Monday, March 24, 2008

Convocation of Sacred Ghosts

Friday nights are for decompressing. Don’t get me wrong—this year’s class has been a “dream” class for any teacher. They are wonderful students. But that doesn’t mean that after a full week of teaching I still don’t need an evening home with my husband doing the mindless nothingness of eating pizza and watching bad tv. Ghost Whisperer is a fine example of this. It has an implausible premise with an untenable ending. It’s utterly hopeless, for it is lacking in the one thing needful for hope: Jesus Christ. If He is not the source of the light to whom the living have been drawn, then there is no hope for those who have now sleep in death.


On a recent show Melinda, the Whisperer herself, took a picture of herself. What it revealed was that she is surrounded by specters. From the tone and setting of the show, viewers were led to believe these were unhealthy ghosts. Either that or that Melinda was being haunted by dead ones who had unresolved issues only she could solve. Oh, dear; oh, my.


And yet, what a wonderful picture that was to see for such doubting Thomsases as we! A dear and blessed friend of mine once told me (and I won’t give his name for fear I’ll get this wrong and thereby shame him!) that when we confess that a particular piece of sacred bread given by the hands of the pastor is the Body of Christ, and likewise the wine is Christ’s Blood given the same way, then we must also confess Christ’s Body in those who are receiving these Holy Things into themselves around us.


Yet it goes even further. The blessed hand that feeds is Christ’s hand feeding, just as in Baptism it is not the pastor, but Christ Himself who does the work of it.


Thus God is present in Baptism, in the Lords Supper, and in the use of the Keys because His own Word is present there. Therefore even though we do not see or hear Him but see and hear the minister, God Himself is nevertheless truly present, baptizes, and absolves. And in the Lord’s Supper He is present in such an extraordinary way that the Son of God Himself gives us HIS body with the bread and His blood with the wine. (LW 3:220).


And still deeper and more wonderfully, when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, we are put to the question: Where is the Father and His right hand? God is everywhere, and His right hand is where He is. So Christ is where His Father is, everywhere. That means heaven isn’t “up there.” We are surrounded by heaven. How this can be is a mystery, something too unfathomable for my mind to comprehend.


Still, it means that the angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts surround us daily. We can’t see them, but the armies of heaven surround God’s baptized. How can it be otherwise? Didn’t Christ say there is but one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism (Eph 4:5)? Therefore, the Church only has one Body (Eph 4:25). The narrow door (Lk 13:24) has room for only one body: Christ’s.  Yet that body has many members (Ro 12:5; 1Co 12:20). Those who sleep in the Lord cannot be excluded, for we confess the resurrection of the dead. 


Some members of Christ’s body can be seen; some cannot be seen. Those which can be seen pray and work for the Body of Christ. In their various vocations as “little Christs” each member of the church touches the life of the other, serving the other. In this way Christ is served, while Christ is serving others. The heavenly hosts still serve the church in heaven, “We also grant that the saints in heaven pray for the church in general, as they prayed for the church universal while they were on earth” (Ap. I; 9, 2).


Surrounded by unsettled ghosts haunting the living and causing their lives to be a wretch? Does not the parable of the rich man and Lazarus teach us this is impossible (Lk 16)? There is a vast gulf between heaven and hell. Moreover, why would Satan allow any to have a vacation from hell, which is what haunting on earth would allow. And heavenly angels always enter with God’s message of peace.


So let Hollywood have its silliness, but from that teach us a thing or two. We—the baptized—are surrounded by those whom we cannot see as well as those whom we can see. The baptized are never alone, for to be baptized is to be one of a unity; it is to be a member of a body of many members, the Church who is the Body of Christ—who is her Head.


A true picture of one of the baptized would reveal him surrounded by angels, archangels, Adam, Eve, Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah and all the heavenly hosts. Jesus was counseled by Moses and Elijah before His crucifixion, and comforted by angels in His passion. Dare any of us who have been clothed in Christ, those who are full inheritors of His Father’s kingdom, deny that we receive the same in our hour of need? Indeed we are taught to pray for such daily: “Let Your holy angel be with me that the evil for have no power over me. Amen.”




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