Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Still early in this season of Pentecost, we sit and look over Paul’s shoulder as he writes a letter to the believers in the churches of Galatia. Our lectionary guide directs our attention to Paul’s solid awareness that the gospel he proclaims is not any human fabrication, “for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal.1:11,12). Paul goes on to quote what is being said about him: “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (1:23) This man, once known as Saul—a strict Pharisee—had been violent in his opposition to those who followed Jesus; he sought them out, had them arrested, imprisoned and even put to death. But Jesus encountered him, and Saul knew for the first time that this Jesus whom he had tried to eradicate, was indeed the Messiah. Saul changed; his whole life would never be the same. He became known as Paul, the one who now proclaims Jesus, and tells the good news of how Jesus rescues us from captivity to sin and death, and brings us in the family of God. What a huge transformation! And this transformation – this compete make-over – was not of human origin. It was because of Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ that he was brought from death to life.
The lectionary readings also lead us into Luke’s gospel, where we find ourselves accompanying Jesus, his disciples and a crowd who follows him, as they approach the gate of a town called Nain. As we walk toward the gate, another entourage is walking toward us, exiting the gate of this town. It is a funeral procession: a man being carried on a funeral bier, followed by his mother—weeping because this was her only son, and she is a widow. With her is also a large crowd from the town, companioning her in her grief, loneliness, and loss.
Death walks toward us; catches us; reminds us that we are powerless to halt this slow march we are all on–toward dying and death. The mother is especially at risk. Her husband and the young man’s father, has already died. She is a widow–-and now her only son, her only means of support has also been taken from her.
Jesus notices this funeral procession, and his eyes come to rest on the grieving mother, weeping as she walks. Moved with compassion he calls out to her, “Do not weep.” Then, walking toward her, he reaches out and touches the bier where the dead man lays.
Those who are bearing the dead body stand still.
The crowd we are in stands still. The crowd following the bier comes to a halt. Quite suddenly our attention is drawn into this still space. Our journey into the town of Nain is on hold because Jesus has reached out and touched the vehicle which carries the dead. Jesus has crossed over, and joined those caught in the death march. And now all stand still, side by side, in this newly created space of stillness around Jesus.
As we watch and listen, Jesus speaks into the silence—but not to us, nor the bier tenders and the crowd behind them, nor the widow. He speaks to the man who is dead: “Young man, I say to you, rise!” And he hears! He sits up! And he begins to speak! Jesus has spoken into the sphere of the dead, and been heard. Death cannot hold captive those whom Jesus calls back to life. Jesus is bringing the new “order” of life, the gracious and life-giving kingdom of God, among us. It is here, in this newly created space just outside the city gate at Nain, breathing and speaking in the life of this young man. Here as Jesus returns this only son to his mother, a widow.
The shock of this kingdom reality seizes us, jolts us into seeing Jesus in a new way: here is one who brings the dead back to life. The long, slow death march is halted, and changed!
As we stay on the road, following Jesus this side of Pentecost, we know we are also on this side of the resurrection. Jesus has won the great battle against sin and death. We are no longer captive and enslaved by death. Death is now a doorway into life – with the promise that our bodies will one day be transformed, restored to us, for-ever changed.
Jesus continues to speak into the realm of death in this world, calling all persons back to life: a life of being given back to each other, of caring and supporting each other.
A life in which we recognize Jesus for who he truly is among us, and in which we bask in the gracious kindness of God.
For your reflection:
In what ways are you aware of Jesus calling you – inviting you into life, rather than
the hold of death-dealing ways and habits, memories?
As you listen to Jesus’ call on your life, in what way do you find yourself being nudged to stop and see those around you – caught in the death march of the world’s economy –help? As you stop and see, in what way is Jesus calling you to reach out and touch those around you, offering care and mutual support within the gracious new order of God?
Third Sunday after Pentecost
6/3 Monday: Luke 7:11-17
6/4 Tuesday: Luke 7:11-17
6/5 Wednesday: Psalm 30
6/6 Thursday: 1 Kings 17:8-24
6/7 Friday: Galatians 1:11-24
6/8 Saturday: Luke 7:11-17
6/9 Sunday: Luke 7:11-17