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What Rises From The Wood

Luke 7:11-17

The Rev. Jon Roberts

6 June

2010

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

11 Soon afterward he went to a city called Na′in, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

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Corpus Christi Procession by Carl Emil Doepler, 1824-1905

There is a procession of certain good
when we abide by faith
In what rises from the wood.

The wood is seen in a cross;
perhaps a stretcher,
and possibly a coffin.

The procession is seen with a sacrifice;
perhaps some pain
and possibly even death.

There is a procession of certain good
when we abide by faith
in what rises from the wood.[1]

When we sing the doxology we proclaim that all good comes from God, but sometimes we wonder. We wonder how can it be good when we are asked to make great sacrifice, to suffer pain and possible death. Paul and Cyndi Richardson had wondered this same thing.[2] They were missionaries and knew what it meant to sacrifice. They had given all they owned. But not too long after they were married they began to think their line of work was too risky to raise children. In 1998 they moved away from their primitive native camp and decided to move back home where they felt safer. They moved to Los Angeles. Well, some may think that wasn't as safe. They had family who lived there and modern conveniences. After a year there, they had a little boy and named him Josiah. He became an active crawler and moved around quite stealthily. One day Paul was working in the yard and when he finished he jumped in the pool to cool down. He remembers being refreshed and grabbed a towel to dry off. Opening the sliding glass door, he went to go take his shower. When he was finished a terrible feeling overwhelmed him when he heard Cyndi cry out, "Paul, where's Josiah." The door! He forgot to close the sliding glass door. "The pool. Check the pool", was Cyndi's plea and together they ran out to the patio and saw the most terrifying sight. It was their infant lying flat on the bottom, right above the drain. To make matters worse he was motionless.
There wasn't a minute to lose. Paul jumped in and collected his son in his arms, and there was no sign of life. Cyndi's brother was visiting and knew CPR. They continued the exercise, trying to force air into the infant's lungs until the paramedics arrived. After several minutes there was still no sign of life. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics appraised the situation. A helicopter was called in immediately and the rescuers repelled down with what appeared to be a wooden stretcher. Josiah was wisped away and flown to the nearest hospital. Hours went by and the doctor solemnly pronounced him dead. The family was allowed to go in and pay their last respects. Paul and Cyndi sobbed over his body. Out of their sacrifice they prayed aloud, "Why God?" Out of their pain they prayed aloud, "God help us." Out of death they prayed, "God help our son." During the course of all those prayers a miracle happened. Josiah came back to life. He took a deep breath. His pulse quickened and his eyes opened. The doctor said he never experienced anything like this. It's a modern day example of someone being raised from the dead.
Most of us heard the readings today and probably wondered does anyone ever get raised from the dead, anymore? In Bible they didn't have the advances of modern medicine. For all we know these stories could be local legend embellished over time. But we are here this morning to neither compare advances in modern medicine or determining historical accuracy. We are here to find out that we are in a similar procession of life and death and where we fit in with God's ongoing will to nurture our faith.

There are two stories.[3] One is about Elijah and the other about Jesus. Elijah lived in the Old Testament and Jesus is told about in the New. They are both involved in resurrection occurrences. Elijah was the older, historical figure, living hundreds of years ago. It was the reference point, retold over and over. Jesus was the newer, contemporary figure living in the present. We can assume the reader of the 1st or 2nd centuries had similar thoughts that you and I might have. Thoughts such as, "Does anyone ever get raised from the dead, anymore?"

With hundreds of years separating the two stories, the Jews have made a significant change in how they viewed salvation. In Elijah's day, Israelites never believed there was life after death. The widow in Elijah's story is concerned about the remembrance of sins because in her time the people lived under judgement. A person's death was measured by how they lived a righteous life. No one suggested they had gone to heaven. There was only the remembrance of how they lived on earth. But in Jesus' day, it was the Pharisaic class of Jews who began to make a more compelling argument that there was life after death. Jesus, who raised the mother's son from Nain after his death, was proclaimed to be another great prophet like Elijah, thought his audience.

But this is where they were wrong. Jesus was more than a prophet. When Paul, from our current