In the movie Bend it Like Beckham, Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra is the 18-year-old daughter of Punjabi Sikh Indians from west London. Her parents expect her to be to be a respectable Sikh girl and cover her body modestly. Her parents would naturally encourage modesty in any girl, but to make matters worse, Jess was burned on her legs as a little girl when she was trying to help her mother cook in the kitchen. Jess' mother accidentally dropped a pot of boiling water on the floor and it splattered over Jess' legs. So her mother is constantly telling her to cover up, be modest, be respectful. Her mother also tells her that her legs are hideous looking and that no man would ever want to marry her once that man had seen her legs. Jess is a good girl and she is prepared to be obedient to her parents but there is one huge problem--Jesminder loves to play soccer and she's really really good at it. So the movie is all about this young girl struggling to cover up her wounds and how she ends up covering her talent.
Jess sneaks away from her parents and battles her shame and humiliation. First she tries to play soccer in pants but before the first game, they are given their uniforms and Jess has to put on shorts, so she hides in the bleachers.
There is this beautiful scene where Jess is up there in the bleachers hiding and her coach, a young man, goes up to sit next to her, to find out what's wrong. She shows him her scars and he lifts up his pants leg and shows her his scars from when he had to have numerous knee surgeries. He explains about how his scars on his knee meant the end of his career as a soccer player but that if he had not hurt his knee, he never would have discovered coaching. And without pity or shame, he tells her to get out there on the field. The young coach and Jessminder end up falling in love after showing each other their scars. And Jess ends up winning a scholarship to an American University to play soccer.
In the garden of Eden we felt true peace and communion with God. We were free to be naked and intimate with God in a kind of harmony that we all still crave. When we ate what was not offered to us, when we fell from God's grace, our first reaction was to feel two things: fear and shame. We noticed that we were naked. We were ashamed and we hid from God in fear.
Ever since that time, we all hear something like Jesminder's mother in our heads: cover up, hide, you are shameful. You are ugly. You have made too many mistakes. Put on a facade of success. Pretend that you have it all together. When someone says how are you, say fine. Talk about your degrees, your children's accoumplishments, how much you love your job. Tell people in so many words, how great you are or better yet, show them and they will be impressed and you will be loved.
But love is not born when one person impresses another, no, that is infatuation or idolatry if there is any feeling at all. No, love is born when people uncover themselves and share their wounds.
Jesus appeared in the upper room on the evening of the first day of the week. The disciples were were scared. They were certain that the authorities might realize who they really were, friends and followers of Jesus. So the disciples hid, because that's what we humans do when we are afraid. They were hiding. I can just imagine the atmosphere in the room: whispers, shame, blame, grief and a hint of hope from some unreliable women who claimed to have seen Jesus early in the morning. Their claim must have seemed so stupid, almost child-like, preposterous. And it must have made the disciples feel worse.
"Shhh! Don't be too loud! They might hear us! John, please stop with the pacing your driving me crazy. Just everyone be quiet..." They were trying to hold it together, to see which one of them might be a leader, but they were just so lost. And I'm sure that it had sunk in, the realization that they had abandoned their Lord. Talk about being ashamed. They were hiding in fear and shame.
Then Jesus just shows up. Jesus finds them anyway. Fear never prevents God from finding us. Hiding from God doesn't work. God walked in the garden long ago and called out for Adam and Eve and God searches for us still, but nothing can keep God from finding us, not locked doors or bushes or even thousands of miles. God finds the disciples just like God found Adam and Eve. And when Jesus finds the people who love him, he does two very important things.
First Jesus bestows peace. "Peace be with you," he says. It is the first thing he says before he even identifies himself. And the word in the Ancient Greek means harmony, the kind of relationship that we once had with God in the Garden. The risen Christ offers us peace. An end to fear. An end to hiding. Communion with God. Something that we can never find on our own. No, this peace is a gift from God and God alone.
And then Jesus shows them his scars. He doesn't say, "Guess what I did! I conquered death! Yay for me!!" No, in an unprecedented act of intimacy, Jesus lifts up his shirt and shows them his naked skin, and his wounds. He shows them the ugliest part of himself, where his flesh was torn in his hands and his side. And that is how they recognize him. By his scars.
Do you want to find peace? Do you want to find love? Then stop trying to show everyone that you have it all together. Show each other your wounds. Show them. Here is where I have been hurt. Here is how I suffer. That is how love is born. Love is born when fear and shame are overcome by the truth. That we are wounded creatures who cannot seem to get it right in this life, who kill our Lord and run away in fear. But God loves us anyway. And we should have never run. Not in Eden, not at the cross, not in the upper room. You can't run from God anyway.
What is one of the best ways to run from God? Speed up your life. Make yourself so busy that you are always running. Who has time for scars when you are on the run, when running becomes the only way that you know how to be? Our business is born of our shame that we haven't yet done enough and it is nothing more than Adam and Eve hiding again.
I challenge you to reveal your scars to one another. At least here, in church, you should be able to nurture a relationship with someone with whom you can be truly honest, someone you can trust. If you do not have someone here who has earned your trust in that way, then you have not fully experienced church. (And your spouse doesn't count!) And even more importantly, are you the kind of person who others feel that they can be vulnerable with? When you go out on the street, at work, at the bank, do people feel that they can reveal their true selves to you?
I pray that one day, you and I will stop running and trying to intimidate each other. And when we stop running, when we finally have the courage to stop hiding from one another and from God, then we can show each other our scars. And the Risen Lord will be with us.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead