Year C Proper 5 Luke 7
How to Rise above Discouragement
No, this scene was at once more primitive and personal. No city traffic to contend with in this procession. No indifferent motorists disturbed that they were delayed a few minutes for the funeral. No, this is a village scene, people on foot, following the widowed mother who is following the professional mourners with their cymbals, flutes and high-pitched shrieking and wailing.
It is a Palestinian village scene in Nain, just a short distance from Nazareth (Jesus' hometown), and a day's walk from Capernaum (Jesus' new, adopted town). The pallbearers are carrying the body of a young man in a long wicker basket covered by a shroud for burial outside the city. Except for very important people, ancient Jews buried their dead outside the city, usually on the day of death or the next day. Embalming was not practiced.
For modern, indifferent eyes and blasé people, the scene was dramatic enough by itself. Think of it: the dead man was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. The pathos and sorrow of the ages is contained in that statement. In a patriarchal society orphans, such as this young man, and widows, like his mother, were regarded as vulnerable, weak and without much opportunity for economic support. Nonetheless, a great crowd followed the procession, indicating sympathy and support at least for the time being.
That's drama enough -- a large crowd of caring people -- but now there is more. Jesus approaches, apparently coming from Capernaum where he just healed the Roman Centurion's slave. He saw the widowed, desolate mother, had compassion for her, thinking perhaps of his own mother reputedly widowed at an early age.
"Do not weep," he told her. Her tears for her son no doubt now intermingling with the endless salty tears shed for her husband. And in the continuing drama risking ceremonial impurity, he reached out, touched the bier and possibly the body, and the procession halted.
Can you see the modern setting -- someone halting the hearse, opening the door of the limousine, telling the widowed mother in mourning black not to weep, and then saying beside the coffin, "Young man, I say to you, arise." Startling indeed, and startling enough in first century Palestine which had a tradition of miracle stories of great prophets like Elijah and Elisha raising widows' sons from the dead. And the young man sat up and began to speak, and like Elijah and Elisha before Jesus, the new great prophet gave the son back to his mother.
Talk about rising above discouragement! Talk about overcoming the greatest obstacle to human fulfillment. Talk about overcoming life's defeats: this was it -- Jesus raising this young man from the dead as he had Jairus' daughter and Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha.
He didn't raise everybody physically from the dead of course, just as he didn't heal everybody. But what he did do then and still does today, is to help everyone rise above discouragement. And that's where we focus today -- rising above discouragement.
- We Must Not Deny Reality
- We Must Consider the Alternatives
- We Must Allow Ourselves to Be Touched by Christ
Are You Paying Too Much For Your Whistle?
What is the first thing you remember buying with your own hard-earned money? Can you remember what it was?
Every kid has had some longed-for, worked-for, saved-for dream. For me as a kid it was a scratch-built Indie race car made out of plywood. I can still see it in my mind's eye today. I went to sleep at night deciding what colors I would paint it — when I wasn't striking out every batter in the New York Yankees lineup. I knew that such a car would make me happy forever.
I never got it.
But the things we did save up for and get as a kid? How'd that work for you? Did life's earliest purchases always work out well?
The ninja warrior "action figure" doesn't actually DO anything. Bummer.
The BB gun jams and never fires again after the first six shots. Bummer.
The sea monkeys float in the water for a minute then sink into the silt never to be seen again. Bummer.
Benjamin Franklin never forgot the first purchase he ever made. It was a tin whistle. When he was a little child he saw it in a store window and coveted it, and finally got the money and went and bought it. Almost as soon as he had purchased it, he knew he had been cheated. It had cost him too much. It wasn't worth what he had paid for it.
But if he paid too much for the whistle, he didn't pay too much for the lesson it taught him. It stayed with him all through his life. And ever after he would look at men and women, friends and acquaintances, politicians and statesmen, absorbed in the pursuit of power, or of fame, or of wealth, and see that they were all getting too little for what it was costing them. Never one to be shy, Ben would say to them, "You are paying too much for your whistle!"
How much are you paying for your whistle? The first lesson in Economics 101 should be that everything in life comes at a cost. Everything exacts a price.
Want to get into a great college?
Start spending your hours and days studying hard, investing in knowledge, compounding your cognitive abilities.
Want the best-looking lawn on the block?
Start feeding the grass, researching nutrients, mowing, watering, mulching, aerating. The cost will be time, sweat equity, and not a little moolah.
Want your family -- your marriage, your children, your relatives -- to be strong and whole and healthy?
It doesn't just happen by happenstance. You have to make special time for each person you love. You have to listen to each concern and care about every problem. You have to watch Barbie go shopping instead of the basketball game. You have to be able to know the names of the Jonas brothers and the four kinds of Pokemon and how to find out anything about anyone on Facebook.
Life costs. The question of life is this: is the whistle you are investing in worth it? And if it is, how high a cost are you ultimately willing to pay for your whistle?
The apostle Paul paid a lot for his "whistle." Eventually he paid the ultimate price. Actually, Paul bought two "whistles" in his life — and he paid a heavy price for both...