Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sermon: Trinity 16 – 2015

20 September 2015

Text: Luke 7:11-17 (1 Kings 17:17-24, Eph 3:13-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Gospel reading is incredible, dear friends.  Jesus goes to a small town called Nain, and encounters a funeral procession.  The deceased was an only child of a widow.  Jesus has compassion on her.  He tells this women whose husband is dead, and whose only child is dead, “Do not weep.”

He stops the pallbearers and orders the corpse in the coffin to arise.  The young man sits up and starts talking.  And Jesus reunites this family separated by death.

This is an incredible reading, but the things that we probably find incredible should not be, and the things that we probably don’t find incredible should be.

Think about what we might find rather normal and ordinary: a woman who outlived her husband, a young man who died, a small-town funeral.  But according to God’s will, none of this is normal.  Death is not normal.  Death separating spouses is not normal.  A young man dying is not normal, nor even an old one for that matter.  The whole idea of the funeral is foreign to the good world that God created in the beginning by His Word.

But now, let’s ponder on the things we might find extraordinary.  Jesus, God in the flesh, commands a mourning woman, a widow who is burying her only beloved son, not to weep; Jesus interrupting a funeral procession and stopping it in mid step; Jesus, with nothing more than His Word, bringing the dead to life.

Our reaction would probably be like that of the crowds at first: “Fear seized them all.”

But consider just how normal this really is: Jesus, the One who has compassion, comforting this woman by not only telling her not to cry, but by taking away the cause of her suffering by His merciful and mighty Word.  This is indeed what God always does, He who loves His creation and redeems His people, bringing life out of seemingly hopeless situations, and wrenching victory from the jaws of death.

Jesus, the one whose own death destroyed death, whose own funeral procession as an only beloved Son was to lead to the tomb from which He would emerge in glory, this Jesus shuts down a funeral procession and calls the whole thing off.  Jesus, who is God, and by whose mighty Word the universe spring into being, uses His Word again to say: “Young man, I say to you, arise,” and just as the universe came obediently into being, “the dead man sat up and began to speak.”

Jesus behaves just as we ought to expect God to behave: with compassion and power, with mercy and might, with glory and salvation.  What else should we expect from God who is a man, who has come to save us, to rescue us?  What else can possibly happen when the one who rose from death, encounters another one who is dead, and commands him to rise?

And in spite of the people’s fear, they nevertheless “glorified God.” 

They recognized what has just happened.  After God’s centuries of silence, they have seen a repeat of the prophet Elijah’s miracle of raising the widow’s son from 900 years before.  The prophet prophecies, by Word and deed, of the coming Christ.  For the prophet prays to God for His miracle, whereas our Lord Jesus does the very work of God in commanding the young man to rise, all by means of His Word.

Indeed, a prophet has come again, only this prophet Jesus is not merely a prophet.  He is rather the fulfillment of all prophets and all prophecies.  This Jesus is God, whose Word creates the universe, whose Word crushes death.

For Jesus has crushed death just as surely as He has crushed the head of our ancient enemy, the devil.  For Jesus not only wakes the dead from their slumber, He casts death along with the devil into the Lake of Fire.  For death is the wages of sin, what we deserve according to our deeds.  But by His deeds, by His death and resurrection, by His very blood shed at the cross, and by the baptismal waters, He commands by His Word, by His unequivocal absolution, and by the Good News He has commanded to be preached unto every creature, He forgives our sins.  Our wages are no more death, but life.

This was true when God worked through Elijah to raise a widow’s son.  This was true when the Son of God raised a widow’s son.  And this is true today, for all people, men and women; married, single, and widowed; with one child, many children, or no children.  Jesus has defeated death, once and for all.  Jesus interrupts our own funerals by declaring us to be with Him, and promising to raise us and all of His beloved redeemed at the last day.

The wages of sin is death, indeed, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

And yet, we suffer in this life.  We suffer pain and illness, and the death of loved ones.  And we suffer our own mortality and death.  Until the Lord recreates heaven and earth, our world remains a place of decay and dying. 

But not for long, dear friends!  For just as surely as Jesus touched the coffin and that young man woke up, so too will your grave be opened and you will sit up and be restored to your loved ones alive and well.

This is why St. Paul can say to the Galatian Christians: “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you.”  For Paul, for us, for every widow, every mother and father, every son and daughter, we all will suffer, and yet our sufferings will come to an end.

Paul says: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory, He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

For like those who witnessed the power of Jesus’s Word, a Word that has power over death itself, we also join with those who spread the report of Jesus “through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country,” praising Him who raises us from the dead, saying: “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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