Excerpt from Isaiah 53:1-5
"He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed."
Here is the story we tell this day:
There once was a man who made beautiful things with trees. His hands, dirty and calloused, seemed to meld into the rich, rough bark with which he labored.
He chose his materials carefully, looking for things that others considered flaws: here was the year of heavy rain. There, it had suffered - the black tattoo of a fire scarring the yearly rings.
In his hands, those disfigurements were beautiful. Indeed, they were the focal points of the tree's new creation - signs that it had seen hardship, and survived.
And when he was done transforming trees, he moved on to people. In the same way, he looked for what others considered flaws - sins and scars. And, in his hands, people found their wounds became beauty marks - signs that they had seen hardship, and survived.
Many, however, didn't want their wounds exposed, and so they sent him back to the trees.
The trees greeted him lovingly, the darkness of his skin once again melding with the wood. As he had once done for them, they stretched him into a new form - one where his wounds were the centerpieces of new life.
Our new life.
You see, we tell this story not out of guilt, but hope.
Hope that, in its telling, we might feel our wounds exposed. That we might feel our sins, our scars – our very selves – melded to the cross. That we might feel ourselves being carved, stretched by the Master Carpenter into a new form – one that allows us to proclaim not simply "He is risen!"
But, "I am risen!" too.
Master Carpenter, on this holy day between death and life, stretch us out to that holy, tender place between sin and salvation. Carve away the layers of pride and pretension, that we might again be like raw materials – a broken branch of the tree of Jesse, just waiting to be made new. Amen.
Elissa Johnk is the Senior Pastor of The Old Meeting House, East Montpelier Center, Vermont.