The Widow's Son is Raised

The Widow’s Son

New Testament Reading : Romans 12

The Gospel Reading; Luke 7. 11-17

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Suggestions for Hymn and Songs:

Spirit of God unseen as the wind

Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart (by Stuart Townend)

Oh God and Spirit (by the Northumbria Community)

The Splendour of our King (How great is our God)

Here I am Lord

Be Thou my Vision

Blessing: May your life in this world be a happy one

(movement with children: by Northumbria Community)

How lovely is thy dwelling place

Spirit of Holiness

From the squalor of a borrowed stable

How deep the Father’s love for me

Christ as a light (with dance. Music by Northumbria ommunity)

Tell out my soul

O the deep deep love of Jesus

Blessing: May the Saints and Saviour (Northumbria Community)

Opening prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Through our worship today,

and through hearing your word in scripture and song, we come humbly seeking you.

We come giving ourselves into your hands, to ask you to do with us what you will.

We are ready for your word, we want you to speak to our hearts, we want to learn from you, we want to grow, and we want to draw closer to you so we can serve you better in our world.

Come visit us, release the power of your Spirit upon us as a church gathered here, to make us new. Help us to feel your love and compassion all around us as we praise you and magnify your holy name, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Make of us this day, a New Creation.

Come have your way among us.

Amen

Children’s input. The dandelion clock (see below)

Drama: Bad Press (see below)

Peter’s testimony

I met Jesus three years ago, and I just knew straight away, that here was someone who knew my heart, could see right inside me….and even though I tried to keep him at arm’s length, he didn’t give up on me. He had seen something in me that I could not see. I could only see the sinful man, me!

He was the most amazing person. I could scarce believe what he was teaching people , it was all so revolutionary, and I could scarce believe what I saw…all that compassion, all those miracles, all that joy~ those changed lives, healed, made clean and holy. People turned right round in their tracks and followed him. It was all so very beautiful. It was so good being part of it all. Those years were inspiring. We learnt so much from him.

But you see I got it all wrong. He was trying to tell us something about his future suffering and death, and I started to boast. I assured him of all the things I would accomplish for him with my life. I told I would give my life for him. I was so certain,

I got caught up with my own importance after all I was his right hand man, his rock!, but when it came to the test, as he said it would by the way. He was right

And I let him down big time.

I let myself down, felt very depressed. I was in a daze, felt a proper failure.

The words I’d said that night when he was arrested kept going around and around in my head.

I don’t know him, I tell you I don’t know him!

I couldn’t keep my promise to him…I had weaknesses I hadn’t realized were there.

I was so very low. My heart sank, everything around me began falling apart. Three whole years wasted, I told myself. If I were honest there were very real doubts in my mind when he was taken and slaughtered. Died a death like a man cursed.

But you see all this should not be about me, but him. He was raised from the dead, everything he said would happen, looking back, did happen.

I was uplifted, filled with new hope, I was ecstatic, when I heard he was alive again, and yet at the same time, terrified to meet up with him again, for fear of his disapproval, his ‘I told you so!’.

Later when we saw him on the shore, I was into I’ll prove myself mode, and I dived in. I’ll show him I still love him, I’ll get to him first.

There I was again, singling myself out from the others, trying to get into his favour again.

He asked me three times later if I loved him. Three times, why three?

I think I knew for I had denied him three times.

But you know what gave me heart~ what I still cannot believe he did? He still wanted me to do things for him, even though I had proved a miserable failure!

I was given yet another chance. He hadn’t given up on me! He didn’t appointed anyone else as the leader of our band of men. It seemed I was still his rock!

‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.’ He told me

Now with the help of the Holy Spirit, and in his strength, I’m trying to do just that and I won’t give up, no matter what happens. I may keep getting it wrong, but I know I’ve been given a task to do by Jesus. And I’m going to keep at it till he calls me home to be with him. I won’t give up. I won’t allow myself to be despondent or be filled with despair. Not this time.

