Ghosts and other Scary Things

Jesus stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Luke 24:36-37 NRSV

Those early disciples were terrified when the risen Jesus stood among them. Any of us would be shocked and frightened if someone we knew to be dead was suddenly standing there talking to us. The verses that follow this have Jesus showing his wounds and having a snack. All of that to prove that he wasn’t a ghost. Then things get really scary. 

Jesus goes on to say: “Thus it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47

That is Good News but perhaps more life-changing and emotion-stirring than seeing a ghost. The Greek word for repent is transliterated as metanoia. The word meta can mean a change or something higher or beyond. The Greek noia refers to the mind. So metanoia can be translated as change your mind or enter the higher or bigger mind. That is quite different from our understanding of repentance as being sorry for our sins. Something about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus calls us to enter into a bigger way of thinking and seeing. 

The Apostle Paul refers to having “the mind of Christ” in Philippians 2:5-8. He goes on to describe it as that very way that Christ followed. That is the way of emptying the self, entering fully into human life, experiencing death, and being raised to new life. That end result sounds great, it is those first steps that are scary. So often, religious and spiritual practice is described as if it is an escape. The way of Christ calls us to be fully human. 

Peace be with you, friends. Christ is with us in our humanity, wounds and all. We are all sharing in a very human place of not knowing, not being in control, and a heightened awareness of mortality. I am hopeful that the resurrection from this time will truly see that some of our ways of being have truly died. May we be raised to a deeper understanding of how connected we all are regardless, of borders, labels, identities, or economic status. May we have in us the mind of Christ that allows us to let go of the things that divide us. 

I believe we enter that mind not just once. We live in a cycle of coming back to that place of metanoia when we have turned away, sought to control, or excluded others. We do this believing that indeed we are forgiven when we sin. We do this by entering into silence, into prayer, into service of others. 

As we quarantine in our homes may we know Christ there among us. Be still and ask that you may know the mind of Christ. Know that all changes, even death, will bring new life. This is the hope we proclaim in this Easter season. It is scary to consider what the changes might bring. Maybe more frightening than thinking we have seen a ghost. Peace be with you. Christ is with you and you have this Good News of repentance and forgiveness to share. 

Peace, 

Fr. John Mark 

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