Sunday, October 9, 2011
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity 10/9/11 Luke 7:11-17 Bror Erickson  Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.  As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep."  Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise."  And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"  And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. Luke 7:11-17 (ESV) Fear seized them all, and they glorified God saying, “a great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” Raising a man from the dead. It puts the fear of God into people. We have an uneasy relationship with death. I know people who avoid funerals at all costs. Of course today, the word funeral is out. We call them celebrations of life. There is a reason Christian’s don’t tend to do that by the way. Or I should say, a good reason for a Christian not to do that. And it is simply this. To call a funeral “A Celebration of Life” in this context indicates that life is now over and there is nothing more. That the life is now done. But we Christians really believe that life is just beginning for that person, especially when they die as Christians who have already been buried into Christ’s death and risen to the newness of life in baptism. Oh, we still mourn. Yeah Christians mourn. We mourn because we know this wasn’t supposed to happen. We mourn because we know death isn’t natural. We mourn because death is our enemy, and the result of our sin. We mourn because we are separated from those whom we love for a time. But if we celebrate anything at a funeral, it is baptism because there in baptism we are given eternal life, the promise of God for salvation. We really look at the funeral as the final consumation of baptism. In death, we receive victory over death, and the full glory of salvation, through him who conquered death, Jesus Christ, who even here, quite early on in his ministry shows his power over death by raising this man from the dead, the only son of a widow. We are reminded straightway of the Widow with whom Elijah stayed. How she fed Elijah and her son off the meager rations she had left when Elijah came to visit. How her son died, and Elijah raised him from the dead, with the word of God. And then she says the curious words “Now I know you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord is in your mouth.” I mean it isn’t as if Elijah had been lacking in miracles to attest to the fact that he was a man of God. Fire from heaven licking a water drenched sacrifice on cue, might have convinced me. The bottomless jar of flour and oil, might should have been a good indication for the woman. But raising her son from the dead, was the clincher. That hit home. Her son, son’s were like life insurance, like a pension fund for old widows at this time. You take care of them as children, and as adults they take care of you. That was the idea. It hadn’t changed much in Jesus day. And then there is just the horror of having to bury your own child. It isn’t supposed to happen. The parents I have known to suffer from that, suffer grief in ways I can hardly imagine. But then Elijah raises him from the dead. Then Jesus raises this man from the dead. That is convincing. At that, people begin to listen. Now they know there is a prophet among them. A great prophet like unto Elijah, regarded as the greatest of prophets. But Jesus is more than a prophet who can raise others from the dead. In him all of scripture, all of the prophets find fulfillment. Had a lovely conversation with a mormon lady on the plane this last Friday, hampered my reading a bit. But she asked if I didn’t think we needed prophets anymore. I pointed her to Hebrews 1:1.” Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV) In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. I told her to think we need prophets after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is to phenomenally miss the point, not only of the prophets in the old Testament, but also the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection! The prophets were there to point forward to the coming fulfillment of the gospel, experienced then as only the promise of God. In Christ, all the prophets are fulfilled! Their promise finds its completion in Christ. In Christ God does what he said he’d do through the prophets. It is done! It is finished! And to drive this point home. Here is not just a man who raised a couple people from the dead. But here is a man, who when he himself experiences death, he raises himself, and after three days, when the stench of death should have been setting itself in good fouling up the tomb of rock! But no! He rolls the stone aside. He walks out. We appears to his disciples one by one, and all together, at different times, consuming fish, and telling them to touch his side, breaking bread, before finally ascending to heaven. He rises to completely new life, the newness of life that he gives to you and I in baptism. The newness of life that you and I share with him. Because his death is our death, his life is our life. His death for the forgiveness of his, his resurrection for the for the gift of life, and so it is that he gives us his body, crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and his blood there shed with which to share his life, that by his grace we live. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.