A Prescription for Peace in A World of Woe. A Homily for the 10th Sunday of the Year

060813Today’s Gospel provides a kind of prescription for peace in a world of woe. Lets look at this gospel in four stages.

I. The Place –  The text says plainly: Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.

The name of the city “Nain” means “Fair” in the sense of “beautiful.” For sitting upon a high hill, it had a magnificent view.

And here is a too is an apt description of this world which has its fair beauty, its magnificent vistas, its pleasures and offerings. As men and women of faith, we ought to appreciate the beauty of what God has done. We ought not, as the old saying goes, “Walk through a field and miss the color purple.” God has given us many gifts, and the mystic in all of us is invited to wonder and awe, to gratitude and serene joy.

Yes, we, with Jesus and his disciples are journeying to a city called “Nain” with its fair beauty.

And do not miss the word “journey” in this line. For, as we go through life, we are sorely tempted to walk right past “the color purple;” to be unreflective, and ungrateful. Part of life’s task is to make the journey that sees God’s glory, and that is able to be in living conscious contact with God at all times, seeing his beauty and glory on display and being in mystical contemplation of it. We need to journey to a city called “Nain” by having our eyes open to God’s fair beauty. This is the gift of wonder and awe.

If we can make this journey, we will have in place, the first prescription for peace. For the world, with all its woe, never looses the fair beauty of God’s glory. And appreciating this, gives serene peace even in the midst of storms. God is always present and speaking to us in what He has made and is sustaining.

II. The Pain – And yet, fair though this world is, the very next thing we encounter is pain. The text says, As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her.….

For indeed, we live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures. God had made paradise for us.  And while we do not fully know all the parameters of what that Paradise would have been, nevertheless, it is clear that Adam and Eve were driven from the best of what God had made.

Adam was told that the ground was now cursed on account of him, and it brought forth thorns and thistles in a kind of protest. Work for him became arduous and sweaty, and a kind of battle sets up against the forces of nature for him to get his food etc.

Eve will bring forth her children in pain. Strife and some degree of shame also went into her relationship with her husband, and he with her.

The first shedding of blood takes place as God kills an animal and clothes them in its skins. For the world is now grown cold and hostile.

And while the world is not lost all it’s fair beauty, yet still a long scarlet cord of suffering and death reaches from outside Eden’s closed gates to this moment outside the gates of Nain.

And such a pain it is! A woman, already a widow having lost her husband, has now lost her only son, and her livelihood as well.

And thus, we do well to maintain a sober perspective about this world. There is much to enjoy which comes to us from the hand of God. And yet we must also remember that we live in Paradise Lost. Its once and future glory is still on display, but it’s pain is very present.

Simple sobriety about this provides a kind of strange serenity. There are certain hard truths that, if we accept them, will set us free. And one of those hard truths is that life is hard. Joy will come with the morning light, but there are some nights of weeping to endure as we journey to a heavenly homeland where sorrows and sighs are no more.

Accepting the pain of this world is a second part of the prescription for peace in a world of woe.

III. The Portrait of Jesus – The Text says, When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. This woman’s sorrow becomes his own. And while there is a mystery to God’s allowance of suffering, we must never think that Lord is unmoved or uncaring regarding our sorrow.

There is an old saying that “Jesus did not merely come to get us out of trouble, but first to get into trouble with us.” Yes, He takes up our pain, and experiences it to the top. And old hymn says of him, Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide till the day is done; There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one! No, not one!

Note too that the word Pity comes from “pietas” a word for family love. Jesus looks at this woman and sees a sister, a Mother, a family member and he is moved with family love.

Learning to trust in Jesus’ love for us, especially when we suffer, is a critical part of the prescription for peace. We need to pray constantly in suffering: “Jesus I trust in your love for me!” This brings peace if we pray it in the Holy Spirit.

IV. The Preview – The text says, [Jesus] said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. –

We have here a directive of Jesus not to weep, but that directive is rooted in what he plans to do. This is more than a human, “Cheer up, don’t be sad” wish. Jesus is about to give her back her son, and, based on this fact, comes his directive “Do not weep.”

She and the others standing by and weeping with her are about to get a preview of what the Lord will do for all who believe when we are delivered from “Paradise Lost” to the Kingdom of Heaven.

In a very moving line we are told simply, “Jesus gave him to his mother.”

But do you realize that one day the Lord will do this for you? Jesus will return and restore everything and everyone, which the devil and this world have stolen from us. It will all be given back, and more than we can ever imagine add unto it.

We may of course all wish that the Lord had raised some of our loved ones as he did for this widow. But what is done here is a powerful preview for this widow and for us. But even if you have not had this particular preview of what the Lord will do, you have surely had others.

In my own life the Lord has given me victories over sufferings, and setbacks. I have experienced healings and restorations, as I pray and am sure you have too. These are previews and down payments, if you will, on the total restoration that the Lord is going to effect in your life. What ever you have lost, you will recover it all and far more beside.

What previews have you had in your life…what victories, what healing and restoration? These are like previews of the promised and more than full restoration. What is your testimony?

It is important for your to reflect on the previews the Lord has already give, for these are another important part of the prescription for peace: the promise of complete restoration and the previews or down payments he has already made.

Here then is a prescription for peace in a world of woe:

  1. Make the Journey to Nain, a place called fair and beautiful. That is let the Lord open your eyes to the beauty and blessings all around you, and come to see the magnificence of His glory on display at every moment. It will give you peace and serene joy.
  2. Ask the grace to accept that we currently and for a brief time live in Paradise Lost, and that life is hard. But this sober acceptance of life’s sorrows brings a paradoxical serenity as our resentments that we do not live in a perfect world goes away. Accepting that this world, with all its beauty, also has hardships brings peace and a determination to journey to the place where joys will never end.
  3. Accept the Lord’s love for you even in the mysterious allowance of suffering, accept that he is deeply moved and just say over and over, “Jesus, I trust in your Love for me.”
  4. Be alert to the previews that God has already given you and is giving of the future glory that awaits the faithful. And, having accepted this evidence, this testimony from the Holy Spirit, peacefully accept the Lord’s invitation not weep and his promise that you will recover it all, and much more besides.

A prescription for peace in a world of woe.

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