Heals All Wounds
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Christ shows himself to Thomas, Rowan and Irene LeCompte
Mosaic; Resurrection Chapel, Washington National Cathedral
Time does not heal all wounds. Forgiveness does.
Not every bit of news you read is bad. In some cases it may look bad, but if you look hard enough you wil see something good.
In an article titled, “Stories of Forgiveness” written by four authors in the Washington Post, it gives four separate accounts of what forgiveness looks like. You have to read the whole article to get the full measure, but here is a summary. For reference, the editors mention how Jesus forgave unconditionally from the cross; how John Paul II went to his would-be assassin, and how John Lewis argued that George Wallace was due the same forgivenes. We have heard people say those words, “I will never forgive,” and when they do, there can never be healing.
Four stories. Sara, Patricia, Robert and Karen. Each with their unique situation. Each wounded by debt, betrayal and injury.
First story: “Sara”, 43, lives in Michigan. One day she opened a letter sent to her by an agency she had never heard of before. She always feared going to the mailbox because there was always a letter from a doctor’s office or a collector on behalf of the eight different surgeries she had on her back, suffering from a herniated disc. This time, one of the bills was attached to this agency’s letterhead that said, “Your debt has been forgiven. No strings attached.” This was just one of her many bills, $5,000 of $750k, but it was such a relief to know there was a show of forgiveness.
Second story: “Patricia”, 85, lives in Bethesda, MD. She reflected back to the 1960’s when she and her husband moved to Bethesda, outside of DC. It was there they gave birth to three children, all of whom were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, an incurable disease of the lungs. After the second child was born and about eight months old, she learned from her firstborn it may be genetic, so she went to the NIH for top examination. There, she met a doctor, explained her concerns and he treated her almost with contempt. He said it was foolish to think it could be hereditary. There were no outward signs and he dismissed her without any treatment. A few months later, now seeing signs, she went for another diagnosis, only this time too late. She remembers each of her children going through this disease and each one she buried at ages, 4, 6 and 8. For Patricia, she felt she would betray her children if she forgave the doctor for his negligence, but still she moved on, now all alone.
Third story: “Robert” 46, lives in St. Paul, MN. He and his wife were married for twenty years. He was the one who stayed at home and was domestic. She was the one who had the career and earned the money. Robert began to notice that his wife was working longer and longer hours, more than usual and she was becoming more distant. He looked at her phone and saw a message, from a man asking to see her at a particular address. He drove to the address, knocked on the door, saw the other man and said, “Would you please send for my wife?” She joined him in the car and together in that silence they didn't know what their future would be. How would he be able to forgive her for what just took place? They had three options. They could forget about it and continue to move on. They could get a divorce or they could search for answers and go through counseling. They found a counselor who said we'll have five sessions. At the end, if you want to proceed with the divorce, you may. But I'm here to tell you time will not heal this one, only forgiveness. Throughout those sessions, painful things were shared and by the end Robert and his wife decided that they would continue forward in their marriage. Their marriage was depended on forgiveness.
Fourth story: “Karen”, 62, lives in Oklahoma. She had been carrying a secret for forty years. She held on to the letter she wanted to send to one of her beloved relatives whose husband had abused her for several years when she was a child. She held that letter for as long as she could, and then she prayed about it and she sent it. It never reached her beloved relative however, to tell her what had happened because that woman had died but it was her husband who received the letter and called her. Painfully he confessed his sin and apologizing and begging her forgiveness.
I didn't share all these stories with you to make you sad. Today is about forgiveness. How do we go into this world with all this baggage that we have of woundedness, deadness, and injury? Many of you can relate to these stories or, you know, people who live in these stories. We have a duty and a calling as Christians to share with the rest of the world the good news. This is not simply a message of forgive and forget and move on. It is not that simple. It is not that easy.
We had today a remarkable story of our savior, Jesus, who is going to show us what it means and what is the importance of forgiveness; how to and why. This is a remarkable story. It is after the resurrection of Jesus when he appears to his disciples not once but twice over the course of the week. It's two different appearances. What is most interesting is the detail at the beginning, where it says, “The disciples were in this room behind a white locked door.” Thomas was not there before Jesus left. The disciples couldn't believe what they saw and were sharing with Thomas. Thomas does not believe unless he sees and touches Jesus and then a second appearance occurs. At this time the door is not locked, the door shut. The reason to make this observation is symbolic of our woundedness in our hurt and our fear. The things that prevent us from forgiving others is because we clutch what little is left, so tight, and lock them up inside. If we think that time is going to open up that locked feature we are mistaken. The good news is these disciples were fearful at first. The rabbi reappears miraculously and does not shout at them for why they abandoned him at the cross. Instead, he said, I bring to you my spirit and my Holy Spirit, I leave with you. What you forgive here will be forgiven in heaven and what you let go here will be let go in heaven. Jesus said, the onus is on us. The onus is on the individual. It is on the human on whether or not to unlock and allow for God's Spirit to enter.
People are unable to find strength to forgive unless it comes from above. If you do not have Christ, if you do not have God's Holy Spirit, how will you manage to get by? Jesus brings the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit opens up that woundedness. If any of you are from the medical community, is it possible that a wound will heal if it is infected? You have to clean it out in order for that wound to become healed. The new scar might still be there, but the wound has been healed. Dearly beloved this is the good news and the only news that we need to know. Throughout this world there will be plenty of things that hurt and wound us but there is only one way in which we can be restored, reconciled, healed.
Do you find it interesting that in the Acts of the Apostles, which we also heard today, that those apostles, which were set forth by Christ after the resurrection, are persecuted? You would think that they would be under a supreme fear, that their lives were in danger, that they could be hurt and badly hurt in so many different ways that they can't recover from it. But they seem to have something different at that moment than they did when they were huddling around that locked door of the upper room. What did they experience that allowed for them to go out into the world where there was great risk? It was because they heard God's voice, God’s Spirit and that same Spirit is what God gives us today. The gift that God gives us through His Son, Jesus is that He is here to help you forgive. The Holy Spirit reinforces this truth.
When we make our confession it will not be long and we are going to say something again. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Do you understand that? We have it embeded in our liturgy. Those words should come out of your mouth and unlock those hearts, open those doors, and allow healing to enter. That's the joy of the resurrection. That's the good news of Jesus Christ. So today, whatever it is you may be battling, whatever is thrown your way, maybe even holding on to it for many, many years, will you forgive? God sent His Son to pay your debt. God sent his Son to forgive you of your sins. God sent his Son to show you how to forgive others. He does not heal all wounds alone. Only forgiveness does.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 John 20:19-31
 Acts 5:27-32