Trinity 16 - the Sunday of the Widow's Son
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
September 20, 2015
Central Passage
Luke 7:11-17

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

Here in today’s gospel we have a fulfillment of our Lord’s words that He will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We hear those words, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” and we mostly hear that even if and when hell should attack the Church it won’t win in the end. We put hell on the offensive. But it is more faithful to put Christ on the offensive. It is Christ who made the first move and came down from heaven to do battle with Satan and win back humanity. It appears in this life as if Christ and God are on the defensive, always reactive. But in truth He is on the offensive, pursuing, hunting, finding, and rescuing His children and sheep from the jaws of death and hell and the power of Satan, which is to accuse you of your sins.

So rather than hell being on the offensive and attacking Christ and His Church, it is Christ and His Church that are on the offensive, attacking hell and beating down hell’s gates to get the prisoners who are trapped within. And those gates of hell will not prevail against the onslaught of Christ and His Church. Here outside the city of Nain Christ and His Church – those who follow Him – meet the gates of hell. And true to form, Christ bursts the gates with more strength than Sampson who tore down the gates of the Gazites. For Sampson only tore down gates of wood and bronze, but Christ tore down the gates of death and hell.

Christ reached through that gate of death and brought back a son of man. The Lord of Life restored life to the fallen. It’s what He does. He is the life of the world and the Father has given Him authority to give life to whom He will. He gives life to us. We have been buried with Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism, dead to sin and the power of Satan, and through those same waters the Lord Jesus has given us life. Through them we are raised with Christ. Christ is our resurrection. He is the firstborn from among the dead, the Head of the Church, that He might be preeminent in all things.

Don’t think of your baptism as a metaphor. It’s not a metaphor. It’s the real deal. Just like the raising of the widow’s son is not a metaphor for how Christ makes our lives better and helps us along in this life, but it’s the real deal; that Jesus, the Son of God, true God and Man, raises the dead and defeats death and hell. So we glorify God for He has raised up His holy Prophet like unto Moses, and the Lord Himself has visited us, His people.

It’s not hard to imagine that the widow of Nain and her once-dead son, along with the whole company of mourners, having seen the majesty of God in Christ then joined that crowd following Jesus and followed Him themselves, rejoicing that the Lord had visited His people and walked among them. And thus the Lord, having burst the gates of death and hell builds His Church.

The Lord adds to her numbers daily those who are being saved. But we want our congregation to grow. We want more people in the pews; long gone friends and even new faces. But are willing to mourn sin and confess the death we deserve, that we are the dead man lying upon the funeral bier? Are we willing to confess that this little gathering called the Divine Service is where the Lord of Life meets the company of the dead? Or are we sure that we are living before we met Christ and even now we can take Him or leave Him?

In a way it doesn’t matter. The Lord will have His way. He is on the offensive. He is attacking hell and He is calling out of it all the dead. For everyone will be raised from the dead. For the Lord has and is visiting His people. Here, at the Divine Service, where His word is preached and His life-giving sacraments are administered.

Here the Body of Christ touches the dead and the dead are raised up.

[Christ raised him who was descending to his grave. The manner of his rising is plain to see. "He touched," it says, "the bier and said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.'" How was not a word enough for raising him who was lying there? What is so difficult to it or past accomplishment? What is more powerful than the Word of God? Why then did he not work the miracle by only a word but also touched the bier?

It was, my beloved, that you might learn that the holy body of Christ is productive for the salvation of man. The flesh of the almighty Word is the body of life and was clothed with his might. Consider that iron when brought into contact with fire produces the effects of fire and fulfills its functions. The flesh of Christ also has the power of giving life and annihilates the influence of death and corruption because it is the flesh of the Word, who gives life to all. May our Lord Jesus Christ also touch us that delivering us from evil works, even from fleshly lusts, he may unite us to the assemblies of the saints.] (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

The Holy Body of Christ touches our dead ears with His Word, and touches our tongues; the Holy Body of Christ bursts the gates of death and hell, making you well and raising you up. The Lord has indeed visited His people and our Prophet is among us.

+ In Nomine Iesu +