Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Luke 7: 11-17
This story is the last of the first part of the stories of Jesus's teachings and healings throughout Galilee in the Gospel of Luke. What happens immediately after this is that a message is sent from John the Baptist. It says: "Are you the one we're looking for?"
Immediately before this passage is the story of the Roman centurion who sends for Jesus to heal one of his slaves. Jesus is on his way to him, and this Centurion says, "You know what? I don't think I am worthy for you to come in my house. But if you'll just do what you do from right there, I'm sure it'll be fine." Jesus says "Wow! This kind of faith from this guy? Okay, your slave is healed!"
I've kind of been messing around in this topic the last couple times i've preached, about the fact of what a healing or a teaching of Jesus tells us, the people who are watching from afar; the people who are reading the story. Why is it that Jesus goes out and does his healings; for what possible purpose could it serve for Jesus to go around and heal people? It seems to me like a false promise; this person gets healed but this person doesn't. These people get to hear a teaching of Jesus, but the people in the next town over never hear of the guy going through. What possible purpose could Jesus walking around serve?
Why would Jesus be walking into a little town called Nain, see a funeral procession coming out towards him, stop the funeral procession, touch the funeral bier that they're carrying the body on, and bring the young man who's on it back to life? Is he showing off? If someone were to be doing that now, if these kind of things were happening, that's where our heads would go, whouldn't they? "Who is this guy?" As they say in the Valley, "This guy is being bold."
But when you look at these stories, and especially this particular story, what he's doing isn't showing off. What Jesus is doing is taking an example of something that happens in an ordinary life, and using it. Not to show off, but to show the love of God. I am sure you've heard of your previous preachers talk about how widows were treated in first century Israel, first century Galilee. There is a specific reason why Luke tells us she had no other children, and she was a widow. Why does that matter?
Because that means she has no one to support her.
She will go hungry. She will be destitute. There will be no one for her except for the occasional charity of her neighbors. Yeah, it's all well and good that a young man gets to come back to life, but Jesus is going for a twofer here. Not only is he saying "young man, you are now returned to life", he's also saying ". . . and your mother will no longer be in danger of poverty." He's restoring two lives, not just one
There is a dividend to acting in the love of God. I'd be willing to bet (not that United Methodists bet, but you know what I mean), I would be willing to stand by the assumption that, if we were to go back through all of these stories in Luke, and look at all the stories of healings and teachings, at their core is always the sentiment of Jesus saying to someone, eye to eye, face to face, "God loves you." I'd stand by that assumption.
Lately, i've also been talking an awful lot about how we, if we are to be the people of God, the people who believe in Jesus Christ, we are to act in his image. So that means, without necessarily having the power that Jesus has, We are to act with love to all people. Even to centurions. There's nothing about a centurion that Jesus should trust. This is a soldier of an invading army subjugating the people of whom Jesus is a member. And yet, when the centurion comes to him and says "I would love for you to come to my house, but I don't think I'm worthy for you to come to my house; I know that you can do healings, can you heal my slave from here?" "Jesus says wow." When we can be impressed by the people that we don't like, we are acting in the image of Christ. When we can say to someone, "we are going to help you", and when we help that one person, four or five other people are, for instance, kept out of Child Protective Services, we are acting in the image of Christ.
This is my challenge to you all this week. We all have it within us to act in the image of Christ. We're called to it, we have the means to do it. Like I said in my last sermon, we have every thing that Jesus had, plus we have Jesus himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is within us to speak the love of God to the world. Each of us lives a different life. Each of us is in a different place; each of us goes to different places in the week. Some of us spend a lot of time at home, and go out occasionally, and some others have homes that are only there to provide the bed and the roof that we can collapse into at the end of the day.
But in each of those lives, there is the opportunity to speak the love of God to someone. As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Sometimes, even use words!"
This is my challenge for you all this week, and may my words have been the Lord's intention this day. Amen.