I’ll shake off whatever holds me back and keep on going.

I’ll feed his lambs, I will feed his sheep.

Deckham’ puppet and the dandelion:

Are you going to join the boys and girls in Junior Church Deckham

D shakes head

Why ever not

D whispers

What do you mean you don’t like them? Deckham they’re lovely, I’ve met some of them before and they were really nice and very helpful.

D whispers

You can’t understand them?

Why can’t you understand them Deckham

D whispers

They don’t speak Geordie?! Deckham I’m ashamed of you, they can’t help not speaking properly.

I think you should go, I’m going to be busy chatting to the adults here.

D shakes head

Well that’s sad, because they might be singing, or doing artwork, or hearing lovely stories about Jesus, they might even play some games!

D perks up and whispers

(ask Junior church leader) I don’t know, but I’ll ask one of the teachers.

Will you playing ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?

Leader shakes head.

No they’re not but I’ll tell you what, let’s all play tell the time before you go, I know you like this game.

Can you remember what this is?

D whispers

Yes, it’s the seed head of a dandelion, can you remember how we tell the time.

D mimes blowing

Yes we blow it and count, and once there are no seeds left, then that’s what time it is.

I’ll help you and so will the boys and girls.

D whispers

Yes they will understand me, watch this, they may not speak it, but I’m sure they will understand me. Listen to this

‘How! ye lot, get yersells ower here and gis a hand’ Howay man, gerra move on. Howay me bonnie lads and lasses!

See I told you! They understand us!

D nods and laughs

Let’s all blow and see if we can really tell the time. Are we ready? Are we steady? Blow! 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10.11!

Yes 11 0’ clock. Time for Junior church…hang on a second we’ve made a bit of a mess. Do you think you could pick up the seeds and bring them to me. (children pick them up)

It’s a good job we’re not in the church Deckham, can you imagine if the seeds had got lodged in the new carpet?

D whispers

Yes in a few months time, they won’t have need any flower arrangements.

D whispers

You hope the stewards don’t mind, you can see them frowning at us?

Ah oh! Don’t look in their direction Deckham.

Children bring back the seeds

Hang on a sec… look at them aren’t they small?

And look God’s has given them an umbrella to carry them safely on the wind into the earth to change and grow and make more dandelions!

Did you know children that when you come to church and hear God’s word, God plants INVISIBLE seeds inside of each one of us, small ones just like these.

He hopes theses seeds will grow into very special fruit, but nobody knows how that really happens. But it has got something to do with how we react to God’s work as we live out our lives. You can’t see these fruits growing from these seeds at first, but later people begin to notice them in you. I have some here in this invisible bag. Would you like to know what the seeds are called? Deckham is going to pick them out for you. Let me shake the bag for you Deckham.

He picks them out one at a time…

LOVE…JOY…PEACE…PATIENCE…KINDNESS…GOODNESS …FAITHFULNESS…GENTLENESS…SELF-CONTROL.

I wonder if any of your mams and dads have seen these fruits growing in any of you yet.

Where are the mamas and dads or grannies? Have you?

Super! I told you so.

D whispers

Oh so you want to go to Junior church now with the boys and girls do you? Why have you changed your mind? (D whispers)

Oh good you like the boys and girls now do you? (D whispers)

What that little girl with the blond hair and the blue eyes? Behave yourself Deckham!

(Give puppet to a helper! )

(To the children)

Will you all come back and help me later on?

I’d like to teach you a dance at the end of the service, just like it says in the song we’ve just sung. (Teach me to dance) Bye!

Introduction to drama:

11 o.clock! 11 o’ clock?

There are many today who live in fear. They are convinced that we’re living in the eleventh hour, that the end of the world is nigh…

We hear so much these days of global warming of terrorism, of cruelty and violence nearer home in our local streets. We hear of food and waste squandered so much so that there is a shortage of landfill sites; whilst at the same time at the other side of the world we hear of others starving and searching for food on rubbish tips.

