Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost The story of the Widow at Nain

2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 5C

Lectionary 10 C

Luke 7:11-17

"Jesus’ Loving Heart"

11* Soon afterward he went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.

12* As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her.

13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

14* And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

15* And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.

16* Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

17 And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.RSV

Grace and peace to your from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Do you remember your high school science class? I do and I remember once certain class when we learned about magnets. Do you remember how we could not make magnets go together with the same ends, but the opposite ends would attract? I also remember using different kinds of metals to see which ones would be attracted to the magnet. I can also remember the teacher asking us to sprinkle steel filling on a piece of paper. They looked like grains of sand scattered over that paper. Then the teacher asked us to take the paper and place it on the top of the magnet. Then something exciting happened. The steel filings all arranged themselves in a beautiful symmetrical pattern. Every particle n the paper seemed to have found its proper place. Out of confusion the magnet brought order.

Our gospel lesson this morning deals with this very subject. Not the steel filings and magnets, but Jesus Christ and the order he can bring to our lives. How scattered and jumbled life seems at times! Just like those steel filings on a piece of paper our lives can be.

How can we reconcile joy and sorrow, love and hate, life and death? How can there be any plan to things? We look at life and wonder how we might be able to make sense out of it? We look at all the brokenness around us and we wonder how do we understand it? How do we fit in? How do we live?

Often we look at life and see all the brokenness, all the tragedy that is around us and we tend to make God the scapegoat for all the world’s misfortune. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes often are seen as signs of God’s judgment. Illness, accidents and death are viewed as being somehow decided by God as he plays games with his human family.

While it is true that God works in all circumstance, it is not true that God wills and decides all of the individual experiences that make up our lives. God does not snuff out the life of an infant or small child. He does not create a tragedy that takes the life of a young person who is struggling towards adulthood. He does not decide that a parent will become a victim of caner and die a slow death leaving a family in anguish and chaos. He does not decide to inflict a person with a chronic and disabling condition just to test that person’s faith. We have not right to blame God for the adversities that come our way. He does not cause death or suffering, but he works in these things that are part of the human condition of sin to bring goodness. He does not place the cross on our shoulders.

Our gospel lesson this morning is about a lady, a widow who lost her only son. We need to understand why this is such a tragedy.

Donald Miller writes about this story this way:

“In this story death is seen at it worst. It had struck a youth, claiming its prey long before the lad had lived out a normal span of years. Death could conceivably be a mercy in old age. But here death had struck a particularly vicious blow taking the only son of a widow. Widows in that day were pitiable in any case for they had no legal right and could not receive any inheritance. They were dependent on their sons or the relatives of there husbands whose support cold not be demanded. The death of her son had left the widow defenseless in a cruel world. With no heir, the family name would be cut off in Israel. Here is the tragedy of humanity at its worse. The widow’s tears were eloquent testimony of the lordship of death. Death had indeed come in a cruel way to this lady.”

Then notice out of the chaos, out of the confusion, out of the disorder, Jesus comes. Jesus was traveling with is disciples and he was coming into the city of Nain. He saw the funeral crowd with the mourners leading the way playing their flutes and cymbals uttering in a kind of frenzy their shrill cries of grief. He knew she as a widow because there were no other men around her and this was there only son lying there on the funeral bier.

So the text says, “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on errand said to her, ‘ Do not be weep’.

Jesus was moved to action because he could sense her pain, her despair, her loneliness, and her utter hopelessness. Jesus was moved to compassion because of his great love, because of sense of caring for the human family that is why he acted.

Jesus went and touched the bier and said, “Young man, I say to you arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak.

The miracle of life as important as it is not the main point of this story. The point is that God through Jesus came to someone in the utter moment of hopelessness and that person, the mother, was given renewed hope. Her life was filled with purpose and meaning as she realized that God cared even for her......she was not alone and forgotten any longer.

We need to look beyond the miracle in this story to the action and heart of Jesus. Notice, the woman didn’t ask Jesus, the woman didn’t even exhibit faith, Jesus was moved to action because of his love, because he understood the brokenness, the utter despair of this woman. Because Jesus understood the brokenness, the utter despair of the woman he acted, he longed to do something.

Because Jesus is the suffering Messiah, because he was a victim on the cross, because he suffered and experienced pain and all the sinfulness of creation on the cross, he knows and can feel with us. He can feel all the brokenness, all the chaos, all the confusion, and all the despair in our lives.

Jesus can reach into our lives with his hand of compassion as he did to that widow at Nain because his heart still aches, his heart still longs, his heart still feels the pain, the heartache, the utter helplessness of his family. Because Jesus suffered, because he experienced what we have experienced, his heart can reach to us as one who knows and as one who has been there.

Jesus feels our brokenness because he has been there. It is like a painter name Joseph Turner. Turner had 123 of his paintings on display at the Ontario Art Gallery in November, December and January of 1981 and 1982. In the local newspaper there was an article concerning one of this paintings. It said, “The sailors were fighting for their lives that night trying to keep their small steamboat from capsizing in the English Channel snowstorm, when a stumpy, scruffy old passenger suddenly demanded to be lashed to the mast. He said he wanted to experience the sea’s full fury so he could paint it. To get him out of their way, they tied him to the crow’s nest and he stayed up there for four hours, tossed by the gale winds and drenched by snow and freezing salt water. And when he got down, he painted the sea as no one ever had before.

Because Jesus on the cross felt the full fury of sinfulness and brokenness that is part and parcel of our lives, He can come to us and give us a measure of His grace and peace. Life is not a lonely journey that we struggle sometimes desperately to make by ourselves. Jesus comes to recharge our spiritual batteries just when we feel them to be dead and incapable of being recharged. We are the most opened to feeling the power of God’s intervention in our lives when we feel the most hopeless and alone.

When we are in the throes of grief and despair, we want a Saviour who will come and be with us. Jesus being with us is all that is required. A presence.

Joe Bayly in his book, View From A Hearse says that one of the best contributions we can make to a person going through intense suffering and loss is our presence without words, not even verses of Scripture dumped into the ears of the grieving. He said: Don’t try to "prove" anything to a survivor. An arm about the shoulder, a firm grip of the hand, a kiss: these are the proofs grief needs, not logical reasoning.

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true.

I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.

I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

He just sat beside me for an hour or more. That is what we need when we are in the grips of despair and grief. No words, no lecture, no explanation, just a presence, the presence of Christ through another. The presence of Christ through another, or the presence of Christ through the Spirit working with our Spirit to bring us a measure of his grace.

A closing story speaks about this presence.

An elderly man sat on a park bench one afternoon late in the fall. The air was cold, but he had been shopping on foot for 2 hours, ached, he needed to put down his parcels and rest a little before heading for home. He was never prone to feel sorry for himself, but he felt a loneliness in the cold busts of wind and the thoughts of returning to his now empty house did not excite him. He stared a this large, round hands as he worked them back and forth between his knees.

Suddenly a smaller hand, pink and chubby, was placed on top of his own. He jerked his head back and said, "hi-yah" in a bit of a raspy voice.

Then he got to his fee, took the child by the hand and let it gently back to its mother who stood smiling just a few paces away.

"Thank you," the mother said, ’He has just learned to walk and has to race over and greet everyone."

The man smiled, nodded, then hefted his packages and started for home. The ache was gone now. So was the loneliness. Memories of a chubby hand and a grinning face warmed hims. And just a few minutes before, he had possess no idea of how close he was to this particular experience of joy."


Written by Pastor Tim Zingale June 4, 2007