’s at the tomb that we discover things about ourselves. It’s at the tomb that we come to make sense of the questions that have bogged us down these weeks of Lent, in our wilderness wandering. At the tomb they all come together in one great, blinding awareness. Locked in the tombs of life, hidden in closets afraid to be our truest selves, or shackled behind doors of fear may feel easier than living in this post-tomb, post-Easter world.
When we lock doors, it is not just to keep things from coming in, it is also keeping things from going out. When we lock the doors of our hearts or of our faith or of our churches from being the nail scarred hands and feet open and unlocked to a world around us, we keep things from coming in and going out.
We belong to the company of the faithful in all times and in all places with the fingers of Thomas, needing to touch our Lord.
We need, we yearn, we groan to embrace the fullness of Jesus’ crucified and risen body, because in our bodies we sense the turmoil of the lives around us: young people who desperately seek discernment and question is church really meant for them, congregation members who wonder whether they will have a job tomorrow, colleagues who are burned out and wonder if their vocation is really cut out for them. Not to mention our own question and needs and that of our family—did Jesus really die and rise? Such a reality seems fantastic, mythical to touch the bodies of today’s world, of our world, or my world.In baptism, we are submerged into God’s nail scarred, tomb laden love.
In baptism, God in Christ reminds us that Easter did not just happen; it is still happening. Christ rose, and so can we from the death of self-doubt, personal persecution, and faithless convictions.
Thank you, God, for Thomas. We needed him in that room at the right moment. It is a healthy, doubting, powerful faith that connects his body to Jesus’ body, and in doing so, our body with Jesus’ own body, scars, wounds and all. With his rising, Jesus didn’t take on a brand-new body without any blemish; his resurrection body was the same one that was nailed to the tree. And that’s how it is with us and with the world around us—scars, wounds, and all.
May God grant us Thomas-like boldness with our faith to step out, unlock, and touch the wounds of those hands and feet that we meet all around us!
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
Bio: Rev. Kevin Strickland (he/him/his) has served as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Worship since 2014. Prior to this call, he served as a parish pastor in Nashville, TN. He and his husband, Robby live in Chicago with their mostly adorable French Bulldog, Halsted.
By Rev. Lyle Beckman
Scripture: John 13: 3-5, 12-14 (NRSV) Jesus … took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. After he had washed their feet … he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”.
As a young pastor, I struggled with the Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing. Too many pairs of pantyhose, giggling teenagers and congregants who said “No!” when invited. My own insecurities as a young, gay (closeted) pastor shying away from such intimacy played a role in not fully experiencing the potential in this ritual. Over the years however, I have appreciated it more.
Each Maundy Thursday 75 people living on the streets of San Francisco are willing to trust a group of pastors and seminarians to lovingly wash their feet, dress their wounds and let them be anointed and dressed in new socks. Tears run down faces on both sides of the basin. Love and tenderness are shown. Healing and compassion are offered. Human contact connects us in community and to the divine presence in and around us.
Through Jesus’ example of washing feet, and in his life, death and resurrection, we are shown the depth of God’s love, and invited to share it wherever we can. In our congregations for sure, but in the world as well, which is crying out for words and actions of hope, acceptance, forgiveness, welcome and love. Will you wash their feet?
Bio: Rev. Lyle Beckman (he/him/his) served as the Night Minister for the San Francisco Night Ministry until his retirement in September, 2018. Night Ministry offers spiritual care, counseling and crisis intervention every night of the year from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, hosts two outdoor worship services and several feeding and educational programs. Beckman is currently serving as interim pastor of Christ Church, Lutheran, San Francisco.
“It’s just so hard to be in this process,” I said, “because I have no idea where I’ll be six months from now! Normally I’d have an idea of what would be happening, but in the call process I could be anywhere in the country by then!”
She raised one eyebrow and gave me a pointed look, “nothing has actually changed. You haven’t actually lost control – only the illusion of having control to begin with. None of us really know what will happen to us in six months.”
My therapist knew how to offer me the gifts of wilderness. The wilderness strips away what was only an illusion and leaves us vulnerable to the truth: we never know what is coming next. A year-long call/coming out process filled with nine rejections was not the kind of wilderness I would have chosen. It was painful and raw and disheartening.
I don’t think God sent it into my life as some kind of twisted lesson.
But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t get to work stripping away my comforts, illusions, and self-identity until only the essentials were left: Child-of-God, beloved-queer, created-and-called.
This particular wilderness story has a happy ending: a congregation I adore and one that loves me back; a call that challenges me and makes me more myself; a community that is passionate and dedicated to the gospel. But, for every wilderness out of which I wander, another one presents itself almost as quickly. And, I am learning, ever so slowly, to hand myself over to that wilderness road, trusting that the gifts are still there.
“The Uses of Sorrow”
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
by Mary Oliver, from Thirst, 2007. Beacon Press.
The Rev. Megan D. Elliott is the pastor of Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Seguin, Texas. Before coming to Spirit of Joy she was the pastor at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Alliance, Ohio. This summer she will celebrate 10 years in ordained ministry! When she’s not pastoring you might find her playing with her dogs, reading, running, crocheting, or enjoying anything to do with music. She has special talents for making babies fall asleep, folding fitted sheets, and buying entirely too many books.