Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today’s text

Luke 7:12-16

Now when [Jesus] was near the gate of the town there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her and said to her, 'Don't cry.' Then he went up and touched the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, 'Young man, I tell you: get up.' And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and glorified God saying, 'A great prophet has risen up among us; God has visited his people.'


The moment of reunion most moves me in this story. I can see it. Jesus stands beside the litter where the widow’s dead son had lain.

The young man stands between him and the widow, as Jesus, hand on his shoulder, moves him gently toward his astonished mother.

I do not see her face, but I feel her amazement in that split section before startled disbelief turns to exhilaration. And I feel my own tears at the pathos of the moment when the lost is returned and life is restored, not just to the young man but also to his mother.

This scene is frozen in time that I may leisurely take it in and know its meaning, a meaning that is better known by heart than mind. So I listen to my tears to hear what they say about human longing (or at least mine) and about the mystery of God.

What do I desire? What do I, like the widow, need returned to me by the One called Lord, because he has the power over life and death?

The widow surely enfolded her son in her arms and felt the life restored to his body. Surely, she wept, reunited with the one she most needed and wanted for her to know joy and the protection of a loved one.

The lonely silence of a too-quiet house and an empty soul was broken apart by happy tears in the presence of love personified. And she stepped into the arms of love personified: no, not the love of her child alone, but an incarnation of the love that she didn’t need to hold … because this is a love that holds her.

Stepping into her son’s arms, she stepped into the Love who seeks the soul on every day of every street. In this precious moment, she felt and knew beyond all the shadows of all doubts that Love who is Lord, the power of life who brings life from our every death.

I want to know what she knew. I want that love to melt away every sadness and still all anxiety. I want to step into the arms of love personified in every encounter and relationship.

I hunger for days and places this is real, and I grow weary when the joy of the woman is nowhere in sight, when life is more like a sad march to the grave than a celebration of reunion with my heart’s desire

That’s my want. But then it is what God wants, too.

My want--so average and human--is not different from the desire of the divine heart. It is a mirror image of what God wants to give every day, and especially on days we trudge along as if to a cemetery, instead of to a great party of life and love that is without end.

Restore to us the joy we lose, Lord of Life. This day, may we step into personifications of your love present on our way.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today’s text

Luke 7:11-13

It happened that soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. Now when he was near the gate of the town there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her and said to her, 'Don't cry.'


She had every reason to cry. A widow without a son to care for her was bereft. She had no means of economic support and no one to care for her in her old age.

Her son’s death condemned her to a life of loneliness, scraping by on the handouts of others in a community that would treat her as an object of God’s disfavor--and their own. You can almost hear the tongues wag.

“She is about as low as you can get.”

“I heard she was difficult to get on with.”

“They say she didn’t treat her family well.”

“And now they’re gone.”

Nothing like this ever happens today, of course. We are much more compassionate than ancient societies that treated widows as disfavored by God. Nor do we cut ourselves off from those who suffer great loss and grief, or those who suffer from mental illness, or from the loss of job or foreclosure, or from other tragedies. Right?

A deep repellent force within us resists getting too close to suffering and misfortune. We may say, “I don’t know what to say to her,” but most of the time this is cover for deeper psychological reactions we don’t understand.

Most of those reactions spring from fear of vulnerability. Even the idea that we need to know what to say comes from that fear. We want to be in control and being with those who suffer reminds us that we are not.

Being with those who grieve, who are caught up in irresolvable dilemmas and pain reminds us that it could be us, and we resist that awareness. We don’t want to see it, for to see it shakes us into the undeniable reality that we are mortal.

In our society talking about death, about one’s mortality is an obscenity, something that is not done in polite company--or perhaps in any company.

But there are those among us who run into burning houses, so to speak. They do not shy from the grief of the mourner, the struggle of the cancer patient, the fear of those for whom the future impends threat.

And there are parts of our fearful souls that want to be involved, that want to care, that may even want to say with Jesus, “Don’t cry. I am here.”

Those parts of our souls are inhabited by the Spirit of Jesus. His Spirit is not hard to recognize. It is the desire to care, the yearning to live beyond the safety of our walls, the craving to become the compassion we feel in depths of our soul that we too seldom visit.

That Spirit is known in the hope that the touch of Jesus will also raise us when our life is slipping away. And it continues to say, “Don’t cry. Grace is here … and life. No matter what.

Pr David L. Miller