The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 5C (6/6/2010)

Resurrection... and Hope!

Lessons: 1 Kings 17:17-24 Psalm 30 (2) Galatians 1:11-24 St. Luke 7:11-17

Semicontinuous Series: 1 Kings 17:8-16 [17-24] Psalm 146 (8)

Prayer of the Day: Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

7:11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

St. Luke 7:11-17. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

In the town of Nain there was a woman. We meet her nowhere else in scripture, but she is here in the seventh chapter of St. Luke. All we know of her is her deep pain. She was a widow – in those days, widows were at great risk. There were no social structures to support her. She surely didn’t have survivor benefits or pension accumulations, or any of the other supports that many of us enjoy these days. She was on her own, making her way through the vulnerable journey that life can be. It was just her and her son – and then the unimaginable happened: her son died, leaving her completely alone. Filled with grief and anger and pain and confusion, she stood by his casket and cried.

It was then that Jesus came into her life. He quickly came to understand the situation, and was filled with compassion. (The Greek word is fascinating: “splagchnizomai” – a word that refers to feelings that spring up from the very center of a person’s being – from one’s gut.) Jesus experienced a surge of compassion for this woman, he reached into her life, he raised her son, and St. Luke tells us that the entire town began to glorify God.

It is a curious story, in part because this woman never asks for healing. She never reaches out to Jesus. She never even mentions a hope that her pain can be taken away. Perhaps most interestingly, she doesn’t even confess any level of faith in Jesus. (Many others in the New Testament were healed “because of their faith.”) Not here: Jesus simply becomes aware of her pain, reaches into her life, and offers her the gift of healing.

We are a resurrection people. We worship on Sunday (not the Sabbath – Saturday – but the first day of the week, when the Scriptures confess that Jesus was raised from the dead). At the heart of our faith is the confession that our God is one who is able to bring to life that which has died – and even more so, that our God is one who delights in bringing to life that which has died. That new life is not dependent on our ability to want it, choose it, ask for it, earn it or appreciate it. It depends only on God’s grace and power, and for that we give thanks.

This morning I spent a couple hours with 65 college-aged youth, who are being trained to serve as counselors this summer at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp near Hillside, Colorado. We talked at length about this aspect of our faith. We remembered that whenever we imagine that our salvation or our well-being is dependent on our own personal efforts, it is always in question. Have we done enough? Should we have done more? Should we have tried something different? If it is dependent on my, I will always worry that I haven’’t done enough. No amount of asking, choosing or trying can give us the certainty that we are right with God.

When our standing with God is not based on our own efforts, though — when it is grounded in the new reality that is proclaimed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — then we can live with hope and joy and confidence and peace. We are right with God because of of what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. And for that we give God thanks and praise.

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands at the heart of the Christian faith. It is our primary source of hope and joy. We know that no matter how painful life’s journey might become, we can trust in the power of the resurrection. We can trust that God does notice, and God does care, and God will act, leading us to peace and hope and joy.

Christ is risen! And that makes all the difference in the world. May we ground our lives in the reality of his resurrection, and experience the new life God wants us to know.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What pain must the widow of Nain have felt?
  2. What does Jesus’ reaction teach us about God?
  3. How did this experience affect the town in which she lived?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has God been a source of strength for me in difficult times past?
  2. What pain or sadness or difficulty do I experience in life now?
  3. What gift do I most need to receive from God today to make me whole?