Year C,  SUNDAY 10  

June 5-11

 

Luke 7:11-17                           (Sermon: “The Man who Wakes the Dead “)

Galations 1:11-24

1 Kings 17: 8-24

Psalm 146

 

CALL TO WORSHIP

 

Greeting: The joy of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

                                    And also with you.      

 

Sentences: Praise the Lord!

                                    Praise the Lord, O my soul!

                                    I will praise God as long as I live;

                                    I will sing praises to God as long as I have being.

 

            OR

                        Never put your trust in princes or politicians.,

                        nor in any child of earth’s dust, for they cannot help you.

                        No matter how important, they stop breathing like the rest of us,

                        on that day their schemes perish and return to the earth

                       

                        Happy are those whose help comes from the God of Jacob,

                        whose hope rests in the God of Christ Jesus.

                        This is the One who makes and sustains  heaven and earth,

                        who keeps faith with us forever.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

Let us approach God in prayer.

 

Most loving God,

today as we pray together, sing together, and meditate together,

give to each of us your inner light,

            that we may see things more clearly

            and know that you cherish us

            more than a mother loves her baby,

            more than a father cares for his child.

 

Then by your enabling Spirit,

show us how to cherish one another

both in this house of prayer

and through all the commonness of this new week.

 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

 

Minister: Dear friends, our Lord Jesus has asked us to love God with a single mind,

                          and to love those around us with the same kind of love which he displayed.

                          In this we have surely failed.

Let us pray.

 

M:  Whenever our compassion dries up, and our hearts are like a dried up billabong,

             Lord have mercy.

P:  Lord have mercy.

 

M:  Whenever our minds foster resentment, and our thoughts become like spiky spinifex,

            Christ have mercy.

P: Christ have mercy.

 

M:  Whenever our souls sink into apathy, and our prayers seem like clouds of bull dust,

            Lord have mercy.

P:  Lord have mercy.

 

M: Merciful Lord, God of Jesus Christ and our God,

            please forgive your delinquent children their folly and sin.

            Wipe away the grime and shame of our failures.

            Recondition our attitudes and our activities.

            May faith begin to truly fashion our goals,

            may love radically shape our actions,

            and hope uplift our prayers.

            Through Jesus whose love is our inspiration.

P: Amen!

 

ABSOLUTION

 

Friends, hear again this day the wonderful gospel:

             “Here are words that are worth accepting:

            Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

 

In him our sins are forgiven and our restoration and peace are assured.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

As God has forgiven you, you are to forgive one another.

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all’

And also with you.

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

 

I reckon you could do anything,

God?

 

If you can raise the dead

and give them life,

nothing is too much for you.

 

But you are too wise

and too loving to do everything

that we ask you.

 

When it seems to us

you don’t answer our prayers

don’t let us get in the sulks.

Help us to go on trusting

your mega wisdom and love,

especially we feel most puzzled

or disappointed.

 

Through Jesus our big Brother

and our Saviour.

Amen

 

PSALM 146

 

Hallelujah!

Praise the living God, O my soul!

As long as I live, I will give praise to God.

As long as I have breath, I will sing praises.

 

Let nobody put their trust in earthly rulers;

no human being can give the help you need.

All will cease to breathe and return to dust.

All their big ideas will perish.

 

If you want to be happy, trust the God of Jacob,

put your hope in the one living God;

The One who called heaven and earth into being,

who shaped the sea and everything in it.

Who forever keeps faith with us

who gives justice to the oppressed people;

Who provides enough food for all the hungry.

and sets the prisoners free

 

Our God opens the eyes of the blind.

those who are weighed down are lifted up.

Sincere folk find they are Divinely loved,

and our Lord watches over the refugees.

God upholds the rights of widow and orphan,

but the paths of the wicked lead to ruin.

 

This is the only faithful God

who will be there for us, forever;

Through all generations,

God of the redeemed!

Hallelujah!

 

COLLECT

 

God of widows and orphans, the consolation of the sad,

            you have visited and redeemed your people.

Grant that by the charisma of your true Son,

            closed eyes and ears may be opened,

            handicaps may be overcome,

            disease may yield to health,

and those who are dead may be raised up

            to love, worship and serve you forever.

Amen!

 

 

SERMON: THE MAN WHO WAKES THE DEAD

 

Luke 7: 11-17

 

During last week, I saw some dying or dead people walking around.

No kidding, I really did!

 

Some were pushing shopping trolleys around K Mart.

Some were eating “Whoppers” from Hungry Jacks

Some were driving BMW’s or reclining in  stretched limos.

 

I saw some dying or dead men in smooth Italian suits going into an expensive restaurant.

A dead, curvaceous model, briefly animated by a few sniffs of cocaine, was parading her attributes for the cameras.

Another dead man, a politician, was avidly reading the latest opinion polls as he bustled towards his office.

 

There you have it. I really have seen dying and dead people walking. It’s not that rare. It is, indeed, so common that thousands of men and women think of is as normal. In our culture, to be a well washed, well connected, well manicured, well dressed, well off corpse is regarded as the epitome of success..

 

THE BIBLE AND DEATH

 

I am of course, speaking the way the Bible speaks. I am using the biblical perspective rather than that used by doctors in ER,  or grave diggers and undertakers. So let’s clarify this.

 

The Bible uses the words “death” and dead in two ways. Sometimes these two meanings are separate, sometimes they overlap.

 

First, the Bible certainly does at times use the word death in the same way as do grave diggers and doctors. Physical death. The heart stops beating, the breath is stilled, rigour mortis and decay are on the way.

 

Second, the Bible uses the word death to describe spiritual rigour mortis. The essential nature of spiritual death is that we become hardened and cut off from God. Human beings can become insensitive and finally unresponsive  to the fundamental spiritual dimension of existence; cut off from LIFE written with capital letters. Alienated from God and from our own precious destiny; rebels against all that is truly loving and lovely. Petty mutineers who become completely self-centred rather than God centred. To be a godless person is to be already dead. In a profound sense godless = dead. “Dead in your trespasses and sins.”

 

For the Bible perspective, death is separation from the Source of our being. It is the result allowing the “image of God” to decay. It can be an infection from others, but often it is self inflicted. This death comes from spiritual malnutrition or even spiritual self strangulation.

 

This death, not the physical one, is the ultimate disaster. Compared with this, physical death is major, but not crucial,  event.

 

Therefore, it is true for me to say that I see hundreds of dying or dead people walking. In my youth there were horror films about zombies. These were far fetched. But there is nothing far fetched about spiritual zombies. Tragically these are not just a film gimmick to put the shivers into adolescent film goers.

 

In the New Testament, physical death is certainly real. But it is not the worst thing that can happen. It is spiritual death that is to be really feared.

 

THE PRODIGAL SON

 

One of the two most famous of all the parables told by Jesus is that story we usually call “the prodigal son.”

 

This foolish young man cut himself off from his true family and destiny. He severed ties with his authentic life, cashed in his inheritance,  and went to live an alien life among pagans.  Far away from home, in a foreign city he went on one big, extended party. At the first he was surrounded by dozens of fair weather friends. “This is the life,” he said as he shouted another round of drinks. Increasingly the basic dignity of his true soul was eroded. Finally, destitute physically and spiritually, he got a job looking after pigs. To a Jew, to be a swine herd was a disgraceful occupation.  He was as good as dead.

 

Yet it seems that though he was near death, this son was not yet totally dead. Beside the pig troughs, he came to his senses and took the long and painful journey back home, hoping his father might employ him as a servant.

 

The father had other ideas. The separation was over, the dying was reversed. He ran and welcomed his child back to the life to which he was born. He exclaimed for all to hear: “This was son was dead, but now he is come alive again.”

 

To be back where we truly belong, is to be alive. To be back in fellowship with God, is to be alive. Now that is a remarkable thing!

 

Many of us tend to take our place in the fellowship of God’s family for granted. Only those who have cut themselves off, and found themselves spiritually dying, realise the wonder of coming back where they belong. It is like the joy of shaking off the coils of death and coming very much alive again.

 

One young fellow who came to me from counselling, thought he was not religious and evaded what he called “church speak”. But one  day, as he experienced an infusion of the Spirit of God he exclaimed: :”Bruce, it’s awesome. It’s like...like....its like being born again.” Hearing  his own words he grinned broadly, recognising that he was actually quoting a Bible phrase.

 

JESUS AND THE DEAD  YOUTH

 

In the Gospel reading set for this day, we heard again the story of the corpse of a young man, the only son of a widow, that was being carried off for burial.  The compassionate soul of Jesus was deeply moved. He told the widow to stop weeping. Then he stepped up to the bier, touched it and said: “Young man, I say to you, rise up.”  The youth sat up, and began to speak.

 

Luke intended us to see Jesus literally waking a man who was physically dead. At the word of Jesus, the dead would live again. Jesus is the Word that wakes the dead.

 

But let us also remember the deeper level of Bible thought. The death to be most feared is that of the spirit.  The Gospel of John especially dwells on this theme. To believe in Jesus, is to already pass from death to eternal life. Jesus meets us on our way to the cemetery, has pity on us and says: “Young man/old man, young woman/old woman, I say to you: Rise up!”

