The Scars of Grace

Our Gospel reading for today picks up where we concluded our reading last week. It's now the evening after the resurrection and Jesus appears to the disciples in a room and says, "Peace be with you." He stood among his disciples and showed them his scars so that they might believe. Jesus showed them the nail holes in hands and feet, and he showed them the hole in his side. He did these things to prove he was resurrected from the dead as promised, not resuscitated, not revived, but resurrected.

Through his resurrection Jesus has taken the cross, a form of inhuman torture and death, and transformed it into a symbol of life, because hidden in the cross is the victory that overcomes the wage for sin, which is death. And just as Jesus transformed the cross from death to life, he too transforms our hearts from unclean to pure, from sinful to forgiven.

Scars, we all have them, they may by physical, emotional, or spiritual. We all have scars from our life experiences that remind us of things that happened to us or things we have done. Now typically when we think of scars we conjure up images of bad things: surgery, a fall, abuse, and so on.

I mentioned in the children's sermon I had a scar on my arm where a lump was removed 4 years ago, and I have scars from where my appendix was removed about 5 years ago. And at first thought these scars remind me of the pain and worry I went through during those ordeals. Perhaps you too have scars that remind you of an event that took place in your life, a time of pain or worry, a time of darkness.

But as I reflect further on my scars, and look beyond the reason they occurred, I see a different outcome then simply pain and worry. I now know the lump in my arm isn't cancerous so I thank God for his grace. This is good news. A skilled surgeon removed my appendix before it ruptured, so I thank God again for his grace. So in a very real way my scars remind me of God's mercy and goodness, and the grace he showers upon me every breathing moment of my life.

When you consider your own scars, perhaps there is pain and hurt, but when you look beyond the pain and hurt can you see God and his grace in your life? Perhaps that physical scar has led you to a healthier way of living. Perhaps that emotional scar has helped you see a better way to live, and introduced you to people you otherwise would have never met. Perhaps that spiritual scar, of doubt or darkness, has led you down a path to a closer relationship with Christ, a relationship you may have never anticipated if not for the event that left the scar. My friend's this is grace, God's grace, a grace that the hymn writer says is "greater than all our sins."

When we consider the scars on Jesus hands and feet from the nails, and in his side from the spear, we remember the severe pain and suffering Jesus must have gone through. But the story doesn't end there. Much like our scars, Jesus scars also remind us of God's grace. Jesus scars remind us that the grave is not the end but the beginning. God is not just the God of those who still walk on this earth; God is the God of all creation, God is the God of all the saints who have gone on before us.

Jesus scars remind us that even a large stone covering a tomb cannot stop God. When the world said, "It is finished" God said, "Oh no, I've only just begun." "Death does not have the final word, I do."

Jesus scars remind us that you won't find the living among the dead. The open tomb, and resurrected Christ, clearly tells us that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love and grace of God. Jesus is the truth and the resurrection, and because he lives we will live also.

To God be the glory, for the great things he has done!

Sing Hymn #98 "To God Be the Glory," all 3 verses.

And still the story does not end, the story of God's grace continues. Even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, God is still not done. As we read further in our Gospel Jesus says, "As the father sent me, I am sending you." Then Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Grace on top of grace.

And just when you think there can't possibly be anything else good God can do, God says, you thought that was good, just wait, I still have something more to give. Then God gives us the Holy Spirit.

You know there is life in the breath of God. In the book of Genesis chapter two where we read that God created humanity, it wasn't until God breathed into Adam the breath of life that there was actually life. God's breath not only made Adam live, it made humanity different from all other forms of creation. God didn't breath into any other part of his creation.

And now we read in John's Gospel that through the breath of Jesus, God imparted eternal, spiritual life on the apostles. With his inbreathing Jesus followers received the power to do God's work on earth.

Think about this. If there was ever a group of people who should have been able to live a life consistent with the teachings of Jesus, it was the apostles. After all Jesus himself had trained them, and he spent countless hours teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Yet in their last encounter with Jesus he let them know they were still missing something. They needed the Holy Spirit. If eleven men who walked and talked with Jesus needed the Holy Spirit, how much more do we need the Holy Spirit?

Apart from the Holy Spirit, life is reduced to doing the best we can, which, as we know is not where Christ wants us to be. Apart from the Holy Spirit life is potentially reduced to a history of scars, a series of remembrances of those things done to us or by us. But by the power of the Holy Spirit our life scars become scars of grace, as we view our scars as more than just things that happened to us. With the Holy Spirit present in our lives we begin to see God's grace in our scars, and all of a sudden life begins to take on new meaning. We see God's work in our lives, yet again more grace.

When you become a Christian, you are sealed into Christ. The term sealed is used in various ways throughout the New Testament, and in every case the term carries with it the idea of protection and security. To seal something means to close it off from outside influences and interference.

You might remember that near the end of the Service of Baptism I anoint the person being baptized with oil on their forehead in the sign of the cross, and say, "You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." Through Baptism, in the case of infants, we are calling upon the Holy Spirit to protect and bless the child until they are old enough to make a personal profession of faith.

In the case of the older person we are acknowledging that through their profession of faith they are indeed sealed, or in other words, protected by the Holy Spirit.

Now when God looks at you what does he see? Does he see an empty vessel or does he see the Holy Spirit within you? Know that God sees in us the Holy Spirit, so the question we ought to ask is when we look within ourselves what do we see? Do we see an empty vessel, or do we see the Holy Spirit?

The presence of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual scar, reminding us of God's promise to finish what he has already begun in us. As long as you belong to God, the Holy Spirit will be there, living in you, as a scar of grace, reminding you of his ever-lasting presence in your life.

But like any scar it's only when we realize its there that we remember and act upon how we feel. A life in the Spirit is characterized by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, surrendering our lives to the will of God and following the leadings of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to look for the Holy Spirit in your life, that scar of grace, and plug into the new life that resides within you. Know the resurrected Lord as your savior, receive his grace, and rejoice in the great things he has done, and will continue to do in your life.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade