In pm's words
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June 6, 2016, 9:00 AM

the one where Jesus steps in...


Sermon from June 5, 2016

Text: Luke 7: 11-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

You know, a few months ago we experienced a lot of death within our community of Newberry and right here at Redeemer. No matter how death strikes – it is always painful, it is always sad. Whether it is expected or unexpected, it always leaves a void within our lives. Our worlds change, we adjust to a new normal that doesn’t include that loved one in our life.

In our text today, Jesus and his disciples (along with a sizeable crowd that was following them) came upon a funeral procession. Much like today, when we are witness to those in mourning we pay respects by moving to the side. It doesn’t matter who the funeral is for – whether you know them or not – the hospitable thing to do is to move to the side as the procession moves forward. It is a small way to let those in mourning know that they are cared for.

I imagine that that is what the funeral procession in our gospel text was expecting to have happen when they came upon the group with Jesus. But, instead – something else took place. Something far more personal, outrageous, and dare I say scandalous.

Before we get into that, there is something we should know about death in Jesus’ culture at that time. Death and those associated with it, as well as those who are touched by it was considered ‘unclean’ in many ways. Humans did not touch dead bodies – or anything that those dead bodies touched – unless they had to or were very close to the family. They were willing to be in the presence of death knowing that they would have to go through a ritualistic separation and cleansing.

If you could avoid it – you showed and expressed your condolences from a short distance, lest you too would be subject to the purification laws that had to be followed through. Naturally, those that did were the ones who were the closest to the deceased and their family – or they were a part of the group that helped facilitate the burial traditions – ancient cultural funeral directors.

There is of course, something else that is pretty profound within this short text. As much as our lives are rocked and sent in spirals when our loved one passes – it was even more so for this widow. Remember, during this time women were not given the ability to provide for themselves in traditional means. Women were dependent upon their husbands and their sons to provide for them. When a woman became a widow, she moved in with her son. If the son happened to die before her, there were not many options available to her. She either had to reduce herself to begging or prostitution in order to survive.

The woman who leads this procession of her recently dead son (ancient customs stated that those who had died needed to be buried with 24 hours) more than likely had all this running through her mind. Enrapt in her own grief and mourning at losing her son, she also had no idea what her future would hold. Who would care for her? Where would she go? What could she do?

This is the situation that Jesus comes to her and to those in mourning around her.

And Jesus does something that I don’t think many of us would be very happy about – at least not at first.

Jesus barges right into the funeral procession and stops it. I don’t know about y’all, but if some stranger came walking by and barged into the procession and stopped it – I wouldn’t imagine there would be too many kind words and thoughts forming in my head or even uttered from my mouth. You’re supposed to move to the side and let us pass through – why are you stopping us?

Yet, Jesus – the one who bucks traditions and rituals – steps into this procession and does something out of complete compassion for this woman and her mourning.

He touches the frame that holds her dead son.

Jesus bursts through all the etiquettes and social norms to be with this woman in her mourning. Out of his compassion, he enters into her life and offers life – new life.

Not only resuscitating her son, but renewing her life as well. A life removed from the dangers that she could face with no husband and no sons to care for her.

In compassion, Jesus comes to be with this woman and brings her the healing and new life that she needs. Jesus steps into her story.

Compassion.

We hear a lot about compassion coming from our Lord. He has compassion for the widow and those mourning with her. Jesus had compassion for those who were hungry. Jesus had compassion for the crowds who surrounded and followed him. Jesus had, does, and will have compassion for those around him.

The compassion that Jesus shows isn’t just a ‘feeling’ or a ‘thought.’ The compassion that Jesus lives into is that of action. But, not only that – but, the willingness to step into an intimate part of someone’s life that others would try to steer him away from because it would place him on the ‘outside.’ Outside the law, outside the norm, outside the social rules and etiquette of his day. Through compassion; Jesus steps and enters into the stories of those in need.

Out of compassion Jesus walks into the life of this widow – into our lives – and brings healing and wholeness in ways that we wouldn’t expect.

Jesus steps into our lives out of compassion, coming to be with us in those moments where we feel so closed off and distant from God and from life.

Death, broken relationships, terrible illness, a change of vocation, a potential move, being the new kid on the block, feeling and knowing you might be ‘different’ from those around you, the stigma of mental illness, the disease of addiction, and more. Jesus comes to us – out of compassion – and gives us new life, healing, and wholeness.

For the widow – that meant the resuscitation of her recently deceased son. Jesus, out of compassion, stepped into her life to bring her renewed life in a way that one would never expect.

Today, it looks a little different, but the act of ‘stepping in’ out of compassion continues to bring renewed life, healing and wholeness.

God’s work is done through our hands, as we continue to bring our Lord’s compassion to those in need. Caring for those on the fringes of life and status, caring for those who experience loss in any way.

Being present – fully present – out of compassion for those in need. Not just offering up words and platitudes to make us feel good, but offering ourselves to make those around us feel loved and cared for. Through which healing and wholeness begins to take place.

Providing food for those who are hurting or who are hungry. Stepping into their lives out of compassion to say – you don’t have to worry about this. We’ve got it. Providing clothing and more to those who have experienced loss in so many ways. Stepping into those lives out of compassion to say – you are not forgotten, you are wrapped in the bands of cloth that Christ provides for all. Standing up for those who are oppressed and on the fringes of society. Stepping into lives different from our own – out of compassion – to say and show that when we proclaim that God loves you, we mean it and live into it – no exceptions.

Compassion. Compassion drives us to action. Action that provides care, healing, and wholeness. Not simply letting those who mourn in any way to pass on by, but following Christ as we walk into those tender and intimate moments to show and live into the care that God provides for all. Through compassion, we enter one another’s story of life. We learn, share, and grow in this community of God that Jesus proclaims and calls us to be.

Compassion is easily stated, but not always easily lived out. Jesus placed himself – in compassion – into situations that others would later mock him for, deride him, and use against him. Yet, Jesus continued to walk in compassion to where healing and wholeness could take place.

Jesus walks with us – as we too follow him into those moments of compassion, but also see others enter our lives in compassion as well.

When we see compassion lived into and lived out, we too are amazed. We too glorify. We too ponder who it is that has come to visit… Amen.

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