Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sermon for February 26 th

The reading 
Luke 9:28-45

 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.  And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.  Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.  They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"—not knowing what he said.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"  When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.  I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here."  While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.  And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples,  "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands."  But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

The message

Happy Transfiguration  (The church word for the event reported today, about Jesus change in physical appearance and meeting with Elijah the great prophet and Moses who brought the law of God to the people).  This is one of those church days that you will not find greeting cards for, no one ever says this day is too commercialized, there are no campaigns or bumper stickers to keep Christ in Transfiguration.   At the same time, it is one of the days that help shape our faith and understand God’s love revealed by Jesus.  Many different churches around the world are celebrating this event today on the last Sunday before Lent.  We are at the end of a church season called Epiphany. This part of the year starts with the visit of the 3 magi or wise men, who bring gifts to the newborn Jesus. Each of their gifts reveals that Jesus, that Child born on Christmas, is God with us.  Gold revealed power and royalty, Frankincense revealed worship and divinity, Myrrh revealed suffering and death.   The other major events that reveal this child born on Christmas is God with us include Jesus baptism by John, where God’s voice announces “you are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased” and the wedding at Cana  (Jesus first miracle in John’s gospel, where water is turned into wine, not exactly a profound and vital event but God acting as necessary in the world, helping fix mistakes and interfering with things).   As we have gone through the Gospel of Luke this year, we missed those stories but we have seen Jesus revealed as God with us through healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, forgiving sins, teaching with authority and welcoming all people into the kingdom of God.   

With the Transfiguration the question is no longer who was born on Christmas, It is not even really who will face temptation in the wilderness, (despite this story always happening right before lent),  it is “who will suffer and die on the cross”, who will endure these things for the salvation of all people.  Right before the Transfiguration there was great confusion over who Jesus was.  Herod thinks Jesus is John the Baptist, back from the dead and very pissed at his murderer (Herod is tricked into having John killed against his own better judgment). Others say Jesus is the return of the prophet Elijah who was taken into heaven centuries earlier or another of the ancient prophets.  Even Jesus disciples seem to be unclear about Jesus identity

Right before going up the mountain, Peter proclaims who Jesus is, declaring that Jesus is the messiah of God.  In response  Jesus points out this was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit and sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,  saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”   
After this, the disciples are more confused, each one afraid but desperate to ask “wait a minute, if you are the Messiah, how can you suffer and die”.   As Peter, John and James go up the mountain with Jesus, they have no idea what to expect.  Once there, they witness the Transfiguration, the revealing of Jesus glory.  Like Jesus being the Messiah and suffering, they now face another hard question they are afraid but desperate to ask “wait a minute, why not go and share this in the heart of the city, in the center of the temple, show the people who you are, and take over the world”.  (Today, we would say put it on youtube or instagram, it’ll go viral, be something lots of people look at)   

Instead, Peter’s plans to capture and keep this experience is dismissed.  You get the sense that Peter wants to use this event as the centerpiece of the great Messiah marketing campaign. After all, lots of people could help the sick, many teachers were floating around, there were other claims to being the messiah, but the Transfiguration, that was special, that was proof that Jesus was the Messiah.   There will be no booths, not even a mention of this event.  No, after the Transfiguration, Jesus is back to the daily grind. Jesus is once again greeted by a great crowd, who all want something from him and do not understand his words.

I want to explain away Jesus frustration and anger with the crowds but that is a very human moment. It is like coming back to work after a long vacation, seeing all the things that piled up, sorting all the emails, returning calls and realizing the things you avoided before you left did not get magically resolved on their own.  After all, Jesus just experienced this profound moment of power and glory and the next morning was back to being misunderstood and asked for stuff. The Transfiguration is a reminder of God’s glory, it is reassurance of God’s power but it is also a reminder that God is present is suffering, not offering easy escape to all those who believe, or a get out of pain free card, it is a reminder that God is with us in this world.  

