Sunday, February 5, 2017
Biblical Text: Luke 7:11-17
The funeral had already been underway. The community had gathered to pay there respects, and hear the a word from the religious leader about having hope even as warm tears stream down the faces of a people made sad by the weight of their grief.
They had said goodbye to the young son.
A young man
- somewhere between the ages of 24-40;
- who no doubt had his whole life before him;
- unmarried and without children;
- who carried the responsibilities of the household when daddy left;
And here they were, headed to the gravesite—
- the place where they would lay the young man,
- the place where they would come to remember his life,
- the place where cry countless,
- the place where he would be at rest until the Messiah came in power & glory,
From New York City, to Ferguson to Chicago to Phoenix to El Cajon…we know all too well this story of young men being taken away from families. We know all too well this story of young men, with lives full and robust before being wiped away—and leaving a community of grieving black women—a gathering of women who Sabrina Martin as simply called “A CIRCLE OF MOTHERS” to carry on their lives with the void. With her son’s dead body being carried out of the city to the graveyard, the widowed woman was being welcomed not only the “Circle of Mothers” even while she already in the “Circle of Wives.”
With the help of good biblical scholars, we know with the death of her husband left her in difficult position. In societies that are rooted and anchored in patriarchy, that is when men have power over women and often construct positions and policies to keep women from being able to be independent, there would have been little to nothing left for women like the widow we find here in the text. If her husband was blessed enough to have acquired some form of wealth, it would not have been passed on her, but it would have been passed on her first born son—and if there were no son, the family wealth and estate would have been returned to the husband’s family of origin. What good biblical scholars help us to identify here in the text is that the tears that the woman’s shed are indeed wrapped in the frustrating pain, sorrow and weight of grief—they too are comingled with hopelessness for the future. What would she do? Where would she go? How would she survive? Who would extend a kind hand of compassion and welcome her in…
Can I be real for a moment?
And can I really talk about what happens before our public displays of grief?
The greater majority of families have difficult with grief.
They hang up on each other.
They curse one another out
They turn their backs on one another
They forget that they are family.
And Lord, if there is something left….
They fight over nickels and dimes.
They fight over diamonds and pearls.
They fight over scarves and dresses
They fight over sports jerseys and bow-ties
And Jesus hold the mule if there is a car or a house……
And I ask the family—-tell me, Brother Brian’s favorite scripture…
And I ask the family—-tell me, Sister Cynthia’s favorite hymn….
All of this is stirring inside the widow and childless woman, who is bent over and weeping bitterly by the life that has been strung together before her…
And yet my sister and brothers there is another crowd that is moving: A crowd that is filled with joy and anticipation; a crowd that has been following Jesus on what might amount to a day-long journey where he has been teaching and healing folks of all manner of dis-ease. This crowd is rugged group of Jesus groupies—who have very little in common other than the fact that they believe in Jesus. They are a mixed bag racially ethnically and cultural—yet they are altogether on accord believing in Jesus for their future and relying on God clothed in humanity who stands before them today….
Following Jesus from this healing of this centurion’s servant.
Following Jesus from his message on the plain
Following Jesus from his message about not judging others
Following Jesus from his message about not condemning others.
Following Jesus from his teaching about loving enemies.
Following Jesus as he taught about true discipleship
Taking the plank of our own eye, before removing speak in somebody else.
This rag-tag group has been following Jesus and excitedly they reach the city gate where they encounter this group who had been made sad by their sorrow.
Jesus could have ignored the women.
Jesus could have even her empty platitude.
Jesus could have simply quote scripture and kept his joy-filled crowd moving.
“Death represents the limit of human autonomy and control over life and poses for everyone a reminder of the frailty and brevity of life.”
In the face of this family’s grieve Jesus could’ve stepped aside and kept silence.
But, as R. Allen Culpepper suggest, if our “religious has nothing to say to this grieving widow” it has nothing to say at all!
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, this widows sorrow…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, her reluctance about the future…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, her fears…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, her hesitancy…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, the needs of homeless…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, the needs of refugees…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, the needs of the immigrant…
If our faith cannot meet with compassion, the needs of orphans….
If our “religious has nothing to say to this grieving widow”
it has nothing to say at all
….but thank God our faith speaks to this woman: “Do not grieve”
Thank God our faith speaks to things are dead, and give life in place of death
Rise, and take breath in your body
Rise, and hold your mother
Rise, and witness to the power of God.
Rise, and give testimony of what God is able to do.
Rise, and tell somebody about God’s unfailing—love
 R. Allen Culpepper, New Interpreters Bible Commentary, 158.
 Ibid., 159.