Grace, Mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Our sermon for this 3rd Sunday after Pentecost comes from the Gospel of Luke just read.
I remember a simpler time. I was 10, it was 1988, summers were filled with sunshine, neighbor kids and I would spend all day playing in the dirt and mud. Life wasn’t simpler because it was the 80’s, it wasn’t simpler because I was a child. That summer, for the Piedmont South Dakota 4th of July celebration my mother entered my sister and I into the parade that kicked off the days festivities. What a glorious time! Fire engines roared their sirens, people cheered and waved at you, and the candy, of the candy! All I had to do was follow the fire trucks… that was my charge; turn when they turn, stop when they stop, wave at the people they wave at and most of all….. SMILE!
In our Gospel text for today there were parades too. One a parade of death, a funeral procession of a young man, the son of a widow that proceeded through the streets of Nain. But we ought not forget the other parade… the parade of people who followed the Lord of Life, even our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we grow older the parades of our lives change don’t they? Where once fire trucks with sirens blaring caused great awe, we now pray for those whom those trucks go to save. And as Christians in our modern day, rather than waving and smiling crowds who in times passed were so happy to see us, today the crowds of popular sentiment scream against the Children of God and indeed God Himself. Today, in so many ways the parades are the parades of despair, confusion, parades of death, parades where joy has been sucked away, and the drudgery of everyday life, circumstances of society etc have taken over. And so it is, dear Christians, that we must face reality, times are different, and the simpler parades of our youth have given way to the more arduous parades of life this side of heaven.
This side of heaven, ours is a parade of death, not unlike the one we see happening in Nain… a parade of sorrow, a parade of hopelessness, a parade of little to no happiness and very little joy a parade that for every soul born into this world proceeds to death, there’s no escaping it, that end… like it was for the widows husband and son, will meet us all, it is the truth of our fallen world.
In our text…
Professional mourners would have been employed to rightly set the mood for the funeral procession. Weeping and wailing would have been heard through the city streets. What’s more, the body of the young man, death itself would have been on display for everyone to see, this funeral procession would have been one of utter despair. A widow… husbandless, childless, mourning, agonizing not just of the last remnant of her past being laid to death, but for uncertainty her future. She would have mourned because she despaired of what would happen to her as a widow in that society. There would have been the question: who would take care of her now? And isn’t this such a common cry of our day? Who will take care of us in unemployment, in our sicknesses and diseases, who will look out for we whose pensions and medical care have been stifled, and as Christians we so often ask who will take care of me as I take care of others?
Who will take care of us? Who can guard us and protect us, indeed give us hope and certainty in the midst of the parades of death that prevail in our society? Who comforts those who mourn parades of dead and aborted children who died at the hands of the false god of Choice? Who shall comfort us as the parades of the death of marriage, man and a woman, are undermined by infidelity and sin of all kinds. Who shall give us certainty and hope as parades of death, hasten the death of the terminally sick and elderly who suffer. And that’s not even to mention the trials and tribulations that you have gone through individually where you have faced; death, suffering, trials and temptations, parades of death that encircle you this very day.
Death is on display in every facet of our life, in many ways we mourn the way they did that day in Nain. We weep over the loss of life, the reality of sickness, disease and death and often we lack hope. In other ways, unlike the funeral in Nain, our response is often one of resigned acceptance, “that’s just the way things are now,” and in this thinking we often look to create our own false versions of hope; so often we give ourselves over to the thought that “we might as well just embrace it,” whatever the it is.
Dear Christians, dear baptized, we live in a culture of death; and in so many ways we have been told, indeed taught that death is our ally, a workable asset to employ when suffering becomes more than we can or want to bear and it is in the midst of this our text for today reminds us of the truth; death is never an ally, sin is still separation from God and a turning in of oneself on oneself, and the Devil is still seeking to devour us, to make us throw our hands up in despair and hopelessness and say… it’s just not worth fighting anymore. Dear Christians, although our life this side of heaven is fraught with suffering, conundrums and seeming hopelessness it is a fight worth fighting… indeed the battle, the war has already been won! Christ is victorious; life has conquered death, truth has and always will defeat falsehood, and the parade of death this side of heaven will end and even now this truth is real for you.
