Today's Sermon

Sermon Title: Worlds Collide

Gospel Text: Luke 7:11-17

Warmer weather has arrived, and summer vacation is just around the corner. Parade season is upon us! Last year, I started at
Zion the first week of August so I just missed the famous 4th of July parade here in town. I’m excited to be there this year! I hear it is a time of great joy and laughter and fun. Family members and friends come from all over to join in the festivities.

Technically, a parade is defined as: “a large, public procession.” Oftentimes, we think of parades as happy, uplifting events, but they can also be quite somber.

In our gospel text for today, there are two parades that collide at a city gate in the town of
Nain. One parade is headed out of town, and another parade is headed into town.

The parade headed into town is the Jesus parade. There are all kinds of people following Jesus. Our gospel text is from the 7th chapter of Luke. At this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is early on in his ministry! He is so loved and everyone is in awe of him. He’s doing all kinds of healings. This is a parade of total and utter excitement.

The parade headed out of town is completely on the other end of the emotional spectrum. It is a funeral procession; they are headed out of town to bury a body. Our gospel text tells us that it’s a large group of people. They are in deep despair; they are filled with grief. The death was particularly tragic. A young man has died. His mother is already a widow. She has lost her husband and her only son. In the culture and time period of her day, these two deaths would mean absolute hopeless despair. There was no reason for her to have any hope. Without a man to care for her, she had nothing. She had no way to survive. The people in the funeral procession knew this. They wept for the young man. They wept for his mother.

These two big parades of people meet at the city gate. Two worlds collide. Total, complete hopefulness meets total, complete despair – face to face.

The actions that Jesus takes next are shocking for a variety of reasons. His actions are motivated by the deep compassion he feels when he sees her. It’s important to note that nobody in this funeral procession reaches out to Jesus. Nobody says: “Jesus, please help us. Please bring this boy back to life.” As far as we can tell, no one in this funeral procession even knows who Jesus is. Jesus reaches out to this woman and her son – without being asked. He stops the funeral procession. He interrupts the parade of sadness. Then, Jesus touches the casket. This was just about the most offensive thing he could do – to touch the casket was a TOTAL no-no. It was against all the religious and social rules. It isn’t surprising that upon seeing this take place, everyone stands still. They are all frozen – saying to themselves: “What on earth is this man thinking? He’s interrupting a funeral!”

Jesus says, “Young man, I say to you, rise.” The man sits up. He is returned to his mother. The word about Jesus spreads. Hope collides with despair; new life is born out of death.

When we come to this place on Sunday mornings, we all enter feeling something different. We bring our own stories – our own experiences. Sometimes, we feel joyful –we are part of the Jesus parade. Other times, we feel complete sadness - we’re part of the funeral procession. Today’s gospel speaks to us
ALL, no matter which parade we are walking in today.

At the city gate, Jesus sees the mother – he sees her just how she really is – and he has compassion for her. This word, compassion, in the original Greek form, is a very powerful “feeling” word. It describes a kind of gut-wrenching compassion. This is how Jesus feels when he sees the mother – a woman he’s never met before, a woman who doesn’t know him at all.

Jesus looks at each one of us with that same compassion
. When all is well and we are happy and marching by his side, he looks at us with complete compassion. When all is not well, and we are headed in the opposite direction - wanting to run away from it all, he looks at us with complete compassion.

There are very real challenges going on in our lives. There are very real reasons that we mourn and grieve and feel despair. There are strained relationships, the sadness of being alone, the sting of gossip, health frustrations, annoying jobs, long-standing regrets. When we enter this worship space, we don’t have to leave all that baggage at the door. We can be real here just the way the mother in the funeral procession could be real. And in that “realness”, Jesus sees us
JUST as we really are – and he feels compassion. He sees us with the very same eyes with which he saw the mother in today’s gospel text.

Jesus said to the dead man: “I say to you, rise.”

Each new day, Jesus speaks those same words to us. “I say to you, rise.” In all the moments of our lives, Christ is there inviting us to live in His arms of compassion. We don’t need to stay asleep in a coffin of despair. We can rise. Jesus invites us to live in freedom and hope. He invites us to work through our hurts – to heal – to rise again.

God’s grace is showered upon us when the compassion of Christ collides with our hurt and pain. The widow met Jesus at a city gate. We meet Jesus in the smile of the gas station attendant. We meet Jesus at the altar in communion. We meet Jesus in the warm cinnamon roll baked by a friend. No matter where we are – Jesus will find a way to meet us. And he will see us as we really are. And he will say: “I say to you, rise.” May God give us the courage to continue to rise each new day – surrounded by hope and love.


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