Image: Chimamanda Adichie. Photo: https://www.premiumtimesng.com
‘So many stories to tell’
Easter 2, Year A
There is an oft-viewed Ted Talk by the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story”. In it she talks about her heritage and how her reading habits shaped her view of the world growing up.
She read English stories where people drank tea and spoke about the weather and so, as a child, she wrote stories where people did the same, despite never having seen this in her reality. It takes her many years to reflect her middle-class African life in a novel, and people who read it tell her that it is “not African enough” as they understand the continent as being composed of incredible beauty and incomprehensible violence, not even knowing that there are many different countries within Africa.
When she goes to America as a student, Adichie has the same experience from both perspectives – she recalls that her roommate asks to listen to her “African music” and she produces the Mariah Carey tapes that she has listened to as a teenager, but she also recounts her journey to Mexico, which she says surprised her, as she had only been led to understand that country through the American representation and finds the reality quite different.
The moral, when she comes to it, is that all stories are necessary to help us define and develop ourselves and our understanding of the world. We need to be empowered to tell our stories and our stories represent who we are.
Today’s reading, coming at the end of John, contains one of my favourite verses of the Bible, that “there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (v.31).
Jesus did so many other things! There are so many other stories! John’s story gives us so many aspects of Jesus’ identity – framing him as the Logos, his incarnation, his life on Earth and finally his violent and humiliating crucifixion.
Jesus demonstrates that there are many stories happening in these moments too, in his last days of being human with his human friends.
Having restored his relationship with Peter, he goes through a locked door (both literal and metaphorical) to ready Thomas for his role in spreading the gospel to the world. Having been absent during Jesus’ previous visit, Thomas did not share this miraculous experience and retains his sadness and anger. Jesus offers his disciples peace, and this moment is transformative for Thomas. He surrenders his hyperbolic declaration that he needs to touch the scars that the nails have made in order to believe.
Jesus’ death and resurrection have left him with scars. He is a fully human person who has been through death and a death so profoundly horrible that it is hard to imagine for us today. Public, humiliating, excruciatingly painful, full of fear and abandonment, taking hours.
Jesus was resurrected with scars, in his human body. Jesus asserts the goodness of our humanity and our human bodies, even though humanity and being human is difficult at times. So many of our experiences leave us with scars, some of which can’t be seen. We carry our scars with us as we go through life – they are part of who we are.
Jesus invited Thomas to touch his scars – he wasn’t trying to hide them. They were proof of what he had been through and what he had experienced.
The story of Jesus continues to be written through our human story. There are so many stories yet to be told!
May the peace of Christ continue to bless you throughout this Easter period. He is risen! Amen!