Monday, April 20, 2015

Is s/he faking it?

Luke 24:36b-48, Easter 3 B, April 19, 2015

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

My Grandma in 2007.

When I was on vacation, I went with my father to visit my grandmother. When we walked into the memory care unit of the nursing home, we entered a large room. It was full of chairs and couches, and a few residents were scattered among these seats. There was a large - and loud! - television above the fireplace. 

These residents were all facing the TV, but it was clear that they were not really engaging with the TV. They certainly weren’t engaging with each other either. In a sense, they were faking it - they were pretending to watch the television. For all they were doing, they could have been staring at a blank wall.

My grandmother was among them. She wasn’t any more focused than anyone else. So my father and I sat on the couch with her. Now, it was the day after the tornados went through Iowa and Illinois. As part of conversation, I asked her, “Grandma, did you hear the terrible thunderstorm yesterday?” And with a blank face, my grandmother said, “Um…yes.” It was clear to me that my grandmother most certainly did not remember the storms that went on for hours.

Then my father said, “The storms were so bad that my office lost power. Grandma, did you lose power?” Her face still blank, she said, “Um…no.” Once again, it was clear to me that my grandmother did not remember at all. She was faking it. She didn’t remember anything, but she was asked a yes or no question. She could chose “yes” or “no,” and this time she happened to guess correctly.

Then we went to visit my dad’s Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose is long past the stage of faking it. She was calling out for her parents, her brother, and her husband, who all are deceased. Aunt Rose was ready to die.

After spending some time with Aunt Rose, we went back to visit with my grandmother, now in her room. We tried to chat with her for a while. Then a staff person walked in with her nightly pills. She introduced herself, “Hi Clara, my name is Sophie.” My grandmother decided then to introduce her visitors. She pointed to my father and said, “This is my son Jim.” (Which is correct.) Then she pointed to me and said, “This is…Linda.”

My heart broke a little. Not only did my grandmother get my name wrong, but she called me by my step mother’s name. My grandmother had been faking it well until this point. But in this moment she proved that she didn’t have it all together. 

We all have seen these signs of aging in the people whom we love. Especially when our loved ones have dementia, they slowly lose control of their minds. On the outside, they may look like they have it all under control, but on the inside, they are a mess. They are faking it.

Now let us look at the gospel lesson. When the disciples see Jesus, they aren’t sure if they believe he is really there. They wonder if Jesus is faking it. They saw him die. Is Jesus faking being alive? To prove it to them, Jesus shows his hands and his feet. The disciples see the marks of his crucifixion not as open wounds but as scars. Somehow, Jesus was not faking it. Jesus was alive.

But then the disciples wonder, “Is he still human?” Jesus was acting a little different, a little weird. He may be alive, but in what form? So Jesus did the most human, earthly thing - he ate with them. They cooked up some fish, and he ate. And this wasn’t like the ghostly trio in the Casper movie who gobbled up food just for the food to fall immediately to the floor. Jesus ate like a regular human. Jesus was not faking it.

Then the disciples wonder, “He may be alive and human, but is he God? Before, Jesus could do things that no one else could.” So, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Jesus revealed to them in moments what would have taken hours to teach and preach. Jesus showed them who he was and how he fit into God’s larger story. In that moment, in how he showed them and in what he showed them, the disciples knew that Jesus is God. Jesus most certainly was not faking that.

Jesus then tells them, “You are witnesses of these things.” And so they were. They shared their story with everyone they met. They even recorded their stories in scripture. 

We also are witnesses of these things. We read Jesus’ story in the Bible. We listen to it proclaimed. We witness Jesus in baptism and in communion. Yet we experience Christ outside of worship, too. We witness Christ in each other. 

Even when I was visiting with my grandmother, I saw Christ there. Christ was present the few times that I could see the spark of her soul still alive inside her. Yet most of all, Christ was alive among us making that visit holy, that awkward visit between grandmother, son, and granddaughter. And when my grandmother eventually passes away, Christ will be with her then too.

We are witnesses of these things. We witness the holy in the ordinary. We witness Christ among us in church and outside church. We witness Christ in our blessings and in our challenges. Our charge is then to share our story of the good news with others. May Christ give you the courage to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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