Eating With Ghosts

luke 24_36-48(Author’s note:  this is the introduction to my sermon “Eating With Ghosts” from Luke 24:36-48 on April 15, 2018 at FUMCWinnfield)

A company once hired a recent immigrant and put him to work in the mail room. To the foreman’s shock, the guy was a whiz. He stood in front of the sorting racks and shuffled the letters into slots with amazing speed. The foreman had never seen anything like it. At the end of the day, the foreman shook the new man’s hand, thanked him and said, “I’ve never seen anyone who could sort mail as fast as you.” The new immigrant smiled and said, “You think I’m good now, you wait until I can read English.” (source: The Jokesmith)

Maybe that explains some of the mail in my mailbox. My apologies to anyone who works in the post office. But the truth is that we are cynical and skeptical. Too many times we have been let down. Too many times promises have been broken. And yet, every once in a while, we get pleasantly surprised. Something that seems too good to be true.

That’s the scene in today’s scripture. The disciples are huddled together and Cleopas and his companion enter and add word of their encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. (you can read that story in Luke 24:13-35). Luke describes the scene like this: “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost” (v. 36). Imagine how we would have reacted to this first appearance of the risen Christ after his resurrection. This account picks us up at a point where — were we to be present at Easter’s ground zero — we also would have been “startled,” and “terrified.” But Jesus seeks to calm their fears. He reassures them that it is he, inviting them to touch him, and then does a simple act that no ghost would ever do- he asks them for something to eat, then eats the food in their presence. Suddenly it becomes evident to the disciples that this is no ghost that they are eating with. It is the resurrected and living messiah, son of God. How would we react? What would we say if Jesus suddenly appeared to us? If one that we thought was dead, was a ghost, showed up to eat lunch with us? Here’s how the first disciple’s reacted.

Surprise in a Graveyard

tomb-960x350(Author’s note:  This is the conclusion of my Easter message “Surprise in a Graveyard” at FUMC Winnfield April 1, 2018.  I have the source for this story listed as Rosemary Kadrmas in Jeff Cavins, et.al, Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, LLC, 2003), pp. 211-212.)

A woman named Rosemary works in the Alzheimer’s Unit of a nursing home. Rosemary and a colleague named Arlene brought the residents of the home together one Good Friday afternoon to view a movie called Jesus of Nazareth. They wondered whether these elderly Alzheimer’s patients would even know what was going on, but they thought it might be worth the effort.

When they finally succeeded in getting everyone into position, they started the video. Rosemary was pleasantly surprised at the quiet attention being paid to the screen. At last came the scene where Mary Magdalene comes upon the empty tomb and sees Jesus’ body is not there. The risen Christ comes and asks Mary why she is looking for the living among the dead. Mary runs as fast as she can back to the disciples and tells Peter and the rest with breathless excitement, “He’s alive! I saw Him, I tell you! He’s alive.” The doubt in their eyes causes Mary to pull back. “You don’t believe me . . . You don’t believe me!”
From somewhere in the crowd of Alzheimer’s patients came the clear, resolute voice of Esther, one of the patients. “WE BELIEVE YOU,” she said, “WE BELIEVE YOU!”

Well, Esther, I believe it too. I believe because we have many credible witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection, it has changed the lives of many including you and me, and it explains why there is so much suffering in our world. The evidence is overwhelming, and life makes no sense without it. Jesus Christ is alive and rose from the dead.  Hallelujah!  Amen!