 

SUMMARY

 

DOH Laurence, that rebellious spirit,  once wrote:

            “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

             But it is a much more fearful thing to fall out of them.”

 

To be out of the hands of God, to choose a way of life which is separation, is to choose spiritual decay and death.

            “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

             But it is a much more fearful thing to fall out of them.”

 

Jesus of Nazareth, that living Word of God, still comes to us wherever we are, touches the bier on which we find ourselves being carried along by our culture and speaks to directly us: “Young man, young woman, I say to you rise up.”

 

While we are (to quote Paul) dead in our trespasses and sins Christ Jesus comes our way to resuscitate the dying and to wake the dead.

            In our weakness and weariness he comes to wake the dead.

            If we become puffed up, confusing self importance with life, he comes.

            He comes to us when we sink into resentments, bitterness, or apathy.

            In our pride, our twenty first century technological inspired hubris, he comes to us.

            In our post-modern flirting with a life devoid of firm ethical values, he comes to us.

 

He hates to see death claim us.. He comes to all those biers and coffins which we foolishly may have decorated, and pretended to be “the good life,” and says to us:

 

“Young man, old man, young woman, old woman, rise up.”

 

The story of the widow’s only son is a universal story. Jesus strides over long centuries and across continents and islands.  All souls matter. No dying or dead person is dispensable. All  people matter to this Lord of grace, mercy and peace.

 

“Young man, old man, young woman, old woman, rise up.”

 

A CREED

 

I trust in whom I believe,

I love whom I trust,

I trust whom I worship,

I worship the Holy One

             who is Most Beautiful in the eyes of my soul.

 

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth,

I love his word and his way,

I trust in the reconciling cross,

I worship the exquisite Beauty reflected in him.

 

I believe I am never alone,

I love the Holy Friend,

I trust in the Spirit of Truth,

I worship the Beauty of the Inner Light.

 

I believe I am a child of God,

I love the family of God,

I trust the way of service,

I worship the beautiful God who serves beside us.

 

I trust in whom I believe,

I love whom trust,

I trust whom I worship,

I worship the Holy One

            who is most beautiful in the eyes of my soul.

Amen!

 

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

 

Like a child asking a loving parent for good things,

let us come to God in our prayers of intercession.

 

Let us pray.

 

            Lord of abundant life, Friend of sinners, Word that wakes the dead,

                        we come to you, praying both for ourselves and for other people.

            Deliver us and all people from those malignant attitudes and actions

                        which lead to spiritual dissolution and death.

 

Please save your people from a trust in money and possessions, from gaining a whole world and losing our souls.

 

Save our community from the disease of resentment and revenge. Heal us by your divine touch, teach us to forgive as we are forgiven by you.

 

Save us from permitting physical ailments or handicaps to dominate or embitter our souls, or from the lie that a run of good health is a just reward for our righteousness.

 

Save the sorrow of wanting to keep grief alive rather than moving on; from looking for pity instead of healing and the comfort of your Spirit.`

 

Save our nation from panic and fear, from worrying about a multitude of secondary things while neglecting the one core thing that is needful.

 

Save strong nations from lording it over others, and weaker nations from waiting for some magical political messiah to solve their problems.

 

Save the mass media from idolising the self-centred people and spurning the meek, from applauding retribution and scoffing at those who are merciful.

 

Save us from the death that stalks those who harshly judge others, from presuming to  take speck of dust our of a neighbour’s eye while having a plank in our own.”

 

Save us from not finishing well, for  that static discipleship which keeps looking backwards, like a ploughman looking  over his shoulder..

 

Save us from pretty religion which avoids the way of the cross, and from refusing to “rejoice and be glad” on that day when we are persecuted for our faith.

 

Save your church from becoming like whitewashed tombs; from that fake holiness which draws in upon itself and cuts off the world and its needs.

 

            Most loving God,  to believe in you in to start living, to trust you is to have peace to share, to serve you is to know fulfilment, to suffer for you is to experience a unique happiness, to die with you is to rise into unlimited life.

 

            By your grace, keep safe and healthy all that we have committed to you, from here to          eternity. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

 

WORD OF MISSION AND BLESSING

 

My friends, this life is not a rehearsal.

Every day and each week is precious.

Here and now is blessed reality;

each day can be claimed

as either life to be loved or lost to death.

 

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

I will praise God as long as I live;

 

Step out in faith and hope,

and pray that God will enhance your successes,

annual your blunders and mistakes,

and replace your weakness with a humble strength.

 

I will praise God as long as I live;

I will sing praises to God as long as I have being.

 

The blessing of the Holy One,

            whom the Church through the ages has cherished

            as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

            be with you this day and always.

Amen!