(I added this Sunday morning after reading Chris Hedges book, American Facism during the week)  We have to keep in mind that for millions of Christians in the United States, this idea of Jesus suffering, or being with the suffering, walking with the outcast and showing power in weakness is ridiculous. There are many churches that center around Jesus as power, as having dominion over all things (power he gladly gives to their leaders since they are so awesome). People see Jesus as being with the rich and strong, rewarding faith and punishing the other.  These churches take advantage of people, isolate members from truths and have gained a great deal of wealth, power and influence in our nation with their manipulative, non-biblical story.  It’s our work to show another way of understanding God’s revelation to the world.  Yes, God has dominion over all things, Yes Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but Jesus always used that power to help, unite, heal, forgive and welcome all people.  He never became emperor or showed any desire to (he outright rejects any suggest of it).  He never struck it rich (again, nor did he show any desire for it).  Jesus did not teach us the secrets of being rich, healthy, powerful and conquer our enemies, he did not show his followers how to be great at getting worldly things, he invited us to care about Godly things.            

I wanted to end with looking at 2 different perspectives on the Transfiguration, where someone elses words say things better than I can. In his second letter, Peter in chapter 1, verses 16 and 17, writes  
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

Here, the Transfiguration takes on its role in telling the story of revealing God’s love for all people through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The one who raised the dead is the one who died, the one who healed the sick is the one who suffered, the one who was Transfigured died a shamed criminal, The messiah endured all suffering and defeated sin and death. It points away from great signs of power and points to Christ’s death and resurrection as the way of our salvation.

In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, the prayer for Transfiguration is:  

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As we start Lent, we are invited to take these gifts,   to offer each other the light of God.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sermon for February 19th, 2017

Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner." 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "speak." 41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." 48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 The message

This story of the woman anointing Jesus is one of only a handful that is reported in all 4 Gospels (here and Matthew 26:12; Mark 14:8; John 12:7). Other stories in all 4 Gospels include Jesus feeding the crowds with very little food, Peter’s profession of faith, and events around Jesus trial, death and resurrection.     

Before looking at Luke’s telling of the story, I wanted to review some details about the different versions, All four Gospels have this meeting set in a house for a meal. Each involves a woman, and expensive perfume poured on Jesus, an act to which someone objects.  Mark, Matthew and John all locate this event in the town of Bethany. In Matthew and Mark, this meeting happens "in the home of Simon the Leper"; John does not identify a host or house; Luke says the house of a Pharisee named Simon.  John identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany, Luke simply says she’s "a woman in that town who lived a sinful life" and Matthew and Mark just say "a woman". In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew the oil is poured over Jesus head (which would have been the traditional custom at the time).  According to Luke and John, the oil is poured on Jesus feet (an odd break in tradition for which we get no explanation).  

In Matthew, Mark, and John, Jesus response to this woman’s act of compassion and thanksgiving is very similar.  Once challenged about the waste of this expensive perfume, which could have used in other ways, Jesus responds with slightly different wordings of  "The poor you will always have with you" and "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial".

In Luke, this story goes in a different direction.  Unlike the other 3 Gospels, Luke does not mention wastefulness as the sin or this act as the preparation of Jesus body for burial (an event only the woman appears to anticipate).  For Luke, this story is about hospitality and forgiveness.   
As we look at this story in Luke, we have to remember, this is not reality TV. This was not a show, a performance or staged event to give Jesus something to talk about.  This was not pre-planned for maximum drama.  This was an act of joy and thanksgiving. It was deeply personal, physical and public.  The woman’s act of hospitality is placed in contrast with the host.  For some reason, Simon, the Pharisee who invited Jesus neglects even the most basic customs of welcome, the offering of foot washing, kiss of greeting and anointing with oil (today those things  would be like offering someone a drink, taking their coat or pointing them to a seat).   

It is not only basic social rules that are broken in this story.  The Pharisees believed in a strict separation between clean and unclean people, the sinful and the okay were not to be in contact or association with each other.  Simon believed that any person of faith, let alone a prophet, should not look or be near this woman who lived a sinful life (more than likely as a prostitute).   There  are only 2 explanations Simon can come up with  for why a prophet would allow such a thing to happen. The only possibilities for Jesus to be touched, cleaned and anointed by a sinner so publically were 1- he didn’t know her history (which would make him a poor prophet) or 2- Jesus was no prophet at all.

Simon is not certain though.  After all, the other possibility, that God celebrates the good and casts out or ignores the bad, might be wrong, must be on him mind.  Luke mentions this small detail, that Simon “said these things to himself”.  Today, we do not think much of this detail.  It’s a common element in our story telling, plays, and literature.  At the time of this story though, it was highly unusual.  It was rarely used and meant to indicate a great deal of inner-conflict or confusion.  (after all Simon had to reconcile Jesus miracles, signs of power, teaching with authority, healing the sick, even raising the dead with this nasty, indecent public display)

Jesus senses or somehow knows what Simon is thinking (not a big stretch, Jesus knows the beliefs of the Pharisees about the separation of sinners and okay people and Jesus knows the history of this woman, he knows what Simon is thinking).  Jesus responds with a simple, direct story about forgiving debts and declares that the woman’s many sins are forgiven. (In this case, her faith has saved her). Along with forgiveness, the woman is directed to go in peace, to be restored, to not look back on her past and not be kept separate anymore.                 

I cannot really think or talk about this story of the woman anointing Jesus without mentioning a time when it happened. When I started at Seminary, several students in their last year of studies would tell the story of one student who actually did this.  There was a woman in their class who had lived a sinful life.  She was part of a special program for students from non-traditional backgrounds (no prior college, no long history of being a good Lutheran, no financial means) which meant she could just do a few classes and start ministry.  She chose to complete the whole program instead.  From what I understand one professor encouraged, welcomed and helped her get it all done.   During a Holy Thursday service as part of their liturgy class, they had foot-washing.  At that time, she anointed the teacher’s feet with oil and tears and wiped them with her hair. 

It was a profound act of thanksgiving and public recognition of someone’s faith.  It was also bizarre even for a seminary class. Over my time in school and as a pastor, no one ever suggested this should be part of a church service and I have never heard another story about it happening.  

Today, this story invites us to respond to God’s presence, gifts and love in deeply personal, physical and public ways.  To not be limited, refined or intellectual in our faith.  Your faith has saved you, go in peace.    

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sermon for February 12

The reading: 
Luke 7:18-35

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples  and sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"  When the men had come to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' " Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?  What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John's baptism.  But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves.)  "To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.'  For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, "He has a demon';  the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'  Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children."
 The message

Today’s reading is one that has often confused me and I find difficult to understand.  Before getting to that part, I wanted to talk a little about selling a couch.  One of the things I do when I’m volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Restore is sell things to customers.  Take, for instance, a couch.  If someone is looking at a couch, I will ask “do you have any questions” and then highlight some of the features. If it’s a good couch, I invite people to sit on it, I’ll say it’s like new, real wood, comfortable, barely used, a beautiful pattern or great color.  If it’s not so good, I will call it vintage, an interesting style, unique, or worst case, you can cover it with a sheet.   I ultimately want them to buy the couch for the price listed on the ticket, to say, “Your all set, just bring the ticket to the register and we’ll help you take it out”.  Sometimes, as time drags on and I can tell they are losing interest or just looking for a dirt cheap price (even lower than the regular dirt cheap price), I’ll say, “you know, we sell a lot of couches and this is a good one that just came in, if you do not buy it, I’m sure someone else will by the end of the week”.  In that case, I’m willing to let that customer go and wait for the next potential buyer, who is going to pay a reasonable price.    

This morning, John the Baptist, one of the most faithful, dedicated and prophetic voices in the Bible, has that sort of, “if you do not buy it, ill sell it to someone else” moment.  When John sends his disciples to Jesus with the question “are you the one or should we wait for another”,  he is basically threatening Jesus, saying “start acting like the Messiah I want or my followers and I will start looking for other people”.     

To understand why John is so frustrated and anxious and what kind of Messiah John wanted, we have to look back a little.  Before all this, John Baptized Jesus, John saw the heavens open, John heard God’s voice say “this is my son, the beloved, with him I am well pleased” John knew Jesus was doing all of the things that the Messiah would do, John knew Jesus had cured the sick, John knew just Jesus raised the dead, John knew Jesus exorcised demons, and John knew that Jesus was announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom.   John knew Jesus was the Messiah.   

At the time John asks Jesus “start acting like the Messiah I want or ill start looking for other people”. John is frustrated and anxious.  John had been arrested by Herod, the ruler of Israel appointed by Rome. Herod wanted to shut John up and get him out of the way.  Herod did not want to kill John since he was highly regarded as a prophet and Herod could not afford to anger so many people. You see Herod ruled by the whim of Rome, an empire that would much sooner just get rid of Herod than deal with any sort public protest or uprising in a small, irrelevant, far-away place. At the same time, Herod could not just let John keep talking.  He was a fierce critic of Herod’s leadership and condemned the sort of nasty, illegal relations within Herod’s family. 

John’s frustration and anxiety comes with the expected changes that were not occurring. As much as Jesus was doing the signs announced as witness to the Messiah, other things were not happening.  John wanted to see the overthrow of the oppressive Roman Empire,  the elimination of their laws, their unscriptural foundation and restrictions on God’s people.  John wanted to see the conversion of all people and the organization of society under God’s rule.  It did not appear that Jesus was at all concerned about these things.  John felt, if the kingdom of God was truly here, the kingdom of Rome would be gone. Of course, there was also the release to the prisoners part that John was waiting for (being in prison at the time, this was of particular interest to him)  John asking ‘are you the one or should we wait for another, was not a curious question. This was a public confrontation and challenge, “do what we want or we will look at someone else”   

Despite his piety, his commitment, his deep faith and the great things Jesus says and celebrates about him, John was unhappy with Jesus actions.  This is not really the Messiah he wanted.  John knows what Jesus has done, he just wanted something else.  Jesus was doing the works of power, teaching with great authority but where was the social and political changes the Messiah would usher in.   God does not do what we want.  Jesus would reveal God’s love in suffering, weakness and apparent powerlessness.   

Im going to end with some thoughts on the last section of our reading, Jesus conversation with the crowd about who John the Baptist was.  These are the words that have always sort of confused me. At their heart, they are words of warning to people who are blind to what God is doing in the world or people who want to control what God does in the world.   Jesus knows that the world, in particular the relationship between God and people, would be completely different after his death and resurrection.  John the Baptist would die before witnessing Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (a little girl tricks Herod and forces him to behead John soon after today’s conversation).  The new era, the kingdom of God, is so much greater, the least one there is greater than John (the best of the old era).  No matter how good John was, his works could not replace God’s gift of salvation.   

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sermon for February 5, 2017

The reading

Luke 7:1-17

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death.  When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.  When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him,  for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."  And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;  therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.  For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, "Go,' and he goes, and to another, "Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, "Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."  When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 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.  When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 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!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

The message

Today’s reading is placed in a very important spot in Luke’s Gospel.  It comes at a time when Jesus has clearly established his power. Even though there was no Twitter, Facebook, text messages or phones, stories of his teachings and works of faith and power have started to spread quickly.  Jesus has already exorcised demons, cured diseases, cleansed lepers of their sickness and exclusion from society, and healed a man with a withered hand (again treating his sickness and his exclusion from society).  Right before Jesus heals the Centurion’s slave and raises the widow’s son, he preached the Sermon on the Mount. This famous message to the world about what the kingdom of God looks like included the beatitudes, love for enemies, welcome for strangers, the command to not judge others and building your relationship with God on a good stone foundation. 

