Making it Real
Text: Luke 24:37: “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
The disciples are afraid. They think they’re seeing a ghost. They think this because there were eleven of them there in the room, and suddenly there are twelve. This guy didn’t walk in, he didn’t enter through the door or even through the window, and yet—poof—there he is.
They think they know this person. They certainly recognize him; they recognize him as the man they spent so much time with. This is the man they saw doing so much good—healing people, feeding people, picking up the downtrodden, even talking to the homeless folks and the people on the street and making them smile, giving them a little dignity.
But this man in whom they saw so much good, well, they also saw him killed. They have no doubt about what happened to him. He was dead and buried, and they were so afraid of what was happening that they headed for the outskirts of town as fast as their feet would take them, because people were beginning to ask them questions about what they’d had to do with him.
But now—how could they believe it? Here he was. One moment he wasn’t there, the next minute here he is. Looks the same. Sounds the same. Makes the same jokes. And when he can see we don’t quite know what to make of him, he asks for something to eat. How could a ghost eat? He must be—well, real.
You can understand their confusion. It’s not just about the sudden appearance of this guy who was not with them in the room to begin with. It’s more about the hopes they’d have, the awful end to those hopes, and now, well, this. It’s an invitation to believe again. And they want to. But they’re afraid.
We know a little bit about what this is like. All of us have cherished some pretty high hopes in our lives. All of us have seen graceful acts in the lives of others. All of us have felt that little flicker of hope when we see a little bit of good get a little bit ahead, get a little bit of traction in the world.
And all of us have known what it’s like to have those hopes dashed. All of us have known that it’s like to feel like good people get hurt, or that good causes lose out.
This is the world that is waiting for little Caroline. She will know great hopes and great sorrows, and somehow in all of that she will face the same challenge that we do; how to keep the faith in the face of the disappointments and discouragements that we are handed by life in this fallen world.
And what we know, and what we hope to share with her, is that our disappointments are never the end of the story—just as they weren’t for the confused and confounded disciples.
When we read that line about how the light overcomes the darkness, about how good triumphs over evil in the end, we want that to mean that the victory has already been completely won.
But we still live by faith. We still have to carry our share of disappointments—and some folks, we know, end up carrying more than their share.
Remember, we’re not supposed to live as people without hope. That’s what Paul says. We are the people who are supposed to give other folks a reason for hope. We are the risen body of Christ. We are the person who shows up in the midst of doubt and despair and gives folks a little bit of evidence, a little reason to believe.
And we can do that because this place, these people, help us develop the practice of keeping our eyes open to the signs of God still at work in the world around us, still providing us with green shoots that poke through the hardened soil.
We get one of those signs today, Caroline herself. In her we get a new member of our community, a new partner in our work and witness to the God who promises us that love wins out in the end—and who went through the grave and gate of death to make that claim real.
Caroline is our evidence today. We are disciples just like those disciples in the story today. Jesus can show up right in the midst of us, and we’re so sure it couldn’t possibly be real that we respond with doubt. But here is our sign of hope today, here is a little reminder that God has set right in the midst of us to keep us hoping, keep us working, keep us welcoming. So let’s get her on the team. Amen.