2017-02-05 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“LORD OF THE INTRUSION”
As we enter into today’s Jesus story, the tone gets dark and somber.
Imagine Jesus and his extended circle of disciples and other tag-alongs…possibly 100 of them, dusty, thirsty and hungry, getting close to the village of Nain, a small town 10 km from Jesus’ homebase, Nazareth.
The crowd is noisy and rammy…but they start to quiet down as they meet up with another entourage of people. This is a sad but familiar sight…a widow barely able to walk, distraught with tears and grief, with a parade of supporters at her side. This time it’s even more somber because the body appears to be one of a younger man. The religious funeral is complete and the body is en route to a burial site on the outskirts of town.
Some in Jesus’ crowd recognize the widow…they gasp and say to another, “Isn’t that the widow who only had one son? And now he’s died! It’s just a matter of time for her as well…poor woman, with no future, no hope.
Jesus’ entourage prepares to shuffle by in an awkward silence…trying not to make eye-contact, looking towards the ground rather than staring at the crowd of grieving men and weeping women.
But Jesus does not pass by.
He sees the heart-broken widow and is moved in his gut with compassion.
He raises his hand and motions the mourners to stop.
He looks at the sad and dejected crowd and says:
“BLESSED ARE YOU…who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Then he looks at the widow…
–Woman, do not weep.
He moves toward the uncovered coffin that’s elevated by six pallbearers, he touches the wooden frame and says to the linen-wrapped body:
“Young man, I say to you, rise!”
The dead man sits up and begins to speak. Jesus reaches for his hands and guides him out of the coffin and into the disbelieving embrace of his mother.
Fear seizes the crowd.
Some shout “What kind of authority and power is this? He commands the dead to life?”
Others proclaim “Glory to God in the highest! The Mighty One has done great things!”
Still others cry out “A new Elijah has risen among us!
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favourably on his people!”
And the word of the Lord spread throughout the regions of Galilee.
* * * * * * *
A resurrection story!? 10 weeks before Easter!
17 chapters away from the discovery of the empty tomb!
Perhaps the gospel writer, Luke, knows that we need some hopeful news early in this gospel.
And if you take a sneak peek ahead to last half of chapter 7 you’ll find that even Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, while languishing and losing sight of the big picture in a jail cell, needs confirmation if Jesus is everything he’s cracked up to be.
What about us today…sitting in our pews and seeking to follow Jesus in the midst of our vocations and callings…
Perhaps you have not been in a funeral procession this week…but your life might feel life-less, or hope-less, or list-less…
The good news of today’s story is that Jesus sees you.
Not because you cry out to him.
Not because you reach out to touch the hem of his robe.
Not because of your vibrant faith that makes him so proud of you.
Jesus sees you because he is moved in his gut…with compassion not just for you in your little corner of the world, but he is moved in his gut with compassion for the world. Compassion for the cosmos!
Just a few weeks ago we sang the song of Mary, and perhaps we need to join in on her chorus again:
“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm…
He has lifted up the lowly…
He has filled the hungry with good things.”
Mary didn’t do anything to earn God’s favour.
And neither does today’s weeping widow.
Jesus is Lord of the Intrusion.
Lord of the interruption.
He barges into the saddest, most broken and devastated parts of our lives and says,
“Do not weep.”
I am going to touch the most “busted up” and disappointing places of your life and speak words of resurrection.
I am a mighty Saviour…
I will save you from your enemies, from the grips of those you hate and oppress you…
I will show you mercy,
I will rescue you,
I will forgive you.
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 2:78-79).
And in the wake of Jesus intruding upon our lives…proclaiming his resurrection promises, breathing upon us with the winds of new creation – – we, like today’s raucous crowd, have a positive response to follow in this deathlife story…
(the crowds don’t always respond well to Jesus…remember the last crowd that we talked about? “Let’s hurl him off of the cliff!”)
But today, in the wake of resurrection, the crowd of onlookers is struck with fear…this might be better translated as awe….they were stopped in their tracks….awestruck and gobsmacked…
But they didn’t stop there… they glorified God saying:
“A great prophet has risen among us!”
“God has looked favourably upon his people!”
As we move towards the Table of Our Intruding Lord today…we too have the opportunity to glorify God…to “Eucharisto”… to give thanks…to recognize God’s kindness, grace and presence in our midst and then to respond with hearts full of gratitude and praise.
And as we do…we join the people of God in this city…and around the world…and our prayer is that through us…because of us…and sometimes in spite of us, that the words and deeds of Jesus would spread throughout Edmonton and all the surrounding country.
And I would invite us 1 other way to live in the wake of today’s resurrection story.
–Keep company with Jesus.
Keeping company with Jesus is at the heart of a practice that Eugene Peterson borrows from the poet Wendall Berry when he exhorts us to “Practice Resurrection.”
We live our lives in the practice of what we do not originate and cannot anticipate.
When we practice resurrection, we continuously enter into what is more than we are. When we practice resurrection, we keep company with Jesus, alive and present,
who knows where we are going better than we do,
which is always from glory unto glory.
(Practice Resurrection, p. 8)