After all this, we find Jesus, along with hundreds of his new friends, entering Capernaum, a major city in the area that was a center for economic activity and trade.  News of Jesus arrival reaches a very anxious and frustrated centurion, who is desperate to find help for a dying slave he cares deeply about.  A centurion was a low level, non-commissioned officer in the Roman military. Most of them were outsiders, non-Romans from conquered places. Many were serving because of the promise that if they put in 25 years of service, they would be granted the highly prized Roman Citizenship.  Centurions did not have the status or power of real officers but were in charge of 100 men (for those who remember random bits of Latin ,centurion shares the same root with words like century and the penny or cent).    The centurion reaches out to Jesus, this wandering preacher and healer, for help.   Out of respect for cultural and religious boundaries, he sends some Jewish leaders to Jesus to make the request.  From the report of that group, it seems like the centurion was respectful, caring and good. They make a strong argument that he deserves Jesus’ help, highlighting the desperate man’s fairness, love for the Jewish people, and construction of the synagogue.   After all, Jesus has helped Jews and non-jews, beloved leaders and hated tax collectors, he has healed in front of huge crowds, controversially on the Sabbath and in relative secret, no one can make sense of how Jesus decides where to go or who to help.  The argument about deserving is what they know and seems as good an approach as any other.

Seeing the centurion as deserving or for some other reason, Jesus agrees to help (after all, Jesus just taught people to love your enemies and many viewed the occupying Roman force as enemies, not a bad way to practice what you preach).  As Jesus approaches the centurion’s house, another group is sent to Jesus. Now it is the centurion’s friends (we assume there to support and help in this difficult time) who go to Jesus with a message of polite, professional, practical humility, do not bother wasting your time coming any further, just speak the word and my servant will be healed.  Jesus is amazed by this man’s faith, his understanding of God’s power over the world.  The centurion knows that Jesus is not some magician or miracle worker with a pocket of tricks, cures and super powerful prayers, he is something much greater.   With an analogy about his own power over the soilders entrusted to him, the centurion declares the amazing power of God.    
The slave is cured and Jesus, again with a few hundred or now, maybe thousand of his new friends, travels to the city of Nain.  Here, two large crowds of opposites meet.  There is the excited, amazed and joyful group praising God and following Jesus to see what’s next, Then there is the funeral parade for a man who died, leaving his mother in a very bad situation. People proclaiming “God is great” and “with God all things are possible”, “God keeps God’s promises” are meet by mourners, weeping, wailing and asking “where is God, why did this happen”.  That poor lady, what is this group of idiots so happy about, This is life vs death.   

Here, we know exactly why Jesus helps this woman (and her son).  Jesus is filled with compassion, a Greek word with the same roots as “intestines”, meaning a deep, gut wrenching empathy an experience of someone’s pain, a time of being present with someone inconsolable, that everyone else would rather get away from, who friends and family have no idea what to say to.  Jesus, a person of his time and place in the world, knew how bad life would be a widow with no son, society was built around men as sustainers and earners.  All that would not change overnight (some would argue it still hasn’t changed) but it would change for this woman and her family right then and there.
As these two crowds meet it is an encounter of people who know, who have seen what God can do entering a space of doubt, mourning and anger. Here compassion wins, life defeats death, love overcomes fear, joy overwhelms mourning.  This is what we are called to do as church.  We are invited to be that joyful parade, to bring the grace of God with us into the world, into places of fear, anxiety, suffering, into places where people do not want to hear or see it, to places so separated, gathering as the diverse, loved people of God seems impossible to know we have something to offer and offer it.   

Next week, we will look at the events immediately after this long distance healing, the raising of the dead and restoration of life for the widow of Nain.  We will hear the questions of a very anxious, angry and frustrated John the Baptist who is in prison and moments away from being killed.  The two events we heard about today are a big part of Jesus answers.