“Is this the real life?/Is this just fantasy?/Caught in a landslide,/No escape from reality./Open your eyes, Look up to the skies and see…”
I’m sure most of you in my generation recognize the beginning of the Bohemian Rhapsody written by Freddy Mercury and performed by Queen. Life is very surreal at times, which the form of the Rhapsody illustrates very well. A rhapsody wanders from one idea to another on the edge of making sense, and the challenge is to find something to hold the very disjointed parts together. Usually in music, there’s a structure that holds things together, like sonata allegro form, or ABA, or verses with a refrain. For Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s the words “nothing really matters” and “any way the wind blows.”
Do the Disciples know what’s real today? They’re hiding in the upper room for fear of their lives. Two people walk away from them first thing in the morning; they thought that they thought had given up on them. People don’t casually walk home in those days any great distance; they only do it when there’s a darn good reason. Yet they have come back in a hurry with unbelievable news: Jesus has risen from the dead, he walked with them on the road and they didn’t realize it until they stopped to break bread. Then, Jesus appears in the flesh. Unbelievable.
So how do they know he’s real? He does simple things. He invited them to touch him. Few people have touch hallucinations. He asked to eat something, a piece of cooked fish. Ghosts don’t eat, no matter what TV program you watch. He was the same person, only different. There was enough of him there that was the same that they were convinced.
Jesus then goes back to the big picture: the meaning of the whole history of the Jewish people, where he fit in God’s plan for the world, where they fit into the plan for the world. Their lives are different from now on. They aren’t hiding any more: they’re out talking about Christ, telling people about what they’ve seen and heard.
At the end of a semester, things can be very unreal; I’ve seen it every year I’ve been on campus, which has been a few. It’s especially true of Seniors, with everything coming together at the same time and voices seem to say, “Bismillah! No! We will not let you go!” and we want to sing back, “Let me go!” We need to something to hold us together when things seem unreal.
It’s tough to know what is real. It’s easy to think the story of Jesus is just that: a story of a nice man who tried to get the world to love one another. A wise man who died and whose followers said that he had come back from the dead. We can’t prove it, but we know what effect that story has had on the world. So we go on wondering as we hide in the closed rooms of our hearts.
Yet as we gather here, we know that we haven’t walked this journey alone. We know that there has been someone with us, someone who’s tried to clue us in on what’s important in life, someone who’s wanted to go farther than we’ve wanted to go (that’s what Jesus did just before this: he wanted to go on when the disciples wanted to stop, and they had to make him stop). We’ve known someone who’s gotten us to turn back to our roots, to turn back to being the people God has created us to be. We’ve known someone who’s moved us to go back to the people we want to leave behind. Someone who comes into the locked rooms of our hearts, and made himself at home.
We know Christ today in the breaking of the bread. We know Christ today in the sharing of the cup. We know that he is the fulfillment of ancient promise, the salvation offered for all. When we wonder what is real today, we know that Christ is real in our lives, as real as bread and wine. We do not just tell a story, we live the ultimate reality. Jesus is the one who makes sense out of the rhapsody of our lives and our world.
That reality helps us see what is superficial in our lives. That reality helps us see who is important and what is important. That reality helps us know where we’re going, and gives us assurance that our future is secure. That reality sends us out from behind the walls we put up to protect ourselves.
Christ is real and among us now. Christ is asking us to touch him, to touch his wounds, to dine with him. Christ helps us cope with a crazy world in the crazy times of our lives, and can give us the reference point we need. If we keep Christ at the center of our lives, we can say, “Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.”