It's Wednesday in the Octave of Easter. The candy dwindles to a few items growing sticky from rejection, and the ham bone is ready for the bean pot. The joy of Sunday is hazy already, just a few days in. Lectionary readings reflect the ennui which settles so quickly after peak moments. Yesterday offered Mary Magdalene's wonder at encountering the risen Christ, and her charge to share the good news. But today's reading presents the two unnamed disciples road-tripping to Emmaus when Jesus appears. They don't realize it's him, and the story they convey connotes doubt about Mary's veracity.
Hear his words to them (and us):
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"
We have such a hard time recognizing Jesus.
It doesn't stop there. This Sunday's readings include John 20:19-31 in which Thomas continues to bear witness to our collective disbelief. Thomas demands that without probing Christ's wounds himself, he would not believe.
The story struck me differently this year, perhaps because I spent hours over the past few weeks engaging with venomously non-affirming Christians. It's nothing new of course, though there's been a lull in the frequency and intensity until recently. LGBTQI+ people have to prove the validity of their faith all the time. We trot out the ways in which we love and serve God despite Matthew's warnings against prominent proclamations of piety, in a desperate attempt to convince the unconvinceable. We are forced to retell horror stories of exclusion and worse. Tales of being kicked out of churches, of being rejected by families, of friends who were assaulted or even murdered.
Like the men on the road to Emmaus, non-affirming Christians can't believe in a Jesus who looks like we do. We don't fit their view of resurrection. And so they demand the right to push pruriently into our open wounds, putting our faith on trial and proclaiming damnation even as they wipe bits of our flesh from their hands.
Unlike them, Thomas believed the Jesus who stood before him. He believed what he saw, heard, and touched.
In my encounters with accusers, I cry as Jesus did that they should go ahead and put their fingers in to the depth of my pain. Like him, I say "Go ahead if you have to, if that's what it takes."
And they do.
At Easter I thought about resurrection, still quivering from the experience of my wounds being assaulted. The story struck me differently this time. I considered it from the position of the Body militant. I realized his resurrection wasn't merely a way to show Jesus as God, and to promise humanity a similar future. It was also something more radical. Something intractable. Something, perhaps, even ominous.
It was a divine flip of the middle finger.
The religious and governmental authorities killed Jesus because his message was too radical. Too inclusive. Too involved with socialist ideas. Too welcoming of the stranger and the outcast. So they killed him and figured that would end it all. His followers would scatter like frightened sheep, and the world would return to the way things had always been. Those in control would remain in control. "Others" would remain in their places.
But Jesus returned. He came back with a vengeance of light and beauty. His followers didn't scatter, they multiplied; like loaves and fish, like communion to feed the whole world, like seeds watered by the blood of martyrs.
He arose, as if to say:
You can kill me, but I'll be back.
Every time you murder me, my presence will grow.
Crucify me a thousand times, I'll be back one thousand and one.
You can kill me, but you can't stop me.
LGBTQI+ people rise with him; our beings persecuted, probed, and murdered but ever rising up. We don't look like the Jesus you expect, but we are just as much the Body of Christ. And every wound we receive will be used and transformed by God themself into a further propagation of the faith.
And so I unite my resurrection with Jesus, in a mighty, universe shaking "Fuck you."
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!