Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sermon for 9/19/10--Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

Do Not Weep
Luke 7:11-17

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you’ve ever been to a funeral, you’ve probably heard someone try to offer comfort with the words, “Death is a natural part of life.” It’s a noble effort, but it’s not the truth. The truth is, we were not created to die. In fact, it is distressing and un-natural when body and soul, which God has joined together, are separated; when the breath of life which God breathed into us departs; and the body which God created from dust once again returns to dust.

It is into that unnatural separation that Jesus places Himself in our text. Jesus met the widow as she came out of the city. She had already lost her husband, and now she has lost her only son. In other words, this is a woman who is alone. A great crowd of people who wanted look at her grief and pain followed her. But she was alone. In that day and age there was no Social Security or 401k plans. Her security was in her family. But her husband had died, and now her only son, the only one who could take care of her, was also gone.

Jesus met the funeral procession coming out of the city. Life meets death. He spoke to the widow and dried her tears; and then He raised her son from the dead. The Jews of the day were astonished: some feared, and others could hardly believe it. But why should we wonder at this great miracle? Our Lord Himself said, “The hour will come when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live”; and the Apostle Paul adds the words, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible.”

What is this trumpet that declares war against hell, rolls back the stone from the tomb, and gives to all as they rise from their graves victory amidst light everlasting? What is it? It is the voice that Jesus mentioned above: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.” This is not the voice of a trumpet made of brass or something else, with a mournful call to War; rather, it is the Voice that comes from the heart of the Father, from the mouth of the Son, the call to life to those who are in heaven and in hell on earth.

There are times in this life when we feel alone. Things like television and internet social networking sites have made it possibly for us to be doing the same thing at the same time—and even to be communicating with other people—yet still be alone. That is what this life does to us at times. We put on masks and pretend that everything is good, everything is perfect. And yet right underneath the surface is the deep sadness of knowing that you are trapped in your own sins and boxed in by the world around you. Like this widow, a tragedy may hit us, and the sorrow just seems to keep coming. Her son was dead; her husband was already dead; she was destitute. Like the widow from our Old Testament lesson, she was ready to go home and die.

So what did Jesus do for this poor woman? He had compassion on her. Remember that word? It was the word that the Good Samaritan used for the one left for dead on the road. Jesus had compassion on her; He was moved from the very depths of His being to help her. So He said to her, “Do not weep.” Now when we are faced with death, it is very easy to want to try and put on a mask and act as if nothing bad had happened. That’s what we want to do. We want to deny death; we want to make it into something else. We want to say that death is just another path to another life, or reincarnation or something else. But death is not that. Death is the result of sin; for as St. Paul said: “The wages of sin is death.”

Now Jesus knew this, and He loved both her and her dead son, so He said to her “Don’t weep.” Jesus doesn’t say this because he wants her to forget her son. If He had left it at that, it would have been cruel. Everyone else could only stand by and watch, but Jesus could help. And He did. He went to the coffin and touched it. He touched the open coffin. Now in the Jewish world, that was bordering on blasphemy. A dead body is unclean, and is not to be handled. But Jesus, the giver of Life, is not afraid of death. He knows that He has the power over life and death; and so He touched the open coffin to show the widow and all those around who was really in charge.

So Jesus touched the coffin and spoke to the young man as though he were still alive. After all, what is dead in our eyes may be very different for God. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Arise! And the one who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

You see, that’s how God works. God is always raising us up from the dead. Jesus is always doing the unexpected, and His timing is always perfect. Not only did He raise her son up from the dead, but He did it when it seemed as though there was no hope, no possibility of a future or anywhere else to turn.

But that’s God’s work, isn’t it? God is always raising us up from the dead and bringing us back to life. God’s Word of life and forgiveness does that. When Jesus forgives your sin, it is as if you are raised up from the dead once again! That’s what Baptism is. Your baptism was your death and resurrection. And it is because of that death and resurrection in water and Word that you can now stand up and speak God’s praises for life and salvation.

We have heard the voice of the Son of God when He called out to us in Baptism. And there will come a day when we will hear His voice again, and He will call us forth from death into life. That voice, that trumpet of God, is the great voice of our loving Savior who never leaves you, who knows just what you need and when you need it. That voice, those words will turn your tears into joy. That voice calls you to a new life, a life lived in Him and for Him, for He knows what you need and He will give it to you. So we can pray with the Psalmist, “For great is your mercy toward me, for You have delivered my soul from the depths of Hell.”

That voice of God calls out to you with words of mercy and forgiveness. The voice of Jesus calms your fears, sets your heart at rest, and raises you up from whatever onslaughts Satan has thrown upon you. God is the only one who can deliver you; and He does, again and again and again. He can even raise you up from the dead. Like the young man in our story, you are His child. And He will raise you up also. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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