Friday, June 3, 2016

Proper 5

Collect for Proper 5 – O Lord, Father of all mercy and God of all comfort, You always go before and follow after us. Grant that we may rejoice in Your gracious presence and continually be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Our text for today presents for us a challenge.  Back to back, we are faced with two miracles. In two weeks. Almost duplicates.

How do we address miracles today? Are we to expect the same miracle today as we find in our text? If so, why didn’t Christ raise from the dead your son or your daughter or your father or your friend?  When does your miracle happen?

How does our world understand miracles today? Some simply deny the reality of miracles. They see them only as stories to the ancient past. They dismiss them as allegories to spiritual truths. Miracles are simply offensive to the scientific mind.

How should we address the miracles of Christ? They are in fact signs. –Signs of the nature of God. Signs of Jesus as the Son of God. Signs of the power of God. We need not question the validity of the miracles of Jesus. – We simply take them for granted.

Regardless of your opinion concerning the miraculous - of one thing we can be certain – death is the final declaration of defeat. We need to hear the story of Jesus’ raising the widow’s son at Nain to be reminded that life is stronger than death. And it is this life which comes from Christ.

In Jesus Christ we have the power of new life.

The power to comfort – v. 13 “Do not weep”! In our community, many stop, pull over to the side of the road, turn on their hazard lights, as a sign of respect when a funeral procession enters our town. That’s normal behavior.  But not always.

When I lived in the south suburbs of Chicago, way before the invention of the easy pass, many of the members of the parish were buried in a cemetery, which could only be accessed by traveling the toll road. Before the funeral procession began, the funeral director had to count the number of cars in the  motorcade. He would sprint ahead to each toll plaza to pay for the cars, which had joined the procession. Predictably, one, two, sometimes three vehicles would cut in line to avoid the twenty-five cent toll.

Notice! Jesus is so disrespectful of funerals! Jesus doesn’t merely disrupt the procession. He stops the procession altogether!

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her. He literally says, “do not go on crying - stop what you are already doing

Jesus pours out His heart and He acts. This is the deepest, most heartfelt expression of pity and compassion = "bowels of compassion."  Only Jesus can say this. Only Jesus can have this compassion. This will be the first time in his gospel that Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord” – He is the Lord of life!  And that’s the point. His stomach aches for those He loves.  (Note the negative present imperative) 

You can demonstrate empathy.  In fact, that is our vocation as Christians. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, Remember those in prison as if you were bound with them, and those who are mistreated as if you were suffering with them.(Hebrews 13:3) There is A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.( Ecclesiastes 3:4)  It is only appropriate for you to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) 

You can show compassion. You can respond with tears. It’s alright to identify with your neighbor’s loss. It’s called being human.   When you attend a funeral visitation, what do you say? You say, “you have my sympathy!”  Yet, Jesus literally says, "Stop weeping! - do not go on crying - stop what you are already doing – Notice how disrespectful Jesus is at funerals. He is not content to join the procession on the way to the cemetery. He stops the procession.

Two things will always trigger a negative response in Jesus. Unbelief and death. When confronted with unbelief Jesus will respond either in silence or confrontationally. When confronted with death, Jesus always responds emotionally. At the death of Lazarus He doesn’t just weep. He bursts into tears. ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς   Jesus is not accepting of death. He is angry at death. That is what caused Jesus to suffer, and die in your place. He took your  failings, faults and felonies unto Himself. Your death became His death so that His life becomes your life.     

Two groups follow.  One is following Jesus. The other, a corpse. Jesus is the source and the solution to the tragedy of this widow. He alone. As God’s Son. Has the power to heal the predicament of human beings.

Jesus’ action reverses things for all concerned in this sad procession. The widow is to stop weeping. Those carrying the corpse stop walking. The corpse sits up, speaks, and is restored.

Still, we remain and live in an imperfect world, full of sickness, death, and other misfortunes. These two enemies. Unbelief and death. Still surround us. So, what about you? What about your miracle? Which has not yet come?  How do we make sense of it all?  

Jesus, your Savior from eternity, is also the healer of your mortal ills.  You feel your weakness. It is as though the world is often too much. Is death is the final declaration of defeat? We need to hear the story of Jesus’ raising the widow’s son at Nain to be reminded that life is stronger than death. And that this life comes from Christ.

Jesus raises a widow’s son in Nain, in anticipation of your own restoration. Jesus raised the widow’s son. He will raise you. Jesus called Lazarus by name. He has already called you in Baptism. The old song sings, “In the very midst of life snares of death surround us.”

In the midst of life, we are in death. And yet, when surrounded by death, Jesus gives new life. It is His life, which He gives for the life of the world. It is His life, which you are given to share with others. It is His life, which gives you determination daily even though you  presently, look at life as trough a mirror, dimly. But then. In the future. Face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)    

Collect for Pentecost 3 - O God, whose never failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth, put away from us, we entreat You, all hurtful things, and give us those things that are profitable for us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Image Jesus heals the widow's son - Schnorr Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS for personal and congregational use 
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House 

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