I don’t doubt for a moment that Jesus brought the son of the widow of Nain back to life. Jesus was reported to be a wonder worker, a healer – and the gospels relate several occasions when Jesus brought a dead person back to life. After all, our Christian faith’s foundation is resurrection.
Really, I don’t think it does much good, for it serves little purpose, to get encumbered in issues of explaining away the miracle: for instance: Jesus resuscitated a man who wasn’t really dead, just passed out or something like that.
It may not happen in the same way today but that is of little consequence to me.
Jesus walked this earth at a particular time in history revealing the power of God to the people of God at that time. I believe that Jesus still reveals the power of God to make alive in the here and now and to you and to me –in miraculous ways, powerful ways; if we have the eyes to perceive it, and the heart to believe it.
I was talking to one young man, just the other day, who is celebrating 9 months sobriety – if you knew the back story, you would know how miraculous this is. Miracles are happening all around. Stories of life being restored happen all the time.
Frankly, I think you and I need to become better story-tellers and better listeners to each others’ restoration and resurrection stories!
Jesus didn’t heal everybody, or fix everything. But when Jesus acted the ripples expanded exponentially.
There are lots of important details in this story.
Did you notice that the mother (a widow) didn’t ask for the healing; so this story is NOT about the faith of the mother or how much praying she did, or how worthy she was.
The reason Jesus acted was because he was “filled with compassion.” He is moved and his heart follows – it is a spur of the moment kind of thing, Jesus wasn’t planning on this. Frankly, I think this is how God works!
After the miracle we don’t get a response from the mother or the son but we do get a reaction from the people.
“A great prophet has risen among us!”
“God has looked favorably on his people!”
Widows and orphans are being attended to again – this is what prophets do, it is what Elijah did! This is what the Psalm proclaimed as a primary work of God: “The Lord watches over strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow…”
The people gathered around that day witnessing this great event don’t interpret it as a miracle for the woman alone – it suddenly is rich with meaning, it is a revelation of something much larger: God is back in business!
A people who were oppressed under the yoke of Roman occupation,a people who hadn’t really been a people (in a political sense) for a hundred years or so. A people who were “dead” in terms of a political reality–they witness Jesus do his thing. They see and proclaim.
There is a lot of talk about dying these days. Another shooting and more deaths in LA this week. Our inner cities and neighborhoods crumble. The church is not what it was back in the 1950s.
Some claim that our country not “great” anymore – we are sort of on life support; Too many Mexicans, they say. We are losing to China, they say (whose economy, frankly speaking, doesn’t even compare.)
So many lost and lonely people, carrying great burdens.
It is rather easy to consider that God is out of business, been outsourced.
But I say, “Enough of all that!” As the author of Hebrews writes (12:12):
lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet… In other words “rise up!
There is plenty of life, and plenty of hope, and plenty of power and God is still in the midst of his people. God is still in business.
We are sharing communion today; we are all together in one place, just like at Pentecost. I didn’t ask for this, I just showed up, just happened to be here – God is here too, present in this community, offering God’s body and blood, calling you and me to be a prophetic people.
As prophets we need to be interested in what God is interested in. We need to be in the business that God is in. And that is restoring life to the community! God is present in this community: rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, captive and released, sad and happy.
We are the body that God has spoken to: share one another’s burdens, be present, laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. Share abundantly, preach good news to the poor, pay attention to that which God pays attention to: the widows and the orphans.
We are now the body of Christ, collectively doing what Jesus did: restoring life, showing this world that God is still in business, still gives a damn.
Don’t you want to be part of a community that proclaims that life is greater than death; that hope is greater than despair; that sharing is better than hording; that goodness will win the day: “and although the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet?” I am sick of cynicism, or criticism that only serves as an excuse for no commitment.
People are seeking life-giving experiences. And the church isn’t dying; it is fully alive, it may be smaller than it used to be but it’s also edgier, at the point of taking risks again.
God is in the life-changing business, the life-restoring business, and so are we.
J. Clif Christopher in his book, Whose Offering Plate Is It? New Strategies for Financial Stewardship, writes: (and you are going to hear this quotation a lot over the next few months)
“I am firmly convinced that the only institution on the face of the planet that can possibly change the world is the church. No army, no government, and no nonprofit has the power to change the hearts of people like the body of Christ.”
This is why we raise money. Not to support an institution, but to change the world. To be the body of Christ with the same mission that Jesus had: bring life, restore life, welcome everybody, go to the dead places in our cities and make sure our politicians take note that corridors of urban blight is not part of Jesus’ plan! Not to look with suspicion at the Muslim, or the immigrant – but to open the gates and to welcome.
Look within at your own dead places and stay expectant! If we don’t witness to this truth, who will? God is still in business. Hang the sign up!
One of the greatest promises of Jesus found in the Gospels is in John 14:12 – “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and, in fact, will do great works than these…”
In everything we do as a community—and it is a good rule for each of you – we should be asking ourselves: Is what I am doing giving life to the greater good and giving life to myself? I do not believe that God wants you to be miserable.
You and I, as a community of Jesus, have one mission and one mission only: to bring life, to give life, to be lively, to lift up and encourage, to tell the truth and set all free, and proclaim a wonderful story, that brings hope and power and life. And we do this because we know the story of Jesus.
A long time ago the people had an experience and proclaimed: “God has looked favorably on his people!” and the Gospel reports: “This word about Jesus spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.”
It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow—our mission is the same: God is looking favorably upon his people: spread the word and do the work; God is back in business!