Trinity 16 (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 5, 2014
Central Passage
Luke 7:11-17

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Outside the gates of the city of Nain the Lord met the funeral procession of a dead son and his grieving widowed mother. Outside the gates of the city of Nain there met two crowds, like spectators of a cosmic encounter, those that weep and those that watch them weep. Outside the city of Nain the kingdom of heaven met the gates of hell, and the gates of hell did not prevail.

Here outside the city of Nain is a microcosm of humanity. There are those who are weeping and those who watch them weep. It’s not that we don’t have occasion to rejoice, we do. When we walk through the door to our little one’s gleeful exclamation that we are home, that is reason to rejoice. But it is soon gone with frustrations of dinner or a messy house or bills to pay and so forth. When we take time to marvel at the beauty of nature around us or when we receive a kind word from a good friend, or better, from an enemy, those are reasons to rejoice. But it too is soon replaced by the ugliness of sin – either our sin or the sin of others – and the cruelty our sin produces. Soon we are weeping again.

We have occasion to rejoice. But our rejoicing is always cut short by our weeping, though our Lord would cut short our weeping with rejoicing. But to the eye there are far more things in this life to weep over than to rejoice over. Just turn on the news. If ever there were a catalogue of that for which we weep it is catalogued by the news. And watching the news is like belonging to one of the two crowds that met outside the city of Nain: one is weeping and the other is watching them weep.

The only good news reported – news that makes us smile and feel all warm inside, what we might say we rejoice over – usually involves animals of some type being rescued or doing the rescuing or even crossing the road in duck-like fashion. Good news coming through the news media can really be compared to one segment or video that we see on AFV. It makes us laugh and rejoice, but it holds no bearing on our lives. The news of devastation and war, though, that affects us well beyond the 30 minute newscast.

But this really just imitates life, the news does. A thousand things go wrong and are terrible and worthy of our commiseration. Too many things, really, to be catalogued or noted. Even the idea that we can catalogue the evil of humanity such as in museums or TV specials is terrible. It’s terrible because it gives a false sense that such atrocities and terrors can come to an end so that they can be catalogued; that we can learn from our mistakes. But we don’t, not really. Not where it matters. We might learn to use our turn indicator after causing a wreck, but we don’t learn to tell the truth after we tell a lie. We only learn to be craftier the next time we lie. We don’t learn from our mistakes because they’re not mistakes. They’re sins. And we can’t learn our way or practice our way out of being sinners. At this level, we really can’t change who we are.

So the news at night will never be good news. It will always be terrible and life-threatening and doomsday news. Peppered with the occasional saved whale or the caught-on-tape sweetness of a child sharing his ice-cream with a friend. But these will always be overshadowed by the terrible, tragic news that is reported on a world full of sinners doing what sinners do.

Jesus’ command to the widow, “Do not weep,” seems rather shortsighted. Sure, we can not weep right now when there is nothing particular to weep over, but we know – as that widow knew – that weeping is the way of life for us. We are always of one of two crowds: we’re either the crowd that is weeping or the crowd that is watching others weep. We are either the ones burying our loved ones or the ones watching others bury their loved ones.

But there is something else here, too. Or rather, someone else. He is one of us, a man born of woman, but He is in neither crowd, even though He weeps and watches others weep. But He is not in either crowd because His weeping is not the wails of the helpless, such as the cries of this widowed mother bereft of her son or the wailing cries of those we watch on the evening news. Rather, His is the mournful battle cry of a man watching his beloved hurt while running to her rescue. He watches others wee – as He saw this widow weep; as He watches us weep, weeping over our sin, our pain, our helplessness – but He does not watch as we do: stricken with horror and sadness, unable to do anything about it. But He watches like skilled warrior, waiting for the perfect moment to move, to act, to strike; to take down the lion that roars or the wolf that stalks or the enemy that comes to kill, to steal, and to destroy.

And He strikes. But it is not us that He strikes. It is not the crowds that He strikes. He strikes the gates of hell. Which here present themselves before Him in the form of a dead son. For what is more telling of hell than death? What is more indicative of hell than being torn from our loved ones? What is more characteristic of hell than loving without a return on our love? It was not merely the dead man who was in hell – so to speak – but his grieving mother, too; so too the crowd that wept with her and the crowd that watched them weep, powerless to do anything, powerless to save; staring at the gates of hell that threaten us all.

He strikes by forgiving our sins and proclaiming life. This might seem to be akin to those palsy good news segments on the evening news; somewhat small compared to the atrocities reported. But it is these small moments of life – the forgiveness of sins, the water of holy Baptism washing over a sinner, the body and blood of Jesus given and shed for us – is these small moments that give hope and life to all the rest. It is these seemingly small and even insignificant things that don’t seem to change our course or the course of mankind that are truly the cosmic events that have altered the course of the whole cosmos.

Even as the real news is not that wicked men do wicked things, for who would expect otherwise? But the real news is that amid the wickedness there is life that shares, life that grows, life that cares and loves. And the Life of the World is the Love of our Father who stands like beacon of hope and strength for weary weepers. The real world is not the death and mayhem you see around you, but the real world is the world of the Son of God where sin and death are conquered and life is given to all. That is reason for rejoicing!

The Lord is not powerless but His eyes are on us and His steadfast love is toward us and He delivers our souls from Sheol and the gates of hell will not prevail against Him. This world is full of trouble and strife. Very wicked men do very wicked things, even us. Yet there is one among us who is not wicked but is good. And His goodness is for us even as His death was for us. And He is not here to condemn or threaten. He is here to tell us to stop weeping like those who see no hope, no future, no end to evil or death. And instead to look on Him whom we have pierced and rejoice. For He lives, having conquered death and hell. And in Him is life, the life of the world given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

+ In Nomine Iesu +