When bad things happen
The Gospel of Luke records a short but vital story of Jesus’ confrontation with death.
Hot on the heels of a very public act of healing the child of someone famous, Jesus leads an impromptu parade of followers, well-wishers and the curious as he continues his travels and teaching. This parade is a celebration of healing and life. The one with the power of life leads the march.
Yet, as they approach the next village, a town called Nain (a word meaning “pleasant” or “beautiful,” likely due to the lush pastures that surrounded it) Jesus and his band of celebrants are confronted by a funeral procession. A young man has died leaving his widowed mother to herself. His life cut too short. Hers now at risk.
What will Jesus do? Convenience would suggest he step to the side. Empathy might call him to join the mourners. The religious code prohibited him and his followers from coming too close. Contact with anything dead put one at unpredictable risk, both physically and spiritually.
Jesus, however, embodies life, not fear.
Without making a big deal out of it, he comforts the woman and then reaches out and touches the bier on which the body is being carried. Jesus tells the young man to get up. The man does so and begins to speak. Jesus, who is the Word of Life, is greeted by words from one who is living again.
The temptation, when we are confronted by situations that are problem-plagued and unpredictable – situations that look like big or little deaths – is to try to minimize our exposure. We’d rather keep things clean and simple. We’d rather not get caught up in the messiness. It’s easier to practice avoidance. So, we pretend we didn’t hear. We try to forget. We don’t bring things up. It will, we fear, just make things worse.
But things could be otherwise.
Last month, during suicide awareness week, we were encouraged to “Seize the awkward” and use those times of awkward silence to ask a companion who seems down if they are okay. A growing body of evidence supports the practice of journaling about emotionally intense experiences as a way of improving health and wellness. In both of these examples, we intentionally bring our life into contact with that which seems like death. Life and wellness rise victorious. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. In all kinds of circumstances, life persists.
As surely as Jesus’ raising of the widow’s only son at Nain prefigured his own resurrection — and note that Jesus is also the only son — Christians are called to recognize these moments when life is triumphant as echoes of Jesus’ resurrection and signs pointing to the restoration of all life in the return of Christ.
May it be so among us.
Oct. 2, 2019
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future