widows, questions, & movement: responding to racism & hatred (part 2)
god be with you
So if you were away last Sunday
or just joining us for the first time today,
last week we decided to take a break from what we had originally planned on talking about til the end of August in order to do something we all felt we needed to do:
and that was to sit with the tension we’ve all been experiencing and rumbling with since the violence in Charlottesville,
this violence that forced us to shed our privilege and recognize that racism and hatred are still an epidemic in our society,
this violence that forced us to see the hate and discrimination taking place in our own country, province, and city,
this violence that leads us into a really important question:
What do we do with it?
What do we,
as the church,
as those who name and experience Jesus as the Christ,
as that divine flow of love, peace, and justice in the universe,
what do we do when our world seems to be going in the opposite direction than everything inside us says it should?
It’s a question that was eating us all up as we came into church last week
and knowing this is where our thick faith really matters,
we set some time aside to rumble with it.
we’ll look at another answer to that question by talking about
Are you with me?
But before we get into that,
lets say a prayer shall we?
So there is this ancient story.
You heard it earlier.
It’s from the Gospel According to Luke,
and as we enter into the story Jesus has been out doing his thing –
going around inviting people into the new kind of world God’s creating,
this place he called ‘the Kingdom,’
and he’s got all kinds of people excited and curious about what a life and world connected with the very Source of Life and Ground of our Being could be like,
and so these people are following him around wherever he goes,
finding more and more life in and through him,
having their whole world turned upside down and inside out,
and the place he’s going we’re told …
is into this town called Nain.
Now there’s nothing particularly special about Nain itself,
which is to say it could be any place or town,
Capernum, Jerusalem, Calgary, Priddis, or any of the places we live.
What’s particularly special is whats happening when Jesus and all those people arrive at the city gate.
As they all try to enter into the city,
there’s something coming out of it:
a funeral procession.
Its the funeral for a young man.
But not just any young man,
it’s a son of a widow.
Now that’s an important detail.
At this time in our history,
we still hadn’t caught on to the fact that women are real people,
like, made-in-the-image-of-God human beings,
something, sadly, we still haven’t really caught on to.
But in this particular context, that was the norm: women were socially, culturally, and financially dependent on their husbands or male children.
Their very life and livelihood,
their very existence,
was predicated on having a male next to them.
So to lose a husband was a serious blow.
But to lose a husband and a son?
That wasn’t just a sentence to die on the streets,
it was something much much worse:
Not only would she be overcome with grief,
forced out of her home,
cut off from community,
and be shamed as cursed and forgotten,
she’d enter into a life that was anything but living,
and into a world full of despair, devastation and fear.
And it’s this widow,
this widow crashing into a new kind of life and world,
that more than anybody else in this entire story
Luke wants us to see.
He wants us to see her because it’s here in this widow,
in this person who is crashing into a new kind of life and world,
that something transcendent happens:
this story becomes our story.
if we’re all honest,
and let’s remember this is a safe place for that kind of thing,
we all have our stories about crashing into that kind of life and world.
Whether it’s from fighting addictions and doubts,
dealing with abuse,
struggling with anxiety and depression,
or pain and sorrows,
burdens and wounds,
and with certainly grief and loss,
who here knows what it’s like to be cut off from that which makes us alive?
Who here knows what it’s like enter into a world overcome with darkness, devastation and fear?
We all do.
I do too.
And if we’ve all been there,
if we’ve all rumbled with that despair, devastation, and fear,
then we’ve all ended up asking two really huge questions:
what kind of God is behind all of this?!
what kind of world is this?!
Anyone know what Im talking about?
Whether you’ve articulated them in that way
or they have come out in tears, rage, or lament,
I think these are the questions a lot of us are asking right now.
As we see the hatred, the anger and the fear swell around us,
as we see the momentum of racism shift,
as we realize the word is more backwards than we thought,
we’re left asking:
what kind of God is behind all of this?!
what kind of world is this?!
And if you are asking these questions,
please know this:
They are good questions.
They are very human questions and ones we see again and again throughout the Bible.
They are questions any person of faith can and should ask.
And they are certainly the questions at the heart of this story.
These are the questions that widow is no doubt consumed with as she walks by Jesus on her way out of the city.
So knowing we are that widow,
that this story is our story,
that her questions are our questions,
that we are people caught up in lives and worlds of devastation, despair, and fear,
what’s this story got to offer us?
Where’s the good news?
Where’s the hope and grace?
It’s all in the movement.
Lets go back into the story.
As the funeral procession is coming out of the city gate heading towards the place they’d bury the son,
and all the people who are following Jesus respectfully step aside to let them pass,
what does Jesus do?
Does Jesus look the other way?
Does Jesus shame her?
Does Jesus pity her and say ‘Oh, I’ll pray for you.’
Does Jesus get out of the way?
What does he do?
Jesus sees the widow,
his heart breaks,
he stopped what he was doing
the woman nobody supposed to talk to,
the woman of zero worth, purpose, and value,
he touches the coffin,
something his culture and religion said is against the rules,
and he raised that young man back to life,
the thing that was supposed to be impossible to happen.
Now, we could talk about how the miracle of this story is in the resurrection of the son,
and that certainly could be worth talking about.
But here’s the thing;
I don’t think that’s the real miracle here.
The real miracle?
The true place of grace and beauty in this passage?
The place where we can find that good news and hope we’re looking for?
The miracle is the movement.
The miracle is in Christ moving towards the widow.
Because Jesus moved towards the widow and brought her son back to life,
he pulled that woman out of a world devastation, fear, and despair,
reconnected her with community,
reconnected her with identity and meaning,
and drew her back into new life.
The good news this story has to offer us,
is that our stories,
don’t have to end in a life and world of devastation, despair, and fear.
The hope and grace this story offers us is that God
the very Source of Life and Ground of our Being,
that Spirit that holds it all together and guides it all forward,
is a compassionate God.
God’s a compassionate God
because it is in our moments when we are overcome with devastation, despair, and fear,
it’s in those moments when our lives and worlds come crashing down,
it’s in those moments when our world seems to be going backwards,
God doesn’t pass us by,
but God stops,
God sees us,
God’s heart breaks,
and God moves towards us,
and raises us back to new life.
What kind of God do we have?
We have a compassionate God.
We have a God of movement,
a God who moves towards us,
a God who meets our processions of despair and devastation with parades of solidarity and love.
What kind of world do we have?
We live in a compassionate world,
a world that doesn’t need to be overcome with devastation, fear, and despair,
a world that doesn’t need to cut off, break down, belittle, and hurt,
a world that can be like that Kingdom Jesus talked about –
a world saturated with the presence of this compassionate God.
But here’s the thing,
here’s the rub:
That compassionate world?
Its up to us.
It’s up to us to move as Christ did
and be that divine movement of solidarity and love into the world;
It’s up to us to be a people who,
when someone is cut off from their life,
when someone is told they’re less than human
when someone’s world comes crashing down in devastation, despair, and fear,
don’t let them pass by,
but we stop,
and we move towards them,
knowing its enough to raise the dead and change the world.
A compassionate God and a compassionate world.
No wonder the people all cheered.