We hear in our country of the breakdown of the family unit, of drug problems, of persecutions and mass slaughter and nuclear stockpiles beginning to grow again.

People wring their hands in horror and look for answers, politicians and scientists wrack their brains for solutions to world, and in the mean time Prozac takes hold of the nation.

The list is endless…

So what is our responsibility as Christians living in such a precarious time?

How do we respond to those who view our message as irrelevant?

Let us listen to two ordinary Christians as we search for answers ourselves.

Drama:

BAD PRESS ( Acts 28 .15)

(Enter two Christians sharing their thoughts)

A We’re getting a very bad press at the moment, we Christians, have you noticed? Other faiths are exalted, shown the highest of respect, given space…Yet us….

B Yes indeed, every which way we turn someone’s putting us down or making up lies, even scorning the cross. They never see the positive aspects of about our faith!

A Somehow we’re looked on as the fools, the weird ones!

B Propaganda against us is rife; I’m beginning to think it’s a plot, I’m telling you now!

A It makes you think things are going to get rough indeed in the not too distant future. It fills me with a sense of dread.

B I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve it?

A We do our best, we give to the needy, we try to be just and fair! We try to love others and do good.

B We meet often to worship God, we try to tell people how great and wonderful God is!

A But there’s such a lot of competition these days… so many other gods around for people to worship! They’re all over the place, in homes, the stadium, the shops.

B Most people just don’t want to know though, they’re switched off by religion or they’re so wrapped up in themselves they don’t see the need!

A Some people say we’re too religious, that there’s something sinister about us, that we’re messing with people’s minds, that we’re guilty of indoctrination.

B What’s the world coming to?

A It’s a worry isn’t it? And everywhere we turn there’s a depressing lack of morals! You wouldn’t believe some of the things people get up to nowadays!

B It’s getting so bad, I just want to scream ‘ENOUGH?!’

A And the violence! Our prisons are full to bursting!

B It’s such a worry! Things can only get worse! What sort of world will our children grow up in?

A It keeps me awake at nights, worrying about it!

B Well you’re not the only one! I’m very concerned too!

(at this point the audience has the impression that this drama takes place in today’s world, but make this next sentence very clear.)

A Never mind come, we’re due to meet brother Paul at the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns this evening. We have a long journey if we’re to get there on time. He’s been spending a week in Puteoli with some brothers.

B Has he?

A They sent word to us to receive him…

B I can’t wait to meet him…..

(They go out discussing…. )

A They say he’s been in jail a few times…caused a few disturbances here and there…

B Oh the press will love that!

Comment after drama:

I had been having one of those off days, when I was bemoaning the state of the world, and expressing all kinds of fears about the future to Bob as we did our morning walk, when he suddenly brought me up short by saying…

What makes you think it was any different in the times of the early church? That is how the drama came into being.

But what wonderful scriptures we’ve been given in order to help us to go forward, into what may prove to be a tough and difficult future. The early church kept the faith and passed it on, to successive generations. Are we up to the task? Will we be strong and persevere?

As I said to the children before, when God’s word speaks to us and we respond and act upon it, the roots of the seeds can go deep and the spreading of our faith becomes possible, because it has reached good soil. Regular confession helps us to clear weeds out whenever they appear.

But before we make our confession let’s listen to some words from Romans 12 and think upon them, and reflect how often we fall short in the offering of our lives as daily sacrifices to God.

I am going to sing a song after a while, to allow you to reflect upon this bible reading.

Allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide you through it, pause and meditate on the part of this reading that jumps out at you. (O God and Spirit)

Story linked with absolution;

A famous Archbishop from Manila tells a story of a lady who would approach him after each weekly audience with what she said was a message from God.

Several times he brushed her off, but she kept coming back.

