Sermon: Pentecost V RCL C – "Do not weep!"

Luke 7:11-17

Soon after healing the centurion’s slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Walking up to a department store’s fabric counter, an attractive young woman said, “I want to buy this material for a new dress. How much does it cost?”… “Only one kiss per yard,” replied the smirking male clerk…. Not to be taken back by the harassment, the woman said, “That’s fine! I’ll take ten yards.”… With expectation and anticipation written all over his face, the clerk hurriedly measured out and wrapped the cloth, then held it out teasingly, leaning forward to receive his “payment.”… The woman snapped up the package and pointed to a little old man standing beside her. “Grandpa will pay the bill,” she smiled.

I suppose we all experience disappointment to one degree or another everyday… it might be something as trivial as not getting what we ordered at a restaurant.. or something more serious such as a setback at work or bad news from the Doctor.. or even disappointment in another person… 

Years ago in Germany, there was a young Jewish boy who had a profound sense of admiration for his father. His family’s life centered on the acts of piety and devotion prescribed by their religion. The father was zealous in attending worship and religious instruction, and he demanded the same from his children. … While the boy was a teenager, the family was forced to move to another town in Germany. There was no synagogue in the new town, and the pillars of the community all belonged to the Lutheran church. Suddenly the father announced to the family that they were going to abandon their Jewish traditions and join the Lutheran church. When the stunned family asked why, the father explained that changing religions was necessary to help his business. … The youngster was bewildered and confused. His deep disappointment soon gave way to anger and a kind of intense bitterness that plagued him throughout his life. That disappointed son, disillusioned by his father’s lack of integrity, eventually left Germany and went to England to study. He sat daily at the British Museum, formulating various ideas and writing a book. In that work, he introduced an entirely new world-view, envisioning a movement that would change the social and political systems of the world.  Drawing from past experiences with his father, he described religion as an “opiate for the masses” that could be explained totally in terms of economics and personal gain. … Today, millions of people still live under the system invented by this disappointed man, and millions more suffered under previous regimes that incorporated its values. His name, of course, was Karl Marx, and his idea was communism. And it all began with his father’s misuse of the name of God for the sake of profit and his disappointment in that.

Marx experienced disappointment that led to a great bitterness.. and that bitterness literally led to the murder of hundreds of thousands… but where does this disappointment come from… I would suggest to you that our disappointments are the direct result of our expectations – you order something at a restaurant.. and that is what you expect to receive… you do a good job..and you expect a reward… you put your faith in someone… and you expect them to behave according to your expectations… when it doesn’t work out that way.. we are disappointed… We even do this in our relationship with God…

When you say your prayers.. do you come with some sort of expectation.. some result that you expect to be accomplished by God?… Of course you do.. we all do… We know exactly what we need and we know exactly how we want God to handle the situation… when He doesn’t we wonder why.. and we are disappointed… yet God.. is not in the business of disappointing… for when we place our expectation – our hope – in God.. it’s not like we say our prayers with our fingers crossed for good luck… When we hope in God.. we come believing.. knowing that he will work in us those things that are best… 

As St.Peter writes in his first epistle.. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”… God has given us new birth into a living hope… that phrase “living hope” can also be translated as an “ever living expectation.”… it is a hope.. that no matter the outcome of our expectations.. we don’t have to give up or be disappointed.

Jesus makes this point to us in our Gospel reading today… We are told that Jesus went to the city of Nain.. and there.. at the gates of the city he meets a funeral procession… behind the young man that was being borne out of the city.. was a great crowd… their hopes and expectations for this young man have been dashed.. they had place their hopes in what they could see.. in what they knew.. in what they thought would come of him.. but now the boy was dead… yet.. we know that our faith that comes from Christ is believing in what we cannot see.. what we cannot know – as St. Paul writes, “We walk – we follow Jesus – by faith and not by sight”… our faith is in the Risen Lord.. and so.. it is into this parade of death.. this funeral procession that Jesus – the Risen Lord – comes… 

First he goes to the mother of the boy and says.. “Do not weep.”… then he goes to the funeral bier and speaks to the dead boy… “Young man, I say to you, rise!”.. and the living boy sat up and began to speak.. and Jesus gave him to his mother.
The crowd.. the mother.. and even the boy himself.. had expectations for his life… and when those expectations were not met..there was disappointment… there was death… but it was into these dashed hopes and disappointments – into this death – that Jesus came and spoke “Life”…

The same is true with us… we have these expectations of the world around us.. of others.. and even of ourselves… and so often those expectations lead us to disappointment.. hurt feelings.. and dashed dreams… but it is at those times that Jesus walks into our lives and says to us, “Do not weep.”.. Do not weep!.. and then he proceeds to speak to us words of life… giving us a hope and a confidence that even though our worldly desires were not met.. that we are disappointed.. God’s perfect plan is still fulfilled.

That is our hope and our confidence… At the Annunciation, when the angel of the Lord told Mary that she we would give birth to the Son of God, she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”  Our hope.. our confidence.. our faith allows us to speak those same words to Our Father.. let it be done to me according to thy will… it allows us to say to the world, “Bring it! I may not know what is coming or what will happen, but I know that no matter the outcome.. my Lord Jesus will speak life.. because not only is Jesus the way.. and not only is he the truth.. but he is also the life.”.. and he speaks his life into our greatest disappointments.. and allows us to live his most perfect plan. 

It doesn’t mean that we aren’t still going to be disappointed .. that we won’t be hurt.. that from our perspective, things won’t go horribly wrong… but God does say.. in the midst of those disappointments.. hurts and wrongs.. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you… I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

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