Message of the Week: Making the resurrection reality
Berni Fricke is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, 1000 D St., Marysville. Message of the Week appears on Saturdays.
Jesus Christ is risen, and we respond, “He is risen indeed!”
In Luke 24, we have a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. He says, “Peace be with you” and the disciples are terrified, thinking they are seeing a ghost. This is not Caspar the friendly ghost, but rather the kind that has no real substance. The kind that is dead to you.
“Dead to you – dead to me” is an expression that we have heard, and in a moment of anger, may have even said. What does that mean? It usually indicates that a relationship between people is so broken or distant that they have nothing to do with each other.
Jesus was dead to his disciples. The cross had broken the relationship. They had run out on him, and now they were trying to run away from his memory. Then the real Jesus is standing before them and they think he is a ghost. To try to get them grounded in the real world, Jesus invites them to reach out and touch him. If this were a ghost story, this would be the time for the role reversal. This is the time where those disciples reach out and find out that their hands go right through Jesus. At first they would think that it’s Jesus who is the ghost. Then they would try to pick something up and have their hands pass right through it. They would realize that it’s they who are the ghosts. Then we might realize that sometimes we are the ghosts.
What does it mean for you and I to be a ghost?
To be a ghost to someone means to not really be there with or for someone. I recently went to one of my German older cousin’s Celebration of Life – at least that’s what we wanted it to be. My dad and his brothers and our families immigrated from Germany to California. At first, we would get together as often as possible. Then we started to see each other less frequently. Between getting too busy and some misunderstandings, the relationships started to fade. We only got together for weddings or funerals. When we met at my dad’s funeral about 15 years ago, I suggested that we have a family reunion, and the response was, “Why?” We were full-fledged ghosts to each other. Here was a collection of ghosts who were trying to do some celebrating and honoring of relationships. How could we possibly have any success?
We decided that the best way to exit the ghost story is the way Jesus did it in Luke’s Gospel. He took these ghostly friends of his and reached out a hand of peace and said, “Touch me.” Jesus presented himself to the disciples who had become ghostly to him. To be present means to spend quality time with each other, to take time to linger. We ate together, talked, introduced our families and hugged.
We did something else that Jesus did. We talked about our common history that got us to the present, because you can’t fully understand who you are unless you know where you came from. Jesus painted a picture of the common ancestors and history that he shared with his disciples. I got to see pictures of my family and hear history that I had never known.
Further, we talked about history that we could make in future family gatherings. It appears that being fully present is related to our past, as well as our future.
Being a ghost may also be part of your experience. Are there people in your families or circle of acquaintances who you are a ghost to, or who are ghosts to you? They may have been ghosts for a long time, or this may be a more recent development. That ghostly distance might be based on mileage, but it may also be based on not being present for each other.
There may be people where you work or play or worship with who are ghosts to you.
How do we reverse this condition? The solution is what we have already heard about from our Gospel. First we have to “pass the peace.”
We have to make an effort to get out of our seats, out of our ruts and take a step in the direction of the people whom we are distanced from. A good start would be to share a piece of broiled fish together like Jesus did. Set aside some time to eat and talk and acquaint or reacquaint yourselves with each other. Whether the people are in your family, friends, or virtually complete strangers, we know that all of us have common history, common interests, common scars, and common dreams. Given time and effort, ghosts can become flesh and blood – broken relationships can be resurrected.
Will this resurrection effort be easy? Probably not. It may seem easier to get to know a complete stranger than to reconnect to someone we have a lot of history with. Here’s the thing, though. If you don’t at least make some effort to heal the past, you may be putting your present and future relationships in jeopardy. We tend to carry unresurrected baggage with us into other relationships. We may still be closer to some of our more recent relationships, but the healing has some very positive carry-over. Jesus didn’t dump his old disciples and just trade them in for new ones. He showed us how the healing can start.
Jesus promises that when we make the effort and use his power and methods, resurrection can become part of our reality. When the Jesus in our sight is not some mystical, ethereal Jesus, but one who struggles just like us, only without sin, then we have a common past with him and with those we meet. When Jesus is present for us and we for others, and then we can be his witnesses to others. Then each of us can say from personal experience,
“Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”