Monday, June 10, 2013

A Glimpse at the New Creation--Sermon preached June 9th, 2013 (Proper 5-C)

Sermon Text: Luke 7:11-17

 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of (our) heart(s) be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, (our) rock and (our) redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

In the name of T Jesus.

Jesus brings the Kingdom of God down to earth, From Above.  Wherever Jesus goes; wherever Jesus speaks; wherever Jesus touches someone; there is the Kingdom of God.  There is the New Creation breaking into the Old—Heaven being brought down to earth, From Above.  That’s why the Father sent Him.  And that’s what He brings with Him.  The Kingdom of God, breaking into a broken and sinful world, coming down, From Above, and making things new.  And so, in today’s Holy Gospel, when we hear the story of Jesus raising from death the one and only son of a widow, what we are seeing—what we are being given From Above—is a glimpse at what Jesus promises to bring for all believers on the Last Day.  When Jesus miraculously raised that young man from death, what we are blessed to see, is a glimpse at the New Creation.
Jesus enters the city of Nain.  And as He enters, His disciples are with him, of course.  But so is a great crowed which had begun to follow him, because they had seen and heard of all the miracles He had performed.  So there was Jesus, and the disciples, and that great crowd, entering into the city of Nain, and when they entered the city, behold!, they walked right into a funeral procession.
There was Jesus, and his disciples, and the great crowd of followers coming from Capernaum into Nain, from the North.  And then there was the one and only son of his mother, being carried, as our bulletin cover indicates, by the casket bearers, and being followed by his mother—a widow in her own right—and the crowd of professional mourners and townspeople who were following the procession.  There was Jesus and His crowd, and then there was a dead boy, and his crowd.  There was the Kingdom of God, come down from heaven, From Above, in the person of Jesus, preaching and teaching and healing, and making all things new—showing what life in the New Creation would bring.  And then there was death.  Then there was the reality of life in this old, broken, sinful world where the wages of sin take their toll on everyone, no matter what your age.  There was life on the one side, coming down From Above as Jesus brought the Kingdom of God down to earth—the New Creation breaking into the Old.  And on the other side, there was death, and grief, and heartache, and despair.  And there, as Jesus and his disciples, and their crowd entered the city of Nain, the two met head on.
And this wasn’t just any funeral procession.  This was a funeral procession of a man who had died in the prime of his life—a young man, Jesus would call him.  This was the funeral procession of a young man who was the sole provider for his mother, who had been widowed years before.  You see, in that time and in that culture, there was no life insurance; there was no pension passed on to a spouse; there was only the provision of your husband, and if death would part you, a woman was left to depend on any sons that she might have had.  So while the death of a man in the prime of his life would have been cause enough for great grief, and serious sorrow, this funeral procession meant that this widow woman would likely live the rest of her years alone, and destitute—deprived of family, and financial resources, and likely anyone who would care.
But God does care.  God the Father loves this woman so much, that He sent His own one-and-only Son into the world From Above.  And there, in the city of Nain, the infinite love of God is made known to that woman when Jesus sees her, and has compassion on her.  There she is, grieving over the loss of her only son; fearful of a future lived alone; wondering what would become of her.  And she is met with the love, and compassion, of Jesus, who brings to her the Kingdom of God, and a miraculous glimpse of the New Creation.
That’s who God is.  He has compassion on those who are helpless.  And we know it, because of what we see in His Son, Jesus, who sees that woman in her great need, and has compassion on her.  The word is splagcni,zomai, and we’ve talked about that Greek Word before.  And its meanings is similar to its sound: splagcni,zomai. Like an animal that is cut open and has its guts splattered there on the ground in sacrifice, there is Jesus with splagcni,zomai.  There is Jesus, with His gut, aching for that woman in deepest compassion.  A compassion that no human born of man will ever know, but a compassion known only by the Son, sent From Above to bring the Kingdom of God down to earth for the sake of a fallen, and broken, and dying sinful world.  This splagcni,zomai is a word only used in the Bible to refer to Jesus’ deep love and concern for a helpless humanity who cannot do anything on its own to save itself.  And that is the very condition in which that widow woman now finds herself—a condition in which she would remain—if it were not for the compassion of Jesus.
But there, in the city of Nain, the compassion of Jesus has come down.  There, From Above, the compassion of Jesus has come to meet death with life.  There, as one great crowd following Jesus with great excitement because of His miracles meets another great crowd following death, with its grief and despair, the compassion of Jesus is displayed, as he reaches out His hand, and touches the casket of that dead young man.  And there, as a broken, sinful, deadly world is met with the Son of God, it is overcome with life in the Kingdom of God, as Jesus begins to speak, “Young man, I say to you, get up.”
And he got up, in an instant, because of the Word of Jesus, which brings with it the Kingdom of God and the New Creation.  And in an instant, not only had death been undone, but the grief and sorrow and fear of that widow had been turned to joy, as she received again her son, alive and well.  And all who saw it, the crowds which were following Jesus, and the crowds which had been following death, began to praise and glorify God because of what they had seen.