Finally he said, ‘We Catholics have strict rules governing visions and messages from God. I need to test your authenticity. I want you to go back and ask God about a particular sin I recently confessed in private. If you ask God and he tells you the answer, I’ll know your vision is genuine.

The next week, as usual, she returned, and he quizzed her, a bit nervously,

‘Well, did you ask God about my sin?’

‘I did,’ she replied.

‘And did God answer?’

He did,’ she said.

‘What did he say?’ he said most concerned.

‘God said that he couldn’t remember!’

SERMON:

THE STORY OF JESUS AND THE WIDOW OF NAIN.

What went before:

I don’t know about you, but when a story begins… ‘Soon afterwards?’ I want to know what went before, don’t you?

Well, Jesus had just come from Capernaum where he had healed the slave of a very wealthy and important Roman official, a Gentile and most powerful man.

In our Gospel story today he is about to meet up with quite the opposite, an elderly widow, poor and desolate…powerless, a Jewish mother whose only son had died.

What a Saviour:

In reaching out to all kinds of people in society, Jesus demonstrated a love that showed no favouritism.

We see that Jesus was a person who fitted into nobody’s mould! He was quite unique, and totally impartial.

Whoever he met, in need of his blessing, ended up the better for it…their lives changed forever.

No wonder crowds flocked to him, travelling the road with him.

After all this was one who spoke with authority over demons, stilled storms, healed frightful diseases, could somehow conjure up great miracles…but now today they were see something which would shock them to the core and make them fearful and awe-struck. Something they had not seen him do before!

Jesus would raise a dead person to life.

The City of Nain: the setting

In this story Jesus is travelling to a place called Nain, a city of Galilee, 25 miles from Capernaum, 6 miles south of Nazareth, situated on the hills of Moreh, the very place where Gideon and and his band of warriors had overcome the Midianites.

And so Jesus, accompanied by a large crowd drew near to the city gates.

But what had led him there in the first place?

Perhaps Jesus had simply been led there by the Spirit of God, just as he had been led into the wilderness by the Spirit. We know that Jesus spent time alone with the Father to be sure of knowing his will, thus setting a pattern for us all to follow.

The right time for Jesus was always the ‘Now!’ the present moment, where every conversation, every interruption in his routine, every conversation, was filled with the very essence of God.

The New Testament writers also encourage us to think like this!

‘Now is the time for Salvation!’ it says in….*

We too must be at the ready to make the most of the present moment!

The encounter:

As Jesus and his joyful band of followers enter through the gate, a loud and mournful funeral procession was on its way out of the town. What opposites!

Two quite different parties, characterised by two very different moods, both travelling right past each other in the opposite direction.

But Jesus didn’t stand back and merely look on, as we might have done. No. HE GOT INVOLVED. Because of his compassion he made the situation his business. He was PROACTIVE.

I suppose we would be more inclined to move back out of the way, maintain a respectful silence, thinking to ourselves

‘Don’t get involved, it’s not my place, it’s not even my business.!’

We British can so reserved can’t we?

Rydal accident.

I was at a conference not long ago in the Lakes at a place called Rydal, and the speaker, a Methodist minister, was telling us about a recent accident on a very dangerous stretch of road.There had been a collision involving a motor-bike and a car. The biker had come off worse. The minister had been caught up in a traffic jam, very near the scene. Other cars turned around and went back to find an alternative route.

But he got out and walked forward to the accident scene. He saw there a boy lying dead, and three or four of his friends were standing around stunned. They were very big tough looking lads all dressed in leather. One was a brother of the boy who had been killed. They could only stand grieving there waiting for the ambulance; nothing could be done.

The minister stepped forward, not knowing what to say or do, but introduced himself, and asked if there was anything he could do. They replied, ‘No’ Then he said to them, ‘Would you like me to say a prayer with you?’

They immediately gathered round him in a circle, and with arms wrapped tightly around each other, he led them in prayer, and the tears flowed.

