First Lesson: Acts 3: 12-19
Responsive Reading: Psalm 4
Second Lesson: 1 John 3: 1-7
Gospel Lesson: Luke 24: 36b-48
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Dorothy Dandridge Payne was born in North Carolina in 1768. Dolley, as she came to be known, would eventually see her family move to Philadelphia. At the age of 21, Dolley would get married to a lawyer with whom she would have two sons. By the age of 25, Dolley would become a widow after her husband died of Yellow Fever.
Shortly after this, Dolley would be introduced to a congressman from Virginia named James Madison. They would marry shortly after that. Within fifteen years, Madison would be elected the fourth president of the United States.
Dolley’s presence upon Washington D.C. was a revelation. Dolley was often credited with bringing high society to the previous swamp known as Washington D.C. Madison was known as witty and charming with a seemingly photographic memory to remember other people. The War of 1812, would see Dolley exhibit great courage for her continual outreach to D.C.’s fellow residents even as her White House residence burned to the ground. Dolley Madison would leave the White House as one of the most popular first ladies in American history. In fact when Dolley Madison died in 1849, her death was mourned by the entire country similar to that of a President.
In the years after Dolley’s death strange reports started to surface. Dolley was frequently seen roaming the halls of her residence accompanied by the smell of her favorite flower Lilacs.
Nearly seventy years later during President Woodrow Wilson’s term, a proposal was made to dig up the Rose Garden. Dolley Madison’s Rose Garden. A work crew arrives to begin to dig it up, only for what they believed the ghost of Dolley Madison to appear, the men were terrified and refused to continue working, the project was quickly dropped, and even Today long after her death Dolley Madison’s Rose Garden continues to bloom.
Dolley Madison and the Rose Garden raise a fascinating conversation for us as Christian people. Do ghosts such as Dolley Madison exist within our lives?
A while back I was visiting with a congregational member. The member raised a problem to me that Seminary classes didn’t prepare me to address. The member believed her house was haunted. Things would seemingly vanish without explanation, worst of all money couldn’t occasionally be found. The member would get perpetually madder at the ghost shouting for it to leave her alone. She began to claim that she didn’t want to live in a haunted house anymore.
Once upon a time, there was an author of a theological library where they possess books for Seminary students. The library was quite old and allegedly haunted by the ghosts of a former librarian. Reports of the ghost’s activity were numerous: chairs being moved without explanation, books knocked off shelves and loud, scary unexplained noises throughout the night.
The ghost question is a tough one to wrestle with as Christian people. Books, movies, T.V. shows, and personal experiences tend to give ghost sightings a degree of authority that we struggle to sort out.
Today we hear perhaps the scripture’s most famous ghost story. The Disciples are gathering on Easter evening. The Disciples had probably heard rumors of Jesus’ appearing before others. They didn’t believe such a thing like a ghost sighting could be true. Jesus seemed unlikely to appear on this night. The Disciples were more consumed with their fear of Jesus enemies who had put him to death that they locked the doors to where they were out of fear. Suddenly, Jesus appeared before them like an uninvited ghost.
The reaction was much different than Mary Magdalene at the Tomb; the Disciples were terrified at what they saw.
I was sixteen years old; My great-grandfather had just died. I remember attending the visitation. Another kid I knew showed up. We began talking; he then dared me to touch the body of the deceased. I had never done such a thing, so I got nervous. I had seen my great-grandpa just a few days prior, touched him many times before, but I just couldn’t believe on that night that I would actually be touching “him.”
So as soon as the Disciples see Jesus, they react no different than they would seeing a ghost. They are startled and terrified.
Jesus decides he needs to calm their fears. “Peace be with you. Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Jesus then proceeded to take the necessary steps to point out the true nature of his flesh and blood. He eats broiled fish in the Disciples presence. The Disciples know that ghosts by nature don’t eat. One question that our text doesn’t answer has to do with the reality of Ghosts within our world.
So what should Christians say about Ghosts? It would be helpful to define what Ghosts are and aren’t.
Ghosts are supernatural entities. Jesus within our lesson draws the contrast. Ghosts are entities that we cannot see, hear, touch, or weigh in the same way we can with human beings.’ Ghosts would fall outside the realm of modern science. As Christian people, we believe in supernatural forces. We believe in a God who lives outside this world, who created it and all that exists. We believe this God is good. We also believe in Devils, Demons, and other supernatural beings because the scriptures declare it to be so. There is even a story of a Witch in the Bible when Saul enlists the help of the Wicked Witch of Endor.
