Tag: ghosts

He Ain’t No Ghost

Sermon, Easter 4B, Sunday April 15, 2018. St Petri.

Luke 24: 36-48

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.

Ghosts don’t seem to do much for you other than scare the heck out of you. The only movie I ever enjoyed about ghosts was that funny 80’s movie, “Ghostbusters”. There was the other move; “Ghost”, with the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That was all a bit much for me, not because of being scary but because of schmaltz!

As for ghost horror movies and stories? I never saw the point of having your mind thrown into fear and confusion. There is enough of that going on anyway! We don’t need movie to ramp up the fear and the disbelief in what is real and true. We humans seem to find it easy to get lost in what is unreal and untrue.

This small band of sisters and brothers in post-Crucifixion Jerusalem saw plenty that was real and true – and it was scary. The real thing always is so much more.

I often wonder whether these people were dealing with deep post traumatic stress syndrome. The violence, brutality and injustice of what others did to their mentor, their friend, and in Mary’s case, her son, must have been traumatic to the core.

Like friends and family sticking close together at the funeral, these grieving people are simply being together in that city apartment this Sunday night.

I want to go easy on them. They are only human.

Grief’s curtains had begun to be drawn – just a bit. Joanna and Mary M had already seen that tomb and the gardener, and angels…. But as Luke says;

“…they (the 11) did not believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).

But Peter goes. He sees. He comes away wondering… Wondering is the beginning of believing.

Then two associates turn up after sundown with some news – news that would be easy to fob off as mere ‘fake news’.

He is alive. We saw him. He made our hearts burn. He took what we know and opened up our horizon on everything we knew and extended it”.

But it is still only the beginning of the return. They are only human. It takes a while…

And then those words; those words they have heard and spoken themselves at a thousand family BBQ’s come…. “Peace be with you”.Shalom la ka”.

But different here in this space. This is not mere “G’day mate, Howzit goin’”. This peace greeting is spoken by the Peace himself – in this room. Peace is doing peace, giving peace. Strange though; Peace causes them just the opposite!

“Startled and frightened”, like a rabbit in the headlights, they are. This scary because it is not a movie. It is real, and it is happening. The real thing is always more than the theory thing.

This has happened before. Remember the night out on the stormy sea……? It was him then. Could this be him now – in all the trauma and the guilt and the fear?

Before we comment…… Why wouldn’t you think you are seeing a ghost? The last time they saw him he was unrecognisably beaten to a pulp by ferocious and powerful system of control, mangled beyond human and dead, dead, dead. You can’t change death. We are only human.

This “Ghost” needs to do some convincing. He does.

“Look. Touch. See, it is me”.

But even a man rising from the dead would not convince them, Jesus had said to his hometown crowd a few years back (Luke 16:31). Even that greatest of miracles is not enough by itself. Words need to be spoken with the miracles, otherwise they are just party tricks that can lead you nowhere light….

“Look. Touch. See”, plus one: now He asks something from them. Just like he did on that grassy slope up by their hometown lake when that huge crowd needed feeding: “Do you have anything to eat?”. “Yes”. He eats this roasted fish in their presence.

Jaws drop. Maybe pennies begin to drop. Surely THAT meal in THAT room on THAT night comes flooding into their bodies too. “This is my body, this is my blood – for what? For a new covenant – a new relationship of forgiveness between us; a new way to be together – a new way to be human, no longer trying to be ‘like god’ but God becoming human as we are now, and always….

So the rabbits in the headlight move from being startled and frightened to rising joy and amazement. But Luke tells us that it is still not quite unrestrained, unhitched, fearless joy that comes with fearless belief. This is not the Doubter Thomas’ free-form unbridled faith of “My Lord and my God” …… yet.

What is going to make you forget yourself and your world of tasks and troubles and temptations now, and see, touch, taste and receive him like invites you to? Luke makes it clear: Words. Human words from this human God make it real and now.

The Defib pads are applied…

“He opened their minds so they could understand what? “The Scriptures”.

