(A version of Sunday's sermon 6 June 2010)
Friends I have discovered that Jesus is an unreconstructed male. The sort of man who thinks that however difficult a situation is he can fix it.
(Produce planks of wood and begin nailing them together)
That’s right, Jesus the typical man, champion of the vulnerable, seeking to right even the worst of societal wrongs. Jesus the carpenter who could have made and fitted our garden fence. I looked at it as I came to church this morning. It’s slightly broken at the bottom. Jesus the carpenter’s son could have mended it. He fixes things. Typical bloke.
* Jesus out the other side of the lake in the region of the decapolis met the cortege outside the town - place of the unclean. Place of the dead.
* Large crowd with him, large crowd with the funeral party. Watched footage of war torn Iraq or Afghanistan you will know that Middle Eastern grieving is not silent.
* We are told some very specific things about the deceased widow’s son. He was her only son - experienced a double loss. Lost her husband. Now lost her son - he was her social security, the one who would keep her and take care of her in her dotage, the one who paid the bills and put food on the table. what would become of her?
* Jesus is moved by the situation - a mother should not outlive both her husband and her son. A desperate plight. Being a typical man he tries to fix the situation.
* Not being a typical man, Jesus speaks in power with the authority of God directly to the dead man. QUOTE. There is no doubt that he is alive - he sits up and speaks.
* Jesus returns the previously dead man to his rightful place - to his place within the family - to his mother.
* People were frightened - this is not humanly possible - a prophet has arisen say the scepical crowds. Yes JC is a prophet as he proclaims the presence of God in word and deed but so much more than that. But then the crowd draw the right conclusion - God has looked favourably on his people in the person and actions of Jesus. Jesus speaks and acts with the authority of God. Jesus tries to fix things - typical man... but he fixes them with the hand of God...
As Jesus is confronted by this tragedy the ‘typical male’ solution is all that is can be offered in response. Tragedies like this are all too common and somehow we forget to yell out - it’s not fair!
The line between death and life that lies at one edge of this story also draws our attention to the line between injustice and a crying out for justice for this woman and the women of Afghanistan, Iraq, Whitehaven, Wotton Bassett and Leverstock Green that lies at the other. As disciples, God asks us to find our way, to live life in life between these two lines because God’s life and love is always expressed in down to earth matters of justice, freedom, peace, love and liberation.
This morning’s Gospel and my garden fence remind us that 2000 years on from the widow’s story too many people are fenced off and shut out of life by prejudice, persecution and yes even the cruelest of bereavments. As I looked at the fence this morning it reminded me that the things that divide and separates us from each other is made up of overlaid slices of wood which make and overlayed, repeating pattern. With minor variation the same textures, knots and grain are repeated over and over again. Ways of thinking or acting which exclude and harm those on the other side of the fence are repeated consistently and deliberately. It is exactly these sorts of fences that Jesus came to fix or tear down.
The miracle of raising this widow’s son to life restores the man to life, the man to his mother, the man and his mother to the community, renews her life and livelihood and renews community. This typically male response to abject grief - Jesus seeks to fix things for this widow. The impact of Jesus’ work is not DIY but DGW. He responds to this woman’s need in the only way he can - doing it God’s way. Thing is, as he steps up to that bier and commands that man to live, the impact of those words, of those actions spread like whispers through that anxious crowd gathered close in around him.
The resurrection life that Jesus the typical man offers the widow’s son, is the atypical life of God himself and that life utterly transformed the town of Nain.
In our brokenness, our need, our prejudices, our persecution our deepest grief, Jesus the atypical Son of God sees our tears, hears our cries, and offers to fix things. Friends do not hide behind the fence. This morning Jesus reaches out and touches and speaks and offers us resurrection life and in Nain that changed a man, a woman, their future and a town. Amen.