3rd Sunday after Pentecost June 5, 2016 “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said, “Do not weep.”
The Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, once said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
Some of those battles are more apparent than others.
Last Friday I was walking through the Denver airport. On my way to the men’s room I passed, what looked like a service hallway, and there in the hallway was body lying on the floor.
This hallway was on a level above the hustle and bustle of the main concourse, and so it was isolated from the crowds of travelers. I could see that this person lying on the floor was a custodian, so I immediately assumed he was just taking a break from his job of cleaning the airport.
Still, the image bothered me. What if this was a medical emergency?
I was tempted to ignore the situation, to continue walking to my gate and continuing my journey, forever removed from this situation.
But I couldn’t. It is strange to see a body lying on the floor.
Thankfully I noticed another custodian not too far from this scene. I approached him and told him about the body laying on the floor.
I was very relieved when this man responded, “Oh it’s him. He’s just taking a nap. He sleeps there all the time on break.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and turned towards my gate when this custodian put his hand on my shoulder and said, “but thanks for noticing.”
Last Sunday as I was telling this story to my brother, he said, “well I have one better than this story.”
Last Christmas Eve as his family was driving home from midnight mass they came across a body laying in the middle of the road.
My brother was tempted to drive by. It was Christmas Eve. The children said, “just keep going dad.” Everyone was afraid.
But they were driving home from church, to drive by really wasn’t the spirit of Christmas.
My brother stopped the car, approached the man, and determined that he was flat out drunk. He got to the middle of the road and passed out.
First he called the police. In the meantime he realized he couldn’t just leave this guy in the road. At that time he noticed another man standing nearby, not totally sober, but in better shape than his friend.
My brother told him we need to get your friend out of the road. With that the two were able to get his man to his feet, walk to the side of the road, where he would at least be safe until the police arrived.
You never know who or what you will encounter.
“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
The widow of Nain in our gospel this morning is fighting a great battle.
First, remember she has no husband. In this patriarchal society husbands were women’s only source for financial security, unless, of course, they had sons.
We are told this woman had one, but he had just died. This widow was alone and left vulnerable. One commentator mentioned this week that with her son’s death her social security was gone.
The gospel begins with Jesus coming into the village of Nain. A large crowd is with him.
At the village gate, this crowd meets another large crowd. It is the funeral procession of this widow’s son.
The crowd with Jesus is coming into the village. And the crowd following the funeral bier is going out. The two crowds seemingly have nothing to do with each other. You’d expect them to just pass by. But in the midst of this scene Luke focuses on two individuals in these crowds; Jesus and the widow. He writes:
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Next Jesus comes forward and touches the bier, and with that these two processions stop.
These two large crowds seemingly have nothing to do with each other. You expect them to pass by like you pass by hundreds of travelers in airport concourses. But in reality these two crowds have everything to do with each other.
The crowd following Jesus is about his mission. They are coming from Capernaum.
Last week we read the story of Jesus healing a centurion’s slave who was close to death. Jesus is about life. It’s why the crowd has chosen to follow him.
And the crowd following the widow, of course, is all about death. Her only son has died. This is a funeral procession.
A crowd following life, meets a crowd following death; they can’t just pass by.
They meet, they stop, and Jesus acts:
then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak.
Do you notice that this story is not about the dead man? The story is all about the widow.
She was a widow. The crowd was with her. Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her.
And most importantly after the man sat up, And Jesus gave him to his mother.
Unlike the centurion from last week, the woman doesn’t ask for help. We’re not told anything about her faith.
All we know is that she is fighting a great battle. She’s a widow. Her only son has died. She is crippled with grief. And she now has no means to care for herself.
But Jesus saw her, he stopped, he acted, and gave her son back to her. The relationship was restored.
We are the crowd following Jesus. We follow him just like the crowd going with him into Nain. Jesus is about life. He healed the centurion’s slave. He gave the son back to the widow.
The church is a movement that follows Jesus, and so the church is all about life; healthy life, abundant life. Our lives are seeing, stopping, and acting when we meet those fighting great battles.
I had nothing to do with that body laying in the hallway of the Denver airport. My brother had nothing to do with that body laying in the road on Christmas Eve. Jesus had nothing to do with that body laying on the bier coming out of Nain.
We all could have passed by. No one asked for our help. No one would even notice.
We have nothing to do with those we meet fighting great battles, yet because of Jesus, we have everything to do with the bodies laying in the hallway, the road, the bier.
Because we are in the large crowd that follows Jesus, we see, we stop, we act.
God has looked favorable on his people.
Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.