This sermon is based on chapter 3 of ‘Good and Beautiful and Kind’ by Rich Villodas.
In the process of living in a world marked with sin and spiritual powers, we each carry woundedness or trauma that hinders us from freely receiving and giving love. Loving well as followers of Jesus requires the patient exploration of the stories beneath us. We are surrounded by the pain of the past and are likely carrying it into the present. This woundedness can lead to reactivity and the inability to be ‘here,’ and is sometimes expressed through escapism or the creation of alternative interpretations we choose to believe. As we compassionately confront our wounds and trauma, we stumble towards wholeness, which allows us to become agents of healing.
Trauma is a wordless story that our body tells us about what is safe and what is a threat. It brings together the wound, the state of woundedness and the story that comes from living in that state. Some wounds are new, whereas other wounds are very old and can be generational, including racial trauma and sexual trauma. The wounds we carry are not always observable and some develop over time rather than being connected to a particular event. They can be caused by something negative happening or something positive being withheld.
Even after the resurrection, Christ still bore signs of his trauma in his body. In our sin-stained, broken world, trauma will remain with us but it doesn’t need to consume us. It can be redeemed. We will either become wounded wounders or wounded healers, We need to start by facing ourselves and opening ourselves to the healing that is available in God’s love.
- Naming Our Shame – The first thing that many must confess when navigating trauma is, ‘It’s not my fault’. Trauma not only produces pain, but often an internal sense of shame to go alongside it. Though Adam and Eve’s story is not quite a trauma story, it does illustrate the impact of shame in turning us in on ourselves and closing us off to others.
- Making Sense of Our Stories – People are often unable to tell their stories of brokenness with coherence. Giving expression to our stories can be difficult, yet through the love of God we were made to live openly, at ease and courageously. To do this people need patient and healing space, and this happens primarily in community.
- Attending to Our Bodies – Moving towards healing requires a deeper level of embodied engagement. Previous events can intrude on us in physical ways such as a quickening pulse, shallower breathing or difficulty in thinking clearly. In such physical responses, our bodies are alerting our minds that something painful in the psyche has been touched.
Christian faith is incomprehensible without the redemptive trauma of the cross. Jesus experienced rejection and mockery, relational abandonment, and shame. In all of this, God was at work ushering in his kingdom, conquering the powers and creating space for humanity to receive eternal life in him. Contemplating Jesus as traumatised yet risen is important in understanding trauma in a Christ-centred way.
Following the resurrection of Jesus, Thomas had heard testimony from the other disciples but had not yet seen the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes. He needed to touch the wounds of Jesus himself, and Jesus gave him the opportunity to do just this. Jesus’ wounds on his resurrection body were not a minor detail. In his wounds, Jesus shows himself to be one who identifies – even in a resurrected state – with humanity. His wounds call us to be wounded healers, and this begins with being present to the wounds we have carried.
The wounds of Jesus remind us that our wounds don’t have the last word, that they are not to be the controlling narrative of our life, that we don’t need to carry the shame of trauma, that our wounds can become sources of healing to others and that each of use has been or will be wounded in some way, which deepens our commitment to becoming a healing presence in the world.