Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raises a widow’s son from death
Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a second chance at life? If we could just have another go, how we would do things differently! What would you do, or what would you change, or who would you be if you could have a second chance in life? (question) Would it mean that you would be a different person than you are today? Would it mean that you would have done things differently or not have done them at all? While we are mostly happy with our lives, there are the times which we wish never happened, and we want to have a second chance at life, or at least turn back time so things would be different.
Cher if you are old enough to remember, had a famous song called ‘If I could turn back time’. And not too embarrassed to admit it, you might remember the lyric’s going like this, and no, I’m not going to sing. ‘If I could turn back time
If I could find a way I’d take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay
Then she goes on to sing…
I didn’t really mean to hurt you I didn’t wanna see you go I know I made you cry, but
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you…
If I could turn back time
This song really reflex’s all the instances in our lives in which we messed up, in which, if we had a second chance, we would change the things we said or done. But what about the things that happen to us that are out of our control? The things that can never change, no matter how many chances we have at life?
What about death? Either our death or the death of loved ones? Dying is something no one can avoid. And when we hear of tragic deaths, we are saddened and even angry. A ship carrying relief supplies and medical equipment is raided by army commandos; there is death and injury.
The two processions of people. Both heading in different directions; one procession trying to get into Gaza, the other trying to keep them out. Both on a journey, both however, with different intentions, and unfortunately, both collide, with catastrophic consequences. 8 people are killed and we pray to God that he would bring his comfort to those in mourning. Yes, our hearts go out to them.
And sure, if both sides could turn back time, if we all had a second chance, perhaps something could have been done, but ultimately though, there is one thing that we can never change; dying. Whether of old age or suddenly in an act of aggression, the wages of sin is death, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Jesus, in today’s gospel, is in a procession. A group of people on a journey with Jesus, and they also have a destination, a little town called Nain; a little more than a day’s walking journey apart. You see, Jesus had just the other day, in Capernaum, healed a centurion’s son; a great miracle of life. And now he, his disciples, and a huge crowd who witnessed the healing, were journeying in a joyful procession to another town; the town of Nain which means ‘a pleasant place’.
However, Nain is not the pleasant place its name suggests! No, definitely not. There is another procession of people in progress. A group of people on a journey to the grave yard. And this procession of people, are deeply grieved. They are face to face with the reality of death. They are carrying the dead body of a boy, the only son of a widowed mother. And I suspect no one would be grieving more than his mother. Not only has she lost her only son, but also her status and well being in the community. A widow in Jesus time had no way of supporting herself. The death of her son was the end for her as well.
Yes, this was a sad procession of people with one goal; to reach the grave yard. So here we have it, Jesus procession going into Nain, and the widow’s procession going out of Nain. Two processions of people, both heading in different directions, both having different destinations….Both collide at the gate of Nain. One group of people going out to bury the dead, the other group going in to celebrate a life. Life and death collide at the gate of Nain.
However, unlike the collision between the activists and the commandos, which ended up in death and suffering. The collision between Jesus, the resurrection and life, and death, the wages of sin – the death of a young man, has completely the opposite result.
Jesus, seeing the distraught widowed mother, feeling the anguish of her heart, had compassion on her, and the two processions stop in their tracks. They stop while Jesus goes; goes and reaches out to the woman and reaches out to the dead son in compassion. Jesus knows he has the power over death and he just can’t stand by and allow death to have its way; not yet.
The compassion Jesus has, according to the Greek, is a deep out pouring of emotion; a spilling out of his insides. The sort of compassion a Father has when he sees his prodigal son return and he runs out to greet him; the sort of compassion which urges Jesus to feed 5000. Yes, this is exactly the compassion of God our Father, the pouring out of his heart which caused him to send his Son Jesus into the world to rescue the world; rescue you and I, from the power of death, as Jesus said ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
Yes, the compassion of Jesus collided with death that day and it resulted in new life; a second chance, both for the mother and the son. Jesus reaches out, touches the coffin, reaches out touches the heart of the grieving mother, and says ‘do not cry mum’, son, I say to you get up’. In an instant, with a mighty Spirit filled word, Jesus turns back time, he gives a second chance to those who are without hope. The young man is raised from the dead. And what is most touching is Jesus next action ‘he brought the young man back to the mother’.
Today, it seems as if we are two processions, both going in different directions. One procession, Lutheran have had to make the break from regular worship here in Nyngan, the other procession, Uniting, remain and have had to accept this sad reality. Two groups of people, both with different intentions, both going in different directions, meet together today in God’s house. We too meet at a gate. Not the gate of Nain, but with Jesus who said ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.’
We meet today in the presence of Jesus, just as the widow did, and we come as one procession mourning the loss, or ‘death’ if you want to call it, of our joint Uniting/Lutheran services and fellowship. It is not ‘accident’ that we meet today, we come deliberately to The gate, for through Jesus we are all saved and given a second chance. Yes, today is our opportunity to give thanks to God for the past 30 years of Lutherans worshipping here, and we meet to praise God for the past 10 years of joint worship together and for the blessings this has brought.
Most importantly we come today as one procession, gathered by Jesus to meet him. For we know and believe Jesus is ‘the resurrection and the life’ and he is present to give us a second chance. His word and sacraments give us new life in him, resurrecting us from sin and death and bringing us to eternal life. This is our common faith and what unites us. Even though we are going in different directions, our second chance at life in Christ is what still unites us as one.
So, how might people who have a second chance at life, have a new life in Christ, live? How might you here in Nyngan, who now have your own minister to serve you and bring God’s grace, see this as a second chance in ministry? Perhaps, this second chance may mean you can be as Christ to one another and like him have compassion for those in need around us. While other stop, caught in mourning and death, we go, go like Jesus and reach out and touch other people’s lives.
Let our new life collide with others so that they to may experience the goodness and compassion of God, rather that the cold hand of injustice and rejection. We may not change the world, but we may, by the power of God, change a life.
And in doing this, in bringing others to Christ for healing and new life, those who have been touched and those who have witnessed the new life will praise God and say ‘God has come to help his people’. Amen