Words: Holy words. Moses, Prophets and Psalms – the whole lot – now like a surging Kimberly water course converging through a narrow gap into the wild, free sea, all of time has flooding to this moment in this man who is much more than the expected ‘bag of bones’ as we say. His bones still have flesh and more importantly, words.

Friends, by these words can I say;

Jesus is no mere temporary human who like a sci-fi character in a movie, puts on a human disguise temporality to speak with us to achieve his goals. He is the new Adam, the new man, the new human, before all this and after this. He is bodily resurrected. He is still human and remains so.

So, the writer the Hebrews can say that we have a Great High Priest who is us – human, tempted, familiar with all of me; my fears, my darkness, my endless temptation to love God’s gifts above God himself. If that is true, then I can speak my fears and ask my questions why with Doubter Thomas’ freedom.

Jesus is no shape-shifter, no mere ghost without form or clear words. This human God rose from the pit in-tact, still human, flesh and bone.

So, our human flesh and bone matters to God. All matter matters. This environment, these seas, these ecosystems, this Valley, these human babies, children young people, middle agers and strong 85’ers matter! You matter and your matter matters. So, handle with care, he says – yours and theirs.

Renee Descarte, the 17th century Swedish rationalist philosopher was dead wrong. He famously concluded, “I think, therefore I am”. As if it is only our mind that truly makes us human. Not true.

Many others, ancient and now would say that it is only our spirit that makes us human – it lasts forever and therefore the body is not worth too much trouble because it has no place in God’s space. Wrong!

Jesus says, that like him in this city room, YOU make YOU human and HE makes you NEW HUMAN. All of you – body, mind, spirit.

“All of you is transformed by all of me – physical, emotional, psychological, biological, sexual, intellectual”, says Peace.

Your baptism into this Crucified and Resurrected Prince of Peace frees you from fearful fashion, peaceless people pleasing and the grinding work being ‘good’.  You don’t need to be good. You don’t need to be bad. You just need to be made new – new human – and you have been.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (1 John 3:1)

So, what does he call us to do with this moment?

“Witnesses” he names us again this morning. Witnesses who are his flesh and bones in a scary world with all of its unreal words spoken in real grief, real suffering, real pain, real arrogance, real violence, real injustice.

“Look. Touch. See”. “Listen and Eat”, he beckons, and we “sprechen”!

Wondering is the beginning of believing.

Let yourself wonder today.

Help them wonder.

Help them Look. Help them touch. Help them see. Help them listen and eat.

He knows you are only human. But so is he.

He is no ghost. He is the real thing. So are we.

Peace be with you.

CONVERSATION STARTERS                                                                                                                            

Read the text aloud slowly taking not of who says what and picturing the scene. Ask yourself, 1) What would you ask a bible expert if he was in your room, and 2) what made my imagination fire up as I listened?

Luke 24: 36-48

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.

It is probably best to read the passage before this since the Easter Dawn account to see how the appearances of Jesus work. They are similar and yet all different. See if you can compare the appearance of Jesus to the first people at the tomb, then the two people on the road to Emmaus and now to the disciples in the room u=in the city.

What are the differences? How are they similar?

When you hear those words, “peace be with you”, what comes to your mind? How do you experience Jesus’ peace in an ordinary day/week? What means does he use to give you his peace?

 

It is a staggering thing to believe that Jesus remained human AFTER he was resurrected. It flies in the face of much Christian thought in various communities. So many assume that Jesus is now “up in heaven’ and ‘spirit only”. If that is the case, then what is this whole account of his appearing really about? Why does he eat? Why does he show them his flesh wounds? Surely it is to show them that it is still really him – the man Jesus and yet also of course, God’s Son – divine. This is illogical and cannot be measured by empirical evidence. You can only receive this by faith in his words.

 

If Jesus is still human after his resurrection, then I suggested that this means a great deal.

