Nepal, Baltimore, and Resurrection in the Dark
April 30, 2015
by Megan Castellan
Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the marks of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25)
It was a curious thing for Thomas to demand, after hearing the other disciples’reports. They must have been horrified. In the midst of their joy, why focus on the trauma? Such a buzzkill–that Thomas. Why not just demand to see Christ for yourself? Why not just ask for an appearance of your own? Why ask to see the wounds?
Why ask for a reminder of the worst few days anyone had ever experienced?
Thomas isn’t usually preached like this, but earlier in the story, Thomas is a pretty gung-ho disciple. He volunteers to ride into death with Jesus, when Jesus wants to head back into the Jerusalem area to see about Lazarus’ illness. Thomas isn’t a flake–Thomas is passionate, devoted, and single-minded. Thomas is ready to die with Jesus because he believes.
But it’s been a bad week.
The story of Jesus’ death is entirely bleak. It’s not cinematic–there’s no near-miss that could have saved him, there’s no ray of hope that glimmers just off in the distance. There’s no memo from a reigning authority that just didn’t come through fast enough. When I imagine Thomas and the other disciples confronting the events of Good Friday, I realize they aren’t living some story, some sequence of dramatic events. They are living not just the sad fact that their friend and leader had died, but also the brutal reality that he had been murdered by the state, that all the forces in their world had turned against them. Christ had failed, and that they were very much alone. Fearful, afraid, lost in the darkness.
No hope to be found anywhere.
You might be already thinking that this, too, hasn’t been a good week in our world. An earthquake in Nepal has killed thousands upon thousands in an instant. Yet another case of police brutality has claimed the life of yet another Black man, and Baltimore has erupted into anguished fury. In both cases, the suffering is so intractable and beyond our ken–injustice and poverty built up generation upon generation, and now unleashed in torrents of pain. It feels like there’s no hope. It feels like there’s no fix. How are we ever going to respond to so much that’s wrong, that’s been wrong for so long?
God raised Jesus from the dead when there was no hope, when Jesus was sealed up tight in that tomb. It is the glory of Easter and upon this we rest our faith–that even when we see no hope, we still have God. And God doesn’t rely solely on our ingenuity to act in the world. praise be.
But, as I think Thomas needed to confiirm, the resurrection didn’t erase the suffering of the crucifixion. Thomas wasn’t nuts–it did still hurt. It didn’t erase the agony of those 3 days when everyone was sure it was over. Rome was still in charge. Crosses still lined the roadways and the innocent would still suffer. The pain had transfigured–Christ now shared it–but it wasn’t erased.
Thomas spoke a truth we would rather ignore – that Resurrection goes directly through the path of death and pain. No detours, no avoidance. New life comes when we are willing to acknowledge the deep wounds and let God sink into those wounds. Somehow, in this miracle of Easter, our wounds remain, just as Christ’s do, but we are imbued with new light and life.
Work still remains for us to do, even in the Easter light.
First, pray for Nepal and pray for Baltimore. Pray for those who are injured, for those who grieve, for those who seek justice, for those who live in fear, for those who seek healing.
Then, do something. Episcopal Relief and Development is currently collecting funds for relief in Nepal.Their site is here: https://www.episcopalrelief.org/NepalRelief
Also, the areas of Baltimore affected by the unrest is one of the poorest in the nation. To help in a material way, you can keep someone’s water on by paying their bill here in another place where poverty and race have oppressed: https://www.detroitwaterproject.org/baltimore