Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sermon for 09 June 2013, Proper 5C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Luke 7:11-17
The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5C, 09 June 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Christ, Who Shared Our Mortal Life                                                      LSB 552
O Christ, who shared our mortal life
    And ended death’s long reign,
Who healed the sick and raised the dead
    And bore our grief and pain:
We know our years on earth are few,
    That death is always near.
Come now to us, O Lord of Life;
    Bring hope that conquers fear!

Our Lord Jesus was not born into a world of make-believe, a world of “Once upon a time…” stories. No. He bore our grief and pain. He shared our mortal life. He knew what real life is like. And he came to bring life unlike humanity had ever seen before, a full human-ness we had lost in the Garden of Eden. Prior to this text, Jesus had just healed the servant of a Roman Centurion, a Roman Centurion with faith in the One True God. His servant was near death, yet Jesus healed with a mere word. Now, in a town called Nain, we are given a preview of Resurrection Day.
11Soon afterward [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Jesus had compassion on her. This woman was in need of someone to care. According to the standards of her culture, this woman had lost everything. We are told she was a widow—we all know that means that she had lost her husband. And now, her son, her only-begotten son whom she loved, had died. This was a rough funeral for her, and those around her. They all needed comfort. They needed more than words, more than “it’s gonna be all right,” more than casseroles, more than nice music, more than a house full of family and close friends. This woman mourns for her son, her hope, her livelihood, her very future. And he’s now gone.
Often, we hear the words St. Luke was given by the Holy Spirit to describe these events and we forget their punch, their emotional impact. Especially when we read texts like this, we go by so fast, that we miss the important details of Jesus’ pastoral care. Jesus’ compassion identifies and suffers with the person in need. Crying before, during, or after a funeral is not sin. Not having faith in God and Christ and mourning as if there is no hope—that is sin because it is unbelief. Jesus Himself wept at the death of Lazarus. A short time later Jesus raised Him from the dead. Shedding tears is part of being human—male and female. It is an expression of a deep love. We miss those who have died because we still love them. Jesus does not give out greeting card platitudes. He does not speak of generic love from a generic “god,” but instead points her to Himself, God in the flesh, and the hope He and only He can bring. That is why He says, “Do not weep.”
Raising of the widow’s son (Luke 7:11–17)
The ranks of death with trophy grim
    Through ancient streets once trod
And suddenly confronted You,
    The mighty Son of God.
A widow’s tears evoked Your Word;
    You stopped the bearers’ tread.
“Weep not!” in pity then You spoke
    To her whose son was dead.

14Then he [Jesus] came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
On TV news reports from the Middle East you can see people carrying caskets on their shoulders draped with their tribal, party, or national flag. Mourners gather around so closely in procession it makes us uncomfortable. We’re used to personal space. We’re used to land, lots of land and the starry skies above. But really, we’re most uncomfortable with death. We are part of a culture that will pay nearly anything to delay, deny, or prevent the reality of death. We don’t want to talk about it, even when the time has come for us or a loved one. We want to put off making the arrangements. We are in denial, shock, pain. We are helpless against this foe.
About the Cover: Darkness to light, blindness to sight, lost to found. The Bible gives us many images of transformation. One of the most vivid images, however, is death to life. Those who are dead have no agency and cannot make themselves alive. It takes the power of Christ to bring life. Just as Elijah announced to the widow, “See, your son lives,” so through Christ, “You, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive” (Colossians 2:13).
We’ve all been part of a funeral procession. People are dressed in their finest, like a Sunday morning. Pallbearers are largely ceremonial these days, for the hearse does most of the work. Police cars suspend normal traffic laws as the line of cars with headlights glowing heads for a loved one’s final resting place. But never, never, never, has the procession been interrupted like this!
The ranks of death, the Lord of Life
    Stood face to face that hour;
And You took up the age-old strife
    With words of awesome pow’r.
“Young man, arise!” You ordered loud,
    And death defeated lay.
The widow’s son cast off his shroud
    And strode from death away.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life—not merely on the Last Day, Judgment Day, Resurrection Day—He is the Resurrection and the Life now. We come to the Father only through Him. Here in Luke 7, Jesus gives a preview of how He would raise Lazarus and how He Himself would be raised in Luke 24. Death is powerless against the One who gives Life. The young man sat up, began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. “Do not weep” makes sense because of Jesus’ powerful word of Gospel, of Resurrection: “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
At your baptism into Christ, you died to sin. You were raised to new life in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said to you, “Arise.” The white garment many of you wore was not merely a preview of a white funeral pall covering a casket. It is a preview of those in white robes, including you, gathered in worship around the Lamb on His throne. You are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb. White robes are our wedding clothes. On the Last Day, He will again say to you, Arise!
Next Sunday we are gathered by the Lord Himself around His altar along with angels, archangels, and the company of heaven’s saints. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the feast to come. We sing along with saints and angels. Until you reach heaven yourself, you will never be closer to your loved ones who have died in Christ than when you commune at the Lord’s Table. Heaven and earth intersect. The Lord puts into your mouth His own Body and Blood along with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of your sins. He connects you to Himself with His Body and Blood, and therefore to all the living and sainted Christians into whom He has also put His Body and Blood. Death could not keep Jesus down, so those of us in Christ have nothing to fear of this ancient enemy. You have been forgiven. We are blessed with Holy Communion, what an ancient pastor called the “medicine of immortality” and “antidote to death.”
Death’s power holds us still in thrall
    And bears us toward the tomb.
Death’s dark’ning cloud hangs like a pall
    That threatens earth with doom.
But You have broken death’s embrace
    And torn away its sting.
Restore to life our mortal race!
    Raise us, O Risen King!
Text: © 2003 GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, number 100010059.

Throughout this sermon I have sung stanzas of “O Christ, Who Shared Our Mortal Life.” LSB Hymn 552 speaks of comfort. All good hymns do. God has visited His people. And He still does today. The Lord gives His Word and the Holy Spirit to nourish us with His Gifts: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. Jesus will say to you, “Arise. “This is most certainly true. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.