He was human before all of this and remained after all of this. Therefore, being human is not a bad/evil thing! Being human is a gift. Indeed, humans are the very pinnacle of God’s creative love. We are indeed ‘made in his image’.

 

It means that what is matter and what is spirit BOTH matter. Death is not simply flying away to escape the body but being mad new body, spirit and mind. We say every Sunday “I believe….in the resurrection of the body”. See 1 Corinthians 15 for Paul’s extended treatment of what this means for us now.

 

Jesus being human still means that he really ‘gets’ us still. See Hebrews 4: 14 onward for a clearer picture of this. This means that we can definitely pour out our hearts to him in our need and hear from him in our need knowing that he understands the sin and the struggle and the weakness, but remains the One who prays for us, gives us his hard-won forgiveness and sweet peace.

 

It also means that God in indeed a person, not a concept or a theory. God is a human and divine reality that acts and speaks and does in our day. He has not left us to get on with the task of living life alone. He is involved and aware.

How do you find these things? Comforting? Challenging? Other……?

 

He names us ‘witnesses’. We are people who give testimony to his peace breathed into us at baptism and every day since. How have you given testimony to a friend or stranger lately and what are your reflections/learnings on that? Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15-16 to go right ahead and always be ready to speak a word of explanation for the peace and hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection over our death – bit do so with gentleness and respect for the other. How might you go about this more at your work, in your family, when out socially?

PRAY

Jesus, come and stand among us

We will speak what you tell us

We will go where you go.

You are risen, risen;

You were dead but now you live.

We were lost but you have found us

 For the life you give.

                                                                 (From “Jesus, come and stand among us” Words: © Robin Mann)

He is no Ghost

Sermon, Easter3B

Sunday April 22, 2012.

St Petri

He’s no Ghost

Luke 24:36b-48

36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

I have never really been one for scary movies. Some of my mates at school seemed to love them. They went and saw these horror movies all the time – Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Dracula, the Shining and etc etc! I had enough trouble watching that kids cartoon called ‘Caspar, the Friendly Ghost”!

 Lord, give us listening hearts

There does seem to be lots of mysterious things we don’t understand in human life –things like ghosts or spirits – good or evil. From time-to-time we hear of ‘ghosts’; “ghosts of the past”, “ghosts that haunt” a place or a person.

I have no doubt there are spirits or ghosts. I have no doubt that there are evil spirits who do their evil work against people and especially people of Jesus church.

Ghosts or evil spirits seem beyond human flesh and blood. They are tied with the “underworld”; that mysterious part of our human existence called death that we cannot understand but experience at times in a certain kind of way; a fearful way. Ghosts are past people reaching out from past evil or suffering and death into now and causing us fear…..and so it goes.

Well, those first disciples gathered in that upper room thought they saw a ghost when the once dead Jesus turned up through locked doors! Who wouldn’t think that this was a ghost or mere spirit?  How would you react if someone you loved who has already died came through your front door and just stood there?! Surely at first you could not believe it was that same person you knew and loved. This must be a trick or at least a figment of my imagination or even if you could see this “ghost” or “sprit” how could you know that it really was your dearly loved friend?

That is the problem with spirits and ghost. You can’t really trust them fully. They could be real or not. They could be friend or foe. Spirits only pretend to feel like we feel and know us the way we really are in all of our loss and grief and sorrow and joy and love.

Jesus, moves to show his dear friends that he is no ghost; that he is really himself and still the one they can know and love as they have all along.

 First: Jesus shows he is no ghost by his word. He speaks a word. It’s a familiar Word; “Shalom” Peace to you”. Just like he spoke to Mary on the first morning out of the tomb when he said ‘Mary”, and she instantly knew it was really him, so now, that word of “Shalom” starts the process of these frightened, confused and unbelieving very human followers getting to the joy of certain faith in Jesus.

 Second: Jesus goes further still. He needs to with our unbelief. He shows them the wounds on his flesh and the bones under the pierced  skin. He is no ghost. He is still flesh and bone. He is still in some way human and he is there with them – human.

