+ Lectionary 10/Proper 5 C
TEXT: Luke 7:11-17
DATE: June 9, 2013
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
You realize, I hope,
that in the culture and time of Jesus,
the death of this man
would render his mother, the widow,
to be practically worthless.
She would be demoted to a life of poverty
and complete dependence
on relatives, benevolent friends,
or the alms she could collect
and the food she could glean on her own.
That’s why what Jesus saw was so tragic.
Not that the death of someone
is ever an easy thing to take,
but that Jesus was very aware
that the death of this man
meant a virtual death of his widowed mother, too.
So, Jesus has compassion for her –
that is, he “suffers with” her –
and because he has the power to do so,
he touches the bier,
speaks a word of life to the dead man and raises him,
and gives him back to his mother,
restoring them both back to their community.
And that, at least in part,
is what this story is about:
Jesus has compassion,
and by his powerful touch and word
and gives community
to the dead man and his widowed mother.
And when you put it that way,
it sounds very much
like what Jesus does for us in Holy Baptism, doesn’t it?
He has compassion,
and by his powerful touch and word,
and gives community to us.
He wouldn’t need to welcome us so graciously
as he does in baptism.
He could place very strict guidelines, for example,
or very restrictive requirements on us
in order to become members of the church.
But Jesus welcomes us with open arms
as a merciful gesture of compassion.
He looks on our human fallenness and sin,
our ways of death and separation from God,
and has compassion on us –
he suffers with us.
And he welcomes us to the font.
And there, with a watery touch and a word of power,
Jesus gives us new life –
gives us a new birth –
raises us from the death and fallenness of sin –
through his suffering for us.
By his own death and resurrection,
he gives us the gift of eternal life.
And he brings us into a community –
a community of believers across time and space
called the saints of God – the church –
a community which surrounds us and welcomes us,
sustains us and rejoices with us
just like the community did for the widow and her son.
Jesus makes us members of his own body –
a new community called the church –
a community of life.
Jesus, in essence,
turns us into the man and the widow of this story.
But the story doesn’t end there, does it?
What comes next is the telling.
Neither does baptism end
with the watery touch and powerful word at the font.
Life in the covenant of baptism continues.
And what comes next is the telling.
When you get to witness something so miraculous
as compassionate Jesus
giving life and a place in community
to those who were dead –
dead to sin, dead to the community, dead to the world –
there are certain responses that are quite natural.
First, fear at the gravity of what we’ve just seen,
then, glorifying God for the great gift Jesus gives,
and finally, spreading the word to others
so they can come to know of the miracle, too.
And that’s just what happened there at the town gate.
That’s just what the crowd did in the story
when they saw the man get up
and he and the widow were restored to the community.
Fear seized them and they glorified God.
Then they told everyone,
and the word spread throughout the region.
And that is just how it is
for life in the covenant of baptism, too.
We live among God’s faithful people
hear the Word of God
and share in the sacramental supper
in holy worship of God,
in fear of the Lord,
and glorifying God for such gifts.
And then we go and tell others
because anything this good has to be shared!
We go in peace to proclaim the good news,
serve the Lord,
welcome the stranger.
It’s just a natural response that,
when we experience something so awesome
as the miracle of baptism –
as Jesus giving life and community to us –
we would proclaim that good news
in our own words and deeds,
serving those we meet
and working for the ways of Jesus’ reign
like justice and peace.
These are the actions that mark the baptismal life.
But the story doesn’t even end there for us.
Because in Baptism,
Jesus also calls us to follow him,
to be his disciples,
and he empowers us with his own Spirit
to be his body alive in the world today.
Which means, of course, that the compassion,
the touch and word of power,
the giving of life and the wholeness of the community
that Jesus gives in this gospel story
are now our mission and task.
Jesus not only makes us
to be like the man and the widow in the story,
he also makes and empowers us
to be like him.
Your proclamation of God’s good news,
your sharing the story,
your welcoming the stranger,
your declaration of forgiveness and hope,
your gentle touch of love and care,
your service to those in need,
your compassion for those outside the community –
all these are the actions of Jesus
to bring life and community
to our own time and place, here and now.
Done by your hands.
It’s miraculous good news,
and an amazing story to tell.
Because it’s a story, a calling, and a lifestyle
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