The Rev. Jennifer Adams – Sunday, June 5, 2016 – Proper 5, Year C: I Kings 17:8-24, Luke 7:11-17
“Young man, I say to you, rise!” And he did. The young man sat up, began to speak, got off the bier that his friends were carrying (a bier is sort of a frame that carries a casket, in this case would have been carrying his casket), he got off the bier that his friend were carrying and then he went home with his mother. The end …and the beginning of the story.
OK so what does that mean for you? For us? I mean those as serious questions. We know how this gospel story played out, so you don’t really need me to unpack it very much. This passage is about as straightforward as they come. Man died. Community gathered and mourned. And then Jesus said to the man who was as dead as he could be,” Rise” and he did. The young man sat up, began to speak, got off the bier that his friends were carrying and went on with life. End (and new beginning) of that story.
As preacher , I really can’t add much to that. Jesus brought the guy back to life! Period. Exclamation point! Or more appropriately, “Amen!” Luke’s pretty clear about it all.
And so what I want to know is about us.
Young man, old man, young woman, old woman, teenager, fourth grader, kid, middle schooler, college student, young adult, highschooler, recent grad, pilgrim, hurting person, happy person, every person, Jesus says to you, “Rise.” And I want to know what happens next.
Granted nobody here was carried in to these pews not breathing this morning. But everyone walked in with something, some part, something that needs resurrection, some part of ourselves or our lives that hopes or longs for resurrection even if we are sometimes a little scared to name, let alone share it. The community hasn’t gathered to mourn any of us today, but maybe it’s more like each of us has carried a piece of ourselves in on a bier today. A piece that longs for new life. And Jesus just spoke to us, invited us to rise. And so it’s our job to prayerfully respond and to come to know what happens next.
And sometimes what happens next is that resurrection is as dramatic and obvious as it was in this gospel story. But often it’s not. And that’s the kicker isn’t it? If only new life were always as clear as the dead breathing again. End and beginning of story. But resurrection is usually a little more a little more complicated perhaps, more multi-faceted, more mysterious?
And yet, “Rise,” Jesus tells us in the here and in the now, rise.
Now something I’ve come to notice from watching new life take hold is that what we might call “life circumstances” don’t always matter as much as we might think when it comes to experiencing resurrection. I have experienced people who “sit up and talk” who are themselves actually dying, people for whom an illness is terminal but whose spirit is not and new life actually flows through their very being. I have witnessed people who face unbelievable suffering, hardship, injustice who in the midst of it all are “sitting up and talking”, not only managing to breathe themselves but miraculouslly breathing new life into those around them. I’ve also experienced people who are phystically perfectly healthy and whose lives are as absolutely as “together” as they could possibly be, but in some ways they they aren’t alive at all. And so life circumstances can’t determine or control resurrection. Resurrection is a little more complicated, perhaps more multi-faceted, more mysterious?
Young man, old man, young woman, old woman and everyone inbetween Jesus says to to us, “Rise.”
And so what I’ve come to believe is that resurrection has more than one ingredient to it and because God is God the particular amounts in the actual recipe don’t seem to matter much. Nor does the coooking time – that seems to vary too. I actually think an ingredient or two can occasionally be missed and God will still make something happen because in the end new life is a miracle no matter how or when it comes.
But I also believe that most of the ingredients are here among us always, and that’s part of the grace of it all. As people of faith (or even as people struggling to believe) our work is to make sure we’ve done everything we can to share the ingredients that make for our rising and the rising of others.
And so we gather, ingredient one. Community, friends, family, matter. It’s hard to “sit up and talk” alone and so we come together. And we risk giving voice to our own healing and we ask for a little help when we need propping up and we just keep doing all of that for each other.
And we pray, ingredient two (and for the record, these are not in any particular order.) We have been invited into something larger than ourselves, a God who creates, and loves and re-creates, and forgives and redeems and so we pray even when the prayers are silence, even when the prayers are tears, we pray. Even when the prayers are hopes that don’t have words, or are so many words they don’t make any sense – we pray.
And we tell stories- an important ingredient in this process of helping to make for resurrection. We tell stories from Scripture (how about that story of the prophet who raised the widow’s son in the reading from I Kings today?) We tell stories from the gospels and stories from our lives and stories from our world. We tell stories in which healing happens! Stories about young men rising, young girls rising. Stories about the deaf hearing, the blind being given sight and captives being set free! We tell stories about swords being beaten into plowshares. Because if we don’t hear the stories, it’s hard to believe that anything like resurrection is possible at all. The stories shape us and they open us to new.
And so we listen, we open ourselves to possibility and we pour what we have into helping create the reality of new life right here and right now (although like I said, the timing can vary and isn’t exactly under our control.) We actively pour some of the things of God into the mix – we practice things like forgiveness, compassion, and love. We look for redemption and invest in reconciliation. And pretty soon what we’re doing LOOKS something like resurrection. And it feels something like resurrection: Those who are dying becomng bearers of new life. Those with what the world would call “very little” become those who are blessed beyond measure. Those who seem to have it all, realize there is more, so much more when it comes to the mysteries and promises of God.
Young man, old man, young woman, old woman, teenager, fourth grader, kid, middle schooler, college student, young adult, highschooler, recent grad, pilgrim, hurting person, happy person, every person, Jesus says to you, “Rise.” This is the end and the beginning of our stories too. I can’t wait to see what happens next.