He is friend, not foe. He is with them and for them, not vague and illusive and uncommitted like a spirit or ghost. He is the same trustworthy, strong and compassionate man they love and trust.

This is a big deal. Jesus is no ghost. He is not merely a spirit who has escaped the prison of his human flesh and blood as if his humanness is now unneeded or to be escaped. He is not God squeezing into a human suit and then discarding his or our humanness as if humanness does not count. That is definitely not the biblical witness.

Many believe this. Many Christians believe this:  that we are flesh and spirit and when we die the spirit finally escapes to be with Jesus who is spirit, as if our humanness is not worthwhile. This is not the full biblical picture at all! Not here.

Jesus is still human and remains so after his resurrection and even after his ascension. Even there, as he departs to be even more present in all things than he was in earthly terms, he is still Jesus – Jesus of Nazareth, resurrected and “glorified” but still flesh and bones – human bones.

What does this say to me? It tells us that our bodies are precious – temples of the Holy Spirit, no less. Our humanness is a precious gift, even though we are aging and struggling and battling with our identity, well-being and health at times. Our bodies, in some magnificent and mysterious way will be resurrected like his in glory (1Corinthians 15).

And now the crescendo…. Third: then does what he has done to two lucky blokes just prior on the road to Emmaus. He reveals more of himself than they previously knew. Even to those who still are not quite sure if Jesus is really still Jesus and is who he says he is, Jesus “open their minds” to the Word – the Scriptures. Jesus does what Mr Spock on Star Trek always did – he does a “mind meld”. Jesus opens up their view of their world, their God and their Saviour and themselves as he breaks open the Books of Moses, the Books of the prophets and the song book – the Psalms. In other words, the whole account of all God’s people and all God’s dealings with his people – the whole bible in all its parts.

If we view the Bible as a circle, then Jesus word is in the middle of the word. Everything comes from him and point to him. He is the way we understand. He is the way our hearts burn. He is the way our understanding grows, our maturity develops, our love gains commitment and depth and his humans on the faith journey.

“Oh to be in that room in that moment!” we might say. Well, hang on. We have been there in that room – many times and many times still to come. Our minds have been opened up to hear Jesus speaking in all the Scriptures. How else would you know of him and know him and serve him? How else would you trust him and know that he is the centre of our lives and our church? We have faith in him. That’s his Word working in us. We love him because he first loved us. We have been supernaturally born again in baptism. We have been re-born over and over again in the tactile, visible, very human things of the divine Jesus.

He cracks us open when we hear those words “In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. He breathes life into us when we receive his words – “I forgive you all your sin: Peace be with you”. We bath in his power and in our belonging together at his table as he says “Do this in remembrance of me”. We walk tall when he says, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you. He has given these human gifts to repeat over and over again so that our hearts and minds stay in him, with him, for him.

Friends, Jesus Christ is no ghost. That’s the gift to trust today. He is flesh and bone and human. His gifts are for humans through human voice, hand, touch, sinful and incomplete though we be.

Because he is flesh and bone, his presence is trustworthy, his life suits us down to the bone. His Word transforms our knocking knees and trembling hearts us to the place where our bone meets our marrow and we are freed and we are loved to the core of our being. He is the centre of our frame, and the source and core of our life together in his human yet divine community.

Jesus is sending us into his human world to call other human beings to lose their doubt and fear of him as a mere ghost, and turn away from their endless searching for spirits and ghosts or a complete denial of anything spiritual. We are his sent people who are called to both go to the upper room with him but then always out again into the world where we live. He tells us to rely on the power that comes from high (the Holy Spirit) to live our human life for and with other humans praying that other human beings give up darkness and evil and doubt and place their flesh and blood and bones in the body and blood of Jesus for safe keeping, for joy, for purpose, for life.

He is opening our minds here at St Petri. He always has been. He always is. The resurrected human Jesus, Son of GO and Saviour is in our words, in our actions, in our world. He has made us missional people – people always coming and going in his presence and power for the sake of others.

Amen.