The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams – June 9, 2013 – Proper 5, Year C: Proper 5, Year C: 1 Kings 17:8-24, Luke 7:11-17
This morning I’m going to offer what I’d call a “Gentle Summer Sermon.” We’ve entered that time of the year when the culture around us invites us to slow down a little or at least shift away a bit from our normal paces and schedules. And I know that many of us have been running hard for several months, looking forward to June. Now I also know that many jobs run on cycles that have nothing to do with the school year calendar, and with the many varieties of activities we all tend to be involved in, we’re still a busy people. Nonetheless, all of us are affected to some extent by the shift that our culture takes as we enter the summer months; things lighten up at least for awhile. An even by the church calendar, we’ve entered the long season that follows Pentecost, which is referred to often as “ordinary time,” a little less intense than other seasons. So as we gear down a little, I want us to allow our thoughts to drift into the places to which we’ve been invited by the readings this morning.
I Kings and the reading from Luke are about breathing new life into people who no longer had breath which are not bad themes for us to consider this time of year. The story from 1 Kings centered around the prophet Elijah who was given food and care and shelter by a widow to whom God had sent him. One day while Elijah was staying with this widow, her son died. And while the widow wept, Elijah took the child’s body, stretched himself upon the child and cried out, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And it did. New life came and the child was able to breathe again.
In the gospel too, is the story of a widow who lost her son. Remember that in that culture the son would have been the widow’s only chance for survival, her only means of maintaining even a basic foothold in society. So besides losing her child, she had essentially also lost her entire life. When Jesus saw the woman he had compassion for her and said, “Do not weep.” Then like Elijah, Jesus touched the dead body and the bearers who had been processing, understandably stood still. Then Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you rise.” And he rose. And the people were afraid but they also cried out “God has looked favorably upon his people!” The son was able to breathe again and presumably, the widow was too.
Now I’ve invited us to a gentle place this morning and in some ways these readings are far more dramatic than they are gentle. The scenes in these passages were filled with shock and wonder and in all likelihood a great deal of confusion. But on another level, aside from the magnitude of the miracles, these stories contain a simple invitation to breathe. To breathe again. To breathe differently. To allow new life to fill us in ways that renew us and maybe even surprise us all.
So the question to consider is: How do you, or how do we need to breathe differently? Or what will help you breathe again? If you’re “out of breath” all the time, that says something. If you struggle for room to breathe deeply on a regular basis, that says something too. As a society we are very good at running fast almost all the time, pushing beyond what might be good limits. But even in the midst of that often overscheduled approach to life, we talk about summer as an opportunity to “catch our breath.” That’s the language we use to describe these months. And as people of faith we hear the gospel offering miracles by which even those who had ceased living were able to breathe again. So the good news is that it’s possible. And while not as dramatic as the stories we heard this morning, given our lifestyle, this kind of healing is something we all need as individuals and communities too. That breath that is new life comes as a gift, is offered as a gift from God.
So make room to breathe this season, to breathe deeply this season. Easier said than done, I know that. But maybe we can hold each other to it, remain accountable in community. I’ll do things like start every meeting with the invitation to breathe as we open our prayer time. And we can say things to each other like, “Hey Jen” or “Hey, Chuck,” or “Hey, Jill” are you breathing? should any of us see any other of us running too fast.
Another angle we need to take on this is to name that we can all help the collective breathing by jumping in to the projects and planning that will continue this summer and throughout the next year, so that instead of let’s say three people running out of breath as they work to get something done, there are ten people helping to carry a particular ministry. Simply increasing the numbers of people involved in certain areas allows for a sort of “breathing as we go” approach that encourages things like conversation to happen along the way and provides for not only the completing of a project but the building a people.
So hear the invitation in today’s gospel. Rise up, Grace Church! Rise up in ways that receive and offer new life. God has looked favorably upon us! So, breathe. Breathe deeply. Breathe of God anew.