Death had been defeated by life.  Grief had been replaced with joy.  Sorrow had been turned to gladness.  And what was old, and broken, and suffering the wages of sin, now was new, and whole, and living, because Jesus had brought the Kingdom of God, From Above, and had given everyone there that day, a glimpse at the New Creation.
It’s awesome, isn’t it?  What Jesus does when He brings the Kingdom of God down to earth; what Jesus shows us of the New Creation.  It’s nothing less than astonishing, what the compassion of Jesus leads Him to do for people who are helpless.  But it is important to remember, that this story of the widow at Nain; this story of a young man dying and being raised again; this story of death being overcome by life; while giving us an awesome glimpse of the New Creation, is still only giving us a glimpse.  It’s an awesome glimpse, to be sure.  It’s a glimpse that is given in order to bring comfort, and hope, and joy; it’s a glimpse that is given not only to provide for that widow in her deepest need, but to show us all what Jesus will one day bring for all who have trusted in Him, but today, it remains only a glimpse.
This is never more evident than when you go to hospital, and you see one of God’s children suffering.  There he lies, a baptized, forgiven, redeemed, child of God, and wondering why he is suffering the wages of sin, and hoping against hope, that somehow, someway, he might not die—at least not yet.
Or when a tornado is sent down on a community like Moore, Oklahoma, and in an instant, the wages of sin, and the realities of a fallen and broken world are forced upon them.  And there’s a community, with a school destroyed and lives turned upside down, where young and old alike have died, where those who are left are wondering what life will bring in the future, and how they’ll ever be able to go on.
Or when a friend of yours, serving just an hour away, wakes up in the middle of the night only to find his three-year-old son, unresponsive, and later to be pronounced dead.  Where is the compassion of Jesus in all of this?  Where is the Kingdom of God coming down From Above?  For all of us who still live with pain and sorrow, where is the new creation now?
            And the death, and the grief, and the morning, and the sorrow, which we are still dealing with in this old and broken creation can even cause us to wonder if Jesus really loves us or not.  After all, he had compassion on the widow, it doesn’t look like he has much compassion on us, right?  I mean, her son was raised, and mine is being buried.  Those other communities were spared disaster, but we’ve been ravaged by it.  That man was healed, and I still suffer.  It appears as though Jesus only has compassion on some; that Jesus only loves some; and if we’re the one who continue to suffer, we begin to wonder if, in fact, Jesus compassion and love are for us at all.  I mean, we haven’t seen the New Creation coming into our own lives like that widow did.  Obviously, what Jesus did that day was Good News for that widow and her son, but why doesn’t He do it for me?
            That’s the danger of reading the stories of Jesus’ miracles, apart from the story of His cross and empty tomb.  You see, the stories of healing, and resurrection, and the other miracles we see in the Bible are stories of what God has done in the life of others.  And while they show that Jesus has power, and they show His compassion, and they reveal what life will one day be like in the New Creation, they are meaningless for you, if they are read apart from the cross of Christ, and His empty tomb.
You see, the compassion of Jesus is real, because the love of the Father is real.  But the will of God remains hidden from us, and we’re not given to know why some suffer severely, and others are given ease of life.  We don’t know the mind of God, or why he chooses to restore some from their illnesses while others end up dying because of them.  And so these stories of Jesus’ miraculous healing would only cause us to wonder why He doesn’t bring this miraculous healing to all of us as well, if it were not for His death on the cross, and His victorious resurrection.  Because it is in those events, that we see the love of the Father, and the will of the Father displayed in the compassion of the Son for all of humanity.  For there, when Jesus hangs on the cross, we see that the Father not only loved the widow and her son, but that he even loves you and me, and those residents of Moore, Oklahoma, and a family in great grief over the loss of a three-year-old boy.  For there, on the cross, the compassion of Jesus leads him to give His live as a ransom for all, so that in His resurrection, we would know that in the end, all who believe, will be raised.
If all we had was the story of the widow’s son being raised, we would marvel at the compassion that Jesus showed on them, but we would be left to wonder if Jesus was going to show compassion on us.  But when we have that story, and we also have the cross and the empty tomb, then we can see, that the glimpse of a New Creation we’ve been given in the resurrection of that widow’s Son, is fulfilled in the resurrection of God’s own Son, where we see that the glimpse of the New Creation we’ve been given, will one day, be our own gift, given, From Above.

And it will come, not only as a glimpse, but forever, when finally, the love of the Father, will cause Him to send His Son once again in compassion, and the brokenness of this world, with its pain, and sorrow, and grief, will finally be overcome, once-and-for all, and will do what Jesus does whenever he comes down to earth—He will bring the Kingdom of God, in the New Creation.  But this time, it will be much more than a glimpse.  It will be forever.  And that, you see, is how much he loves you, and why He gives you a glimpse at what will be yours, through faith in Christ, in the New Creation.  In the name of T Jesus.  Amen.

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