Anne Currie
18th April 2021
Not a Ghost, but a New Revelation

I do love a good book, and I have just a few hundred or so around the house, books to get lost in, books to study, and even more on Kindle. They feel like old friends because I read and re-read them so often, especially over the past year.

My husband says that because I read so fast, I obviously don’t take it all in the first-time around, and that is why I can re-read them again and again.

But that’s the really great thing because there’s always a bit that I didn’t see before or a new insight to be got even from the most Chicky of ‘Chick-Lit’!

My tastes are wide ranging… Austen and Tolkien, PD James and Terry Pratchett, Bill Bryson and Anne Cleeves, Ken Follett, and Anne Perry… I wonder what your favourites are.

But my choices must have a good narrative and well thought out plot. Can’t stand authors who don’t think it through, or worse – don’t bother with their research and get bits wrong! Especially when they are talking about Churchy stuff.

I love the smell and feel of a new book – those crisp pages and an anticipation of what will I find therein? But there again old books have their special smell and feel too. Onion skin paper or thick old paper with uncut pages.

But it’s the story that counts, whether fiction or non-fiction. Every one of us here has a story, the one we could write of our lives – we might think that we have led and ordinary boring life, but the truth is that if we sat down to write about it we would have something to tell, our stories would reflect the times we lived in, who we knew, what we did, the everyday things that seem unimportant to us, but actually are the meat and drink of history!

And when you start setting things down, it is amazing what comes up out of your memory.

A friend has been posting a picture a day recently of Prince Phillip’s official visit in 1974, to the village where I lived, to take a tour of the sailing centre where many youngsters (like me) were working towards their Duke of Edinburgh’s award. I had not been present, having been at work that day, but spotting people that I knew in the photo brings back the memory and the story.

All stories need context so that you can make sense of them. And a slightly annoying thing about the Common Worship Lectionary of readings that we follow means that we often get a bit of scripture that that fits the theme of the week but doesn’t always follow on from what we’ve heard before.

This week we’ve got part of a speech from Acts and from Luke an extract that begins “While they were talking about this”. My immediate thoughts on these two texts are what’s going on here? And What were they talking about?

It would take too long to read out Chapter 3 from Acts and Chapter 24 from Luke, and perhaps that is something you’d like to do at another time, but to put them briefly in context…

In Acts we are listening to Peter who is speaking to a crowd who are amazed by the healing of a crippled man. The man is still holding on to Peter and John as they move away into Solomon’s Portico at the Temple in Jerusalem, with a large crowd following them in astonishment at what they have just done.

Peter uses the amazement of the crowd as an opportunity to tell a story, how God called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be a blessing of peace to God’s people. Then God sent his Son Jesus to be one of us, and he did the same.

He puts Jesus right into the story of human history, as he talks about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. As he does this, he points out to them the failure of people to notice the Messiah, and even the presence of God, in the world.

Some of those present may well have been those who had been part of the crowds of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, even, perhaps one or two who shouted for Barabbas to be released.

Like much of Acts, the story of Peter and John’s interaction with the crowd and with the healed man tells us about the ministry of the Easter church, those very first cautious steps the disciples were taking to carry out Jesus’ commandment to them. They are carrying on from where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus left off, and their message is that we now continue Christ’s work in the world.

Those activities included being a blessing, changing the way community works, feeding, and healing, the telling of the Jesus story, and then confrontation and speaking out in defence of their faith. I wonder if we sometimes miss a moment to talk about what we believe in?

Because we are all invited to not only follow Jesus but to go out in his name to be a blessing to the world in which we find ourselves – healing, feeding, and sheltering God’s people. We are to make our communities more like God’s family rather than a society that is enslaved to power and wealth.

And that invitation is open to everyone… God has expanded the descendants of his people, those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to include everyone – all means all.

In the church’s calendar we have moved to the third week after Easter, but in this part of Luke’s Gospel we are still on the day of resurrection. This story follows on from the meeting of Jesus on the Emmaus Road by two of the disciples and their recognition of him when he blessed and broke bread with them.

This is the third of four appearances within this Chapter. The writer of the Gospel of Luke tells us more about the risen Jesus than either Matthew or Mark. And the story is full of images that remind us of Jesus’s appearance to Thomas and the eating of fish in St John’s gospel.

Both texts tell us of astonishment bewilderment and disruption.

In Luke’s Gospel we’re there in the room where the disciples are struggling with their emotions and what is before their very eyes! They are mourning the loss of their teacher and friend whom they know died a few days beforehand. And yet two of their number have unexpectedly come rushing back saying they have been in his company!

And then suddenly he appears among them, seemingly not needing to come through the door! Not only that, but he appears to be living flesh, not a ghost, for his wounds still show and can be touched. Then to prove it further to them he eats some fish! Their grief tells them this is not possible, their eyes and fingers tell them differently, no wonder they appear confused.

But of course, this is the resurrected Jesus… not a ghost, but a new revelation, a transformation. Jesus – capable of being in God’s space and our space. Mind boggling, but this is God at work!

Back in Jerusalem, Peter and John are disrupting people’s understanding by their healing of the crippled man, someone known to all a regular begging figure. Astonishing the crowd by transforming the man from a cripple into a new way of living.

When we revisit these and other stories in the bible, they can seem like old friends and we rediscover where God heals and disrupts lives to reveal himself through Jesus, disciples, and actions of others.

Over the past year we’ve all been living through a time of anxiety, fear and much disruption to our lives. On reflecting back over the past year, I wonder where have we found God disrupting our anxieties and fears, our dead ends, and bringing us to new understandings so that we can live as people of the Resurrection?

ACTS 3.12-19
LUKE 24.36b-48