Widow’s sons

Widows and miracles – so often in Scripture, the two go together.

Perhaps it is because those who have suffered great loss are better suited to recognize mercy and grace…

Elijah encounters a woman at the end of her resources;

Jesus meets a procession of profound grief;

And in both cases, the widows in question have their stability and support miraculously returned to them in the form of their respective sons.

The dead are raised, and the fortunes of these women are changed for the better, for a widow (in the ancient world especially) was a person without hope, without ally, without position or prospect.

Scripture of this sort – miracle cures and signs of God’s power performed –

are the refuge of the hopeless even in our time.  But we are right to ask why such signs seem to have been withheld in our experience… Where do we get our sense of wonder?  Where are our miracles? How are we to find hope, if not from miraculous cures, and signs of wonder offered by those chosen by God?  Our widows need help; our sorrow is just as real – our situations just as heart-wrenching.  What do these singular stories of death and resurrection mean to us?  Why must we be taunted by them?

Too often I have heard people refer to the miracles recorded in Scripture with despair, rather than delight:

“Why does God not heal me?  Why did my daughter / father / husband have to die?  Where’s MY miracle…?

If indeed these Biblical miracles are a sign of God’s favour, and the presence of God’s servants, does their absence mean God’s promise has deserted us?

It would be easy to come to that conclusion – to decide that somehow our faith is deficient, and our waiting is in vain. Too often, when our questions go unanswered and our opportunities for grace seem to have come to an end, we are told “Have faith!”, yet those words ring hollow when you are down to your last meal, or you have just buried your child.

As followers of Christ, we are often called upon (in fact, Scripture says we must be always ready) to give account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).  And that hope is not dependent on signs and miracles.

What these Scriptures offer us is a faithful way to respond  to the kind of tragedy that is all too common among us.

This idea was suggested to me in an online article by a Mennonite pastor named Lia Scholl (http://thq.wearesparkhouse.org/featured/lect10cgospel/)  Her reflection (on the notion and nature of healing in the Luke 7: 11-17 passage) identifies four steps in Jesus’ response that I believe could serve us well.  What Jesus does, Scholl says, is notice, care, respond, and believe.  I believe that this pattern of behaviour – while it quite often points to what we now call “a miracle” – never fails to reveal the grace of God at work among the people Jesus has engaged.

We are easily able to do any of these things –notice, care, respond, and believe; occasionally we may even do several of them in succession –

Jesus secret is that these are constant features of his behaviour.

——-

Jesus notices the funeral procession.

It would be easier to ignore it; to step aside, or go around –

but Jesus mingles with the mourners and takes deliberate interest in the lives of these strangers.  Can we say the same?

Once noticed, he seems to be deeply interested.  The process of Jesus’ involvement runs a rapid race.  Jesus responds to the need that he recognizes – he speaks – he touches – he dares to call the dead to life

This is not a normal, passing interest; in Scholl’s words “Jesus gives a crap” – words she has intentionally chosen to shock us into realizing that, too often, we don’t (give a crap).   The phrase “He had compassion for her” has its roots deep within the body; the Greek understanding of emotion was tied to the physical location of a person’s “guts/bowels” – so, he felt this in his guts – deeply – with all that was in him.  While our language has altered, we still “feel deeply” – and are moved to the depths of our being –about a good many things; but how often are we moved this way by the plight of our neighbours?

But it is Jesus profound belief in the presence and power of God that makes the difference.  He takes each of these steps in absolute confidence that it is not just the outcome, but the whole situation that is inhabited by the presence of God.

A firm belief that the dead will rise and the sick will be made well  is not enough to make it happen – that we know too well.

The witness of Jesus in these miracles of faith helps to point to the less obvious truth – that God was on the scene all along.  That God walks alongside the funeral bier; and with the hopeless widow.  That even at the height of our uncertainty, God promises a new beginning; a fresh start.

Our decision to model Jesus behaviour will make a difference in the lives of the lonely and desperate and anxious and grieving.  Our willingness to care – to show real compassion and act on that compassion –

while it may not raise the dead, will certainly bring new life to the situation.

For the act of engaging the suffering (as Jesus did) is what helps us recognize (and celebrate) the presence of God alongside those who suffer.

And that is always good news;

Even as we bury our dead; Even though the sick still suffer –

The interest and compassion and action of the faithful

brings the hope of God to the midst of the hopeless –

And that is what miracles are made of.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: