Still taste ashes, still breathe smoke
I imagine some wanted to avoid this past Sunday, September 11.
Then I think ‘avoid’ may not the right word. Deny may be more accurate.
Denial is one of the five phases of grief. The other four are bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance.
I speak of denial if you looked at this past 9/11 and said, “We’re past this,” “It’s not a big deal anymore,” “It’s so long ago now,” “We’ve been there—done that,” or “I really don’t want to do this anymore.”
If any of these thoughts clouded your mind recently, I suggest you’re not downplaying what happened; I think you’re denying what actually happened. More so, I think you could be denying—or avoiding—what is still happening. America faced death head on. We face its anniversary annually.
Someone else faced death head on. In scripture I used this past Sunday, Jesus also walked toward death. Along with his disciples and a large crowd, Jesus approached a funeral procession leaving the town of Nain. As recorded in Luke 7, the body of a widow’s only son was being carried to its burial site.
Remember women were powerless at this time in history. A widow’s voice and place in society belonged to her closest male relative. Without her husband, this widow had no choice but to depend on her son. With his death, she would be lost.
When Jesus saw this grieving widow, his heart filled with compassion. “Don’t cry,” he said.
What Jesus did next is not surprising, if you know Jesus. He walked over to the coffin and touched it. The bearers stopped immediately. “Young man,” the Lord said to the lifeless body inside. “I tell you, get up.”
Immediately the dead boy got up and began to talk.
Jesus returned the boy to his mother.
This scripture is important because Jesus did to that boy what Jesus does to 9/11. He touched the scene in Nain. He touches the scene now.
Specifically, Jesus touched the heartbreak in that funeral procession. He touched loss. He touched death. He changed despair from death to the delight of life. He said to the widow what he has been saying to us since that Tuesday morning in 2001. “Get up.”
I believe Jesus is doing the same today.
We face deaths of all kinds all of the time. I’m not talking about physical deaths necessarily. Maybe hope has died. Maybe patience has died. Maybe the ability to reconcile has died.
Jesus approaches these deaths with all other types of deaths. He fixes them. He restores them. He revives them.
Each week I write what’s called a sermon prep. These preps give my congregation something to sink into and prepare for in advance of worship on a Sunday. This particular week lifted a verse in this death-to-life text. I wrote about why we come to church. I spoke to what is it about church that makes us keep going back.
I shared in the prep that we come to church because we experience some of Luke 7 each time we worship. Something that has died in us comes back to life. Maybe it was something the choir sang. Maybe it was that little tike who (mostly) sat still and then leaned against her mother’s shoulder for a time. Maybe it was that saint of a man who greeted you at the door on your way in or on your way out. But something changed. Something that didn’t have a spark in your soul suddenly lit.
We should go to church expecting death-to-life experiences to happen. These experiences may not be huge. In fact, they may almost be unrecognizable, but they are there.
Let’s not avoid church. Let’s come to it just as Jesus came to that funeral procession. Let’s meet and be touched by Jesus himself.