A heart full of compassion

Jesus too stepped forward. He addressed the mother, the chief mourner, and saying to her, ‘Don’t cry’ !

Now these words make me feel a little uncomfortable, they bring back a painful memory of a young very immature teenage girl, trying to cheer a grandmother up after her husband’s (my granda’s) funeral at a gathering of people who by then were eating and drinking fairly loudly and cheerfully, while she, poor soul, sat staring into the fire. I can still see her now.

‘Come on Nana, smile!’’ I whispered. I meant well, she looked so very sad, but my insensitive words had annoyed her; but not for long, she would have seen my heart! But I could not take away her pain or give back a much loved husband, with mere words.

But this was no teenager, saying ‘Don’t cry!’ here in this story, this was Jesus who knew full well, that in a few seconds hence, this poor widow would be weeping tears of joy, but I wonder what her reaction was when she first heard his words?

Could he here have been thinking of own mother, who in the not too distant future would be in her position?

His heart was full of deep compassion, it says ‘his heart went out to her.’

We often hear today on the news after some tragedy, some world leader, politician or head teacher saying the words:

‘Our hearts go out to the family etc., It’s almost become a cliché!

Jesus’ heart literally did just that.

With his words ‘Don’t cry,’ he went into action.

What does it say in the bible?

True love is shown…

Is it by words?…by an embrace? By a kiss, by a smile or an expression?

No it says, True love is shown in ACTION!

The widow

It wouldn’t have been difficult for Jesus to pick out which woman was the widow.

Her grief would have been acute; for without her only son, (whom she dearly loved) her security and comfort in old age were gone, her future bleak, her family line, her hopes and her dreams cut off. There was no Social Security in those days, no housing for the elderly, no welfare system, no National Health Service.. She would probably come to think of herself as a nuisance, yet another mouth to feed, if someone happened to be feeling charitable.

But Jesus was about to restore to her the most precious gift of all.

For Life was about to conquer Death!

All had been lost, up to this point, until Jesus stepped in.

He touched the wicker bier, defying laws which made him now ritually unclean in everyone’s eyes, saying, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up.’

And he sat up, and was restored to his mother!

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been there at that moment!

I wonder how many seconds passed before anyone spoke or screamed, or whooped with delight!

The Crowd’s Reaction

The crowd was astounded.

They were all filled with awe, full of praise They said, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us…God has come to help his people!’ for they have never seen anything like this before, only heard of it happening at the time of the great prophets like Elijah and Elisha. Then they were filled with fear!

Who was this man?

Up until that moment Jesus has not revealed to his disciples who he really was, he has only accepted the term the Son of Man.

His true nature was yet to be revealed.

I wonder how many of you watched Cowboy and Indian films when you were younger.

You see a man in a white hat ride away on a white horse into the distance with his faithful Indian friend Tonto following close behind him, and at that moment, each week without fail, someone would ask the all important question,

Who WAS that man with the mask?

And someone nearby, ‘in the know’, would reply:

He’s the ? Lone Ranger!

I bet you can even sing the tune which follows too!

Jesus’ followers always seem to wrestle with the question of who Jesus really could be? Especially after dynamic events like this.

But from this moment on( see v 13), Luke begins to use the title ‘Lord’ for Jesus, more and more often.

It is a word which speaks of divinity. The Hebrew word, ‘Adonai’ is the word the Jew spoke out loud when they read God’s name in the Hebrew text.

Who is Jesus to us?

To us as Christians, he is the Lord of life! The Son of God and of God, who else in all history has there been like him?

Who else has the words of life?

Where else would we go, no-one has ever spoken words like his, with such authority.

Conclusion:

Let’s use our imaginations, this morning and place ourselves right into the heart of this story; drink in the atmosphere, imagine the hot desert sand and the heat, picture the actual gate; the colour of sky, the cry of town animals, the murmers of the townsfolk, the wailing of the mourners.

If I were to ask you to picture yourself as one of the many characters here, where would you place yourself?

As a supportive friend in the band of mourners, there when anyone needs you? Can you feel yourself judging him at first?

How do you feel when you hear Jesus say, “Don’t cry” to your friend, the widow?

Perhaps someone in Jesus band of followers, was hoping for some kind of image or evidence that God was real, and was hoping for a miracle. Perhaps you can pray a little prayer that you will see one this morning.

Perhaps you’re feeling so much pain and hurt at present that you even see yourself as that widow?

If you do and your pain is too deep and too painful, because of bereavement yourself, then try to focus on Jesus eyes, see his compassion and sense the comfort he is offering, ask what miracle he wants to work in you right now?

I wonder if we can just for a moment imagine what it was like to have been Jesus at that moment? See with his eyes, go into action in the strength of his power?

The bible tells us we can, that we will fo greater things than this!

Jesus left only a small group of believers to pass on his life to the world.

At PENTECOST, these believers experienced what we now would call the WOW factor; Jesus had come to make his home WITHIN them, they were on fire , their hearts burned within them, the breath of God’s Spirit, their speech and language outpoured…hence Paul’s description of his conversion….’It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!’ and 3000 people that day were added to their number,

Who else was this promise for?

Who else must take LIFE into the world?

Who else must say and do the things Jesus did?

Acts 2 39 tells us,

‘This promise is for you,’ Peter tells the crowd, ‘and for your children, (and wait for it, this is where we come into it) AND FOR ALL WHO ARE FAR OFF-FOR ALL WHOM THE LORD WILL CALL!

For US!

But we say, things could get scary, painful, uncomfortable…

I would have to count the cost. It means carrying the cross, whatever that cross happens to be.

If you have ever seen the film ‘Reach for the Skies’ a film, you’ll know it’s about Douglas Bader,a fighter pilot in the Second World War who was involved in a serious crash in which he lost both legs’.

I remember the part where he is in a hospital side ward, dying. His pain suddenly seems to disappear, he feels a sense of well-being of lightness.

He is drifting off towards death, when the loud voices and laughter of some nurses are heard in the corridor, and the senior nurse on duty reprimands them saying, ‘Be quiet, don’t you know there’s a young man dying in here?’

It’s at that moment, he realises he’s the one the nurse is talking about, and he resolves not to die. He decides he wants to live and the pain returns with a vengeance, but he battles back to health again.

Where we enter the fray, there will be pain, there will be challenges but there we will find life and joy and healing!

But at least we won’t be dead and drifting and unfeeling and oblivious to all else as was that dying man, as he entered into death.

When Jesus, the Lord of Life said, ‘I have come that you might have LIFE and have it abundantly, he wasn’t just meaning only his disciples or us was he?

Surely he was talking about the world in need, just as that widow was in need! If your imagination is still working, then put the needy world into her character.

We can’t all have the opportunities of a prime minister who seeks to instil values, or of a rock star who wants to Make Poverty History but we each in our own way achieve some miracle in bringing life to others…

but will we have the courage, the moral strength, the discipline and the greatness to see it through, as did those disciples in the early church?

Sermon Prayer. (I love this prayer by Lee Strobel, page 399 Celtic Daily Prayer)

Lord we want to get into the fray!

We want to play a role in the biggest adventure story of all time.

Use me to make a difference!

Use me to impact a young person for you. Use me to solve someone’s problems. Use me to soothe someone’s pain. Use me to answer someone’s prayer. Use me to feed someone who is hungry. Use me to rescue a child. Use me to bring someone to you. Use me to ease someone’s loneliness. Use me to raise a godly family. Use me to deepen someone’s faith. Us me to cheer someone on. Use me to help a broken person understand that they’re precious in your sight. Use me to touch lives.

Use me to build a living cathedral to Your glory.