Dear Friends in Christ,
As we enter Lent and head towards Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, here is a story from Luke’s Gospel that jumps out at me. This translation is by Eugene Peterson in The Message.
“Not long after that, Jesus went to the village of Nain. His disciples were with him, along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a
funeral procession—a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, ‘Young man, I tell you: Get up.’ The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.
“The villagers all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was
at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful,
calling out among themselves, ‘God is back, looking to the needs of God’s
people!’ The news of Jesus spread all through the country.” Luke 7:11-17
In Jesus’ day, a faithful believer did not touch a dead person or anything connected to death, such as a coffin. Doing so would make you spiritually impure and would distance you from God, or so they believed.
Jesus, however, revealed a deeper truth from the heart of God. God desires to bring us full life in every moment of pain and death. Jesus’ own heart broke when he saw the suffering of the widow mother who had lost her only son. Therefore, Jesus boldly touched death…touched the coffin…and so brought life roaring back to her son. “God is back, looking to the needs of God’s people!” the people shouted.
Wherever there is death or despair, Jesus enters and brings life. That is also the promise of the weeks ahead of us as we make our Lenten journey. We will follow Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, confronts the authorities, is seized and taken to the place of death. Yet, wherever Jesus touches death, God brings life.
As we travel this Lenten path, we are urged to let Jesus touch the places in our life and world where death holds us. Jesus’ heart breaks when he sees us suffering. He mourns our physical pain. He grieves the breaks in our families and communities. He feels with pain the deadly grip of suspicion, abuse and violence that strangles our nation and world right now.
Seeing Jesus gasping on the cross, we wonder if we, too, are about to breath our last. We wonder, like the disciples, if everything good we care about in the world is about to die. Then suddenly, God comes and turns death into life.
“God is back, looking to the needs of God’s people!” That’s Easter. That’s where we’re headed on this journey. Through Jesus, God welcomes us again and again to the table where we feast on grace, joy and community and then sends out into the world to bring full life to others.
May God’s bless you in this holy time of Lent as we journey through death to life.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Rick Jaech