Here’s something interesting about our passage from Luke 24. Martin Luther preached on this passage for All Saints Day. Luther did believe in Ghosts or Wandering spirits.
Luther makes an interesting point about our passage. Jesus does not deny that Ghosts appear. Jesus seems to confirm it when he contrasts his post-Resurrection being with that of a Ghost as he points out “A spirit does not have flesh or bones.”
So if there are these Ghosts who are they? Luther points out that Ghosts aren’t the souls of the dead who have previously walked this Earth. Luther’s reason was the scriptures never give examples of the dead returning as Ghosts to walk among the living. Luther makes the point that the fate of the dead who have walked among us, is to await the Resurrection which is to come.
So who are Ghosts according to Luther? Ghosts are rather minions of the Devil sent to frighten, terrify, and drive people to all sorts of despair. So the Devil, in theory, could operate by creating the likeness of the formerly living to haunt the currently living.
So Luther would have believed that it wasn’t the deceased spirit of Dolley Madison that appeared in the Rose Garden rather that if anything was seen it would have been demonic forces meant to terrorize and frighten the innocent workers. So we can believe that ghost-like appearances possibly take place, without believing that when people die that they become Ghosts.
At the same time, even though we believe in a well-defined supernatural realm. We acknowledge that various people’s ghost encounters can be viewed as hoaxes or deceptions. In other words, while Ghosts are possible, not all ghost stories are necessarily true. I have a friend who considers himself a “free-thinker,” he denies God and all supernatural forces such as Ghosts as not existing due to lack of “verifiable” proof. I do not doubt that he would be able to point to all sorts of “ghost” stories that would later prove to be nothing more than hoaxes. As Christian people, we rather merely acknowledge the “unseen things above (or below) which possess power within this world, even if we can’t explain or conclusively prove their existence at any given moment.
Earlier I told you the tale of the library that was haunted by Ghosts. The librarian would always be asked the question whether there are really ghosts within the Library, his answer is instructive for us Today“ I don’t know…But if you want my opinion on ghosts in general, I will tell you this—I believe in God, and if there are ghosts, I am not afraid of them, because God is stronger than any ghost.”
Today’s Gospel lesson further drives home this point. The Disciples were afraid because when they see the post-resurrected Jesus, they believe they see a Ghost. Jesus takes the time to show the Disciples the realness of his flesh, how he returned in flesh and blood not merely as a ghost. The point of our lesson is maintaining peace in the presence of death, maintaining peace in the presence of ghosts, believing that Our Lord and Savior can ultimately triumph over any forces of death and the devil that the world ultimately throws at us.
It is true that in many ways we are haunted in this life. These hauntings don’t take place though, in the form of evil spirits, they take place in the form of unresolved sins and our spiritual despair. What the appearance of Jesus reminds us of Today is because of the Resurrection things will be different, sins will be forgiven, and the grave shall ultimately haunt us no more. Amen
 “Dolley Madison”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 3.Apr.2018. Web. Apr.10.2018.
“Dolley Madison.” . Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
 Lamkin, Virginia. “The Ghost of Dolley Madison.” Seeks Ghosts. Blogspot. 11.July.2010. Web. Apr.10.2018.
 “Famous Ghosts in American History.” History Channel. Web. Apr.10.2018.
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories (a).” Email Meditations 14. Aug.2017. Web. Apr.10.2018.
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories (a).”
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories (a).”
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories (b). Email Meditations 15. Aug.2017. Web. Apr.10.2018
 Luke 24:36b, 39.
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories (b).
 1 Samuel 28.
 Dawn W. “Luther on Ghosts.” Concordia Publishing House Blog. Saint Louis. 31.Oct.2015. Web. Apr.10.2018.
 Dawn W. “Luther on Ghosts.”
 Dawn W. “Luther on Ghosts.”
 Dawn W. “Luther on Ghosts.”
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories –C) Email Meditations. 16. Aug.2017. Web. Apr.10.2018
 Stier, Leon. “Ghost Stories –C) Email Meditations..
 Vitalis-Hoffman, Mark. “Commentary on Luke 24:36b-48.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. 15.Apr.2018. Web. Apr.10.2018.