Dear Christians, remember the funeral procession of that day in Nain but remember even more keenly the other procession, the procession of the faithful who followed the Lord of Life. See today dear Christians a procession, headed by the Lord of Life that stepped right into the procession of death; Walks right up to that dead body that symbolized all human death, all human sin and especially the death that Jesus Himself would die, and speaks; “Arise” What then happens? The dead man rises up. And the crowd who has despaired of any hope, who saw nothing other than death were seized. Luke reminds us; Fear seized them all. Rightly so. For the man they had seen as a body just seconds before was now standing and speaking. And the crowds reaction? They glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Brother’s and sister’s the same is still happening in the midst of our parade of death. Jesus walks into the midst of the death procession that we all walk this side of heaven, and speaks the same word to you and me, Arise!
What makes this so surprising, indeed so fearful is the fact that we have become so deceived, beleaguered tricked into the believing that the parade of death only leads to death. And so it is that when our Lord comes into the midst of the parade of death this side of heaven, we simply can’t believe it.
As Christians we long for transcendence over and above suffering, a transcendence away from the pains and hardships don’t we? Something that will raise us up above the parade we find ourselves in this side of heaven, and too often we are deceived to mis-belief that within the parade of death that the task of transcendence belongs to us; and so we look for happiness to replace joy, we look for quick fixes, we mask death, look the other way, pretend that it doesn’t happen, or at least shouldn’t happen, and there’s more truth to this than you might know. None of this was supposed to be, God did not create death, indeed He did not create sin, yet sin has entered the world, and has thrown us into perpetually sinful thinking, thoughts and actions; Paul said it best after realizing the stark truth of sin in this world in Romans 7; the good I wish to do I do not do, that which I know to be good is not that which I do, if ever there was a man who uttered true words of despair in the face of the parade of death in this world it was Paul. And He asks this question: Who shall save me from this body of death? If only Jesus could burst in to this procession of death in the same way that he did that day in Nain, then we would spread his word to the others like they did in our gospel lesson, if only, then we could be at peace, we could experience joy and surely reports about Him would spread through the whole of (our) Judea and all the surrounding country.
Dear Christians, dear children…. He does. Today your Lord has broken into the procession of death of this world, He has broken into the sin and present darkness of this dying world, into the sins of your very life, into the guilt and shame that plagues you, He has touched you, has spoken to you. You who were once dead in sin and trespass, you, once dead in doubt, faithlessness, hopelessness and despair, have had the hand of God almighty come down and touch you, ARISE dear child were His words to you.
Today you heard these very words… Arise, dear children from your guilt and shame your sins have been forgiven!
Arise, dear children I, life incarnate have come to you the baptized, touched you with my hand, touched you with water and by the hands of the man I have sent to bestow life to you! (He has spoken to little VanTuyl these words, Arise from the sin that you have been brought into this world with, arise from the certainty of eternal death that that sin brings and LIVE! And then with those words, Christ then provides all good things for His baptized children to live both this side of heaven and for the next.
Arise dear children from the parade of life which leads to death, for death has been conquered, sin has been conquered, and He, your dear Lord has not left you alone for He gives Himself also to you in body and blood, for the forgiveness of your sins, that you may taste life, indeed, that you might have life, joy and peace. As the parade of death approaches its end, hear that your Lord has placed you onto the road of life that passes through death to eternal life which is yours already because of Him.
Life was simpler for me in the 80’s, not because Reagan was president but because I was a child. Behold, your Lord has spoken to you, young and old, you who are tattered and broken, you who can see no end, no transcendence and no hope and He has given Himself to you dear children of God, that you might know indeed share now in the joy that is Christ Jesus, you have been placed by baptism into the parade of life, life eternal. Here is joy that transcends sorrow and sadness, joy and certainty that guards and keeps your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, joy that brings you through the darkest days of this present veil of tears to the foot of the cross that your Lord hung and died on for you, that you might not taste death but rather that you might have life in Him, and have it abundantly now and forever more. There is reason to smile with certainty dear children of God! There is cause for you to rejoice! Your names are written in the Lord’s book of life, Death has met its end in Christ your Lord, sin has been crushed, and Satan is bleeding to death in the stinky crevasse of deceit and lies. Christ is yours, you are His! In this is joy, in this is hope, in this is life, your life, and it is a life that shall never end.