Sermon: Raising the Dead

Lectionary:

  • Luke 7: 11-17
  • 1 Kings 17: 8-24

I’d like to introduce you all this morning to a special artifact from our home that is of vital importance for dressing up as a fairy princess: the magic wand.

A couple of weeks ago, I helped little Miss Two dress up in a pretty dress, and put a little crown on her head, and this little wand in her hand.  She was parading round the house rather happily and looking at herself in the mirror, admiring her princess self when she exclaimed “Is broken”.

As any good mother, I asked what was broken, and was informed that her wand was broken “Is not working”, followed by the words any mother wants to hear about a magic wand “fix it mummy”.  Since she knows that broken cars are taken to a “car shop” to get fixed, she made mention of a”wand shop” in her request for fixing her broken wand.  Now, I don’t know how other mother’s do it, but we’re miles away from Diagon Alley, if I were even able to find platform 9 3/4, and there are no elves from the Little Kingdom that I can call on to fix the fairy wand, and I have no special abilities where expectations of what a magic wand is suppose to do are concerned.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still left wondering what was supposed to have happened when she waved her magic wand and what it failed to do.

Oh! to have the simple faith of a child that can believe anything is possible and doable!  Matthew 18:2-4 calls us to become like children,

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mark 10: 14-15

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

So, today I want to deal with an issue that I struggle with in my Christian faith: are Christians able to raise the dead through faith? In fact, are we supposed to believe in signs and wonders, like healing the sick and making the blind to see?  Is there a place for raising the dead in today’s modern world or is it just relegated to fables and myths and Game of Thrones?  If it is beyond our ability and powers, how should we live our lives as Christians?  What should we learn from today’s readings that we can really take out into this world and be the salt of the earth?

I’ve spent the better part of a week reading various points of view on raising the dead. I’ve discovered groups such as a group of Evangelicals who call themselves the “Dead Raising Team”. I’ve read about Saint Patrick’s 33 cases of raising the dead in Ireland, in order to convince the many pagans of the day to convert.  What is amazing about Saint Patrick is that in 30 years he converted an entire island (Ireland) to Christianity, when previous missionaries had been unable to convert towns, and he gave all glory for this to God and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

But when it comes to raising the dead, as Christians, we’re skeptical.

As one writer put it:

“Levitating saints, sure. Weeping icons and statues, yep.  … The dying healed through the intercession of the saints, of course. The world is filled with miracles. …. We’re supernaturalists, but most of us live by the normal (supernatural) means of grace. We go through life in the usual and sometimes God disrupts things with a special benefit.”

While I would love to believe that we could all participate in the supernatural, my rational thinking gets in the way, and I’m left searching for practical and rational ways that I can transform this world.

Most of what I’ve read about Luke 7 speaks to Christ’s compassion for the widow who has lost her only son, in a society where she would have been left completely unprotected and without any rights.

How are we to react as Christ when we see those in need and hurting?  As Christians, we are called to have the same compassion for our fellow man. We are called to look beyond just what we can see, and commit to life-changing actions in the lives of others. But do you have the time, energy & commitment for that?

The principle of compassion is the very heart of Christ. The ministry of Jesus flowed from His heart of compassion toward those in need.  Compassion is a word of action. It is not observing from the sidelines; it is the heartfelt care for another with both the intent and action.  The compassion of Christ carries the notion of tenderness and affection.

The uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry rests in His concern for persons — He truly loves people and considers them worthy of respect and compassion because of what they are — bearers of the divine image of God.

John challenges us to look to the needs of others,

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (3:17-18).

Loving others is one of the many ways we put our faith into action.

“People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So, how can we put this compassion into practice?  If we can’t do the supernatural, what can we do that will make life-changing differences?

I’d like to finish up with some practical examples of how we can help others to find new life and meaning, through compassion.
  1. Be considerate and present:  Practice having old-fashioned conversations (by that, I mean, without your phone), where you can give each person your full attention – use direct eye contact and keep your ears open to their needs.
  2. Do a body and feelings check regularly:  Check the motivation behind your words, actions and decisions. Always check in with your thoughts before they become words or actions to be sure your motivation is pure. If you catch yourself about to say or do something that isn’t coming from a place of integrity, or if it’s untrue, unkind, or unnecessary, think before you act. Every word and action generates a reaction. Be sure your ripple effect is positive and one that promotes a culture of compassion.
  3. Be affectionate:  Don’t forget the power of touch, especially for children, who thrive on feeling accepted as whole people. Give hugs and pats on the head or a squeeze of the hand.
  4. Communicate warmly:  Let your genuine interest in helping the other person show through heartfelt communication. You can make a world of difference by simply listening and talking in a warm, patient manner.
  5. Acknowledge people’s existence: Say good morning, good afternoon or hello to the people you walk past all the time – the concierge, the door man, the security guy, the homeless man that you prefer to ignore so he won’t ask you for cash, the elderly lady walking so slowly she’s slowing the pedestrian traffic. Get to know people.
  6. Practice acts of kindness:  Go out of your way to be kind.  Try  a 30-day kindness challenge.  Plan random acts of kindness – hold the door! (Put your arm around and comfort that Game of Thrones fan that just burst into tears, because I just said to hold the door!)
  7. Show empathy:  Empathy is showing that you understand another’s feelings or emotions; you identify with the situation and care enough to place yourself in another’s shoes. If someone is upset or acting unusual, consider why before you judge or get annoyed. There’s probably a backstory that would make you react differently. And when someone does share, you don’t have to have a perfect answer. You can just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.”
  8. Allow your heart to break:  Be aware of what’s going on around you. When you open your eyes to your world, you can often see more clearly where compassion is needed.  The world is full of what seem like intractable problems. Often we let that paralyze us. There are some people in the world that we can’t help, but there are so many more that we can. So when you see a mother and her children suffering in another part of the world, don’t look away. Look right at them. Let them break your heart, then let your empathy and your talents help you make a difference in the lives of others.  Be the difference you want to see in this world!
  9. Be an encouragement:  Be the person that holds others up, motivates them, brings them cheer. Instead of dwelling on everything people do wrong, use your voice to tell them what they are doing right and encourage them to continue working towards their goals.

Let us pray:

Creator God,
Give us compassion and humility in our hearts. Let us be kind, gentle, generous, loving, giving and forgiving wherever we may go. Allow pride to never get the best of us as You fulfill our dreams. Help us not to have a boastful tongue against our brothers. Let humility invade our souls.
In Jesus’ name. Amen

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