Pentecost 2C – A Very Ordinary Day
June 5, 2010
It is just an ordinary day in an ordinary town called Nain.
Let’s just say it is a Tuesday or a Thursday –
not at the beginning of the week, and not at the end of the week.
Maybe it is – say – in the month of June.
No particular celebrations to think about this month.
No special holidays or festivals to prepare for.
Pentecost is over.
The high holy days are months away.
It isn’t a remarkable day.
It isn’t an unusual day.
It is a day like most days – a very ordinary day.
And very ordinary things are happening on that day.
Some people are at work – in the fields or in the shops or at home.
Others are out doing errands – at the market maybe.
Children who are too young to be in the fields, are outside playing –
we can sometimes hear their squeals of laughter.
The elderly who are too old to be in the fields, are catching up on news
or doing mending or tinkering around the barns –
we can sometimes hear the pounding of a hammer.
And then amidst the peaceful, joyful, workaday hum in the air,
a very different sound becomes audible.
It’s not so pleasant or peaceful.
It is the sound of weeping and mourning.
Wails of grief are heard.
The trudging of sandals plodding along becomes louder and louder.
Occasional grunts are heard as the men carrying the body shift the weight
and try to maneuver it over the rough ground.
Those who are in town look and see the woman
who is the mother of the young man who has died.
They glance briefly at the funeral procession
and then turn their eyes away in shame…
knowing all too well that the woman who is also a widow,
now has been given her own dismal life sentence.
She will be poor – destitute even.
Her only son, having died, she has no means of support.
It is a woman’s worst nightmare.
And lest we think that those days are long gone,
Pastor Mumabuku of Tanzania studying this past year at
the Lutheran seminary here in Gettysburg
tells about the plight of widows in his native country.
Like in many countries, widowhood in Tanzania is often really a living death.
It means being shunned because of superstition.
It means a lifetime of poverty and loneliness.
Even in the United States,
poverty if not necessarily a ‘widow disease’ is often a ‘female disease.’
Households headed by women have far greater poverty rates
than those headed by men.
So the townspeople of Nain,
as they consider this scene,
…say a prayer that it won’t happen to them
or to one of their daughters…
..they feel regret
that they can’t do anything about her predicament…
I have no doubt that the townspeople are moved by her plight.
I don’t think the paid mourners are the only ones weeping and wailing.
I think the compassion of her neighbors is real.
In the true sense of the word “compassion,” I think the townspeople
“suffer with” the widow who had lost her son –
just as we have compassion and “suffer with”
the poor, the hungry, and the homeless in our world.
Just as we say a prayer that it won’t happen to us,
or to one of our children..
Just as we feel regret,
that it doesn’t seem we can do anything about their predicament.
A large crowd gathers around the widow.
And then Jesus appears.
He too has compassion for the widow.
He too “suffers with” her.
But he does more than gather around with the crowd.
He does something unheard of.
He approaches the body of the young man,
and touches the bier where it lays.
Picture the bier more like a hammock than a casket.
Jesus touches it and the people carrying it
are so amazed, that they stop in their tracks!
How dare someone touch the bier of a dead body!
Superstition made it at the least a bad omen.
Purity laws made it even illegal.
Common sense made it just not a good idea!
Jesus overrules superstition, purity laws, and even common sense,
and is moved by compassion to touch the bier.
“Young man, “ he says, “I say to you, rise!”
And then the dead man sits up and speaks!
Those still in town hear a different sound now!
Wailing turns to laughing!
Mourning turns to dancing!
It is not really a very ordinary day.
They’ve just seen a miracle!
Jesus does more than just see the widow’s plight.
He does more than just feel compassion for her.
He is moved to go against superstition, law, and even common sense,
to bring light and life where there is so much darkness and death.
Where are we being held back by superstition
from allowing our compassion to be transformed into action?
Where are we being held back by some sort of modern day purity law,
from allowing ourselves to be moved to a deeper response?
Where are we being held back by what others would say is common sense,
from allowing ourselves to be fully engaged in the suffering of others?
There is no such thing as an ordinary day.
There is no such thing as a day in which we can go about our business
without being touched by the pain in this world.
There are miracles!
And sometimes the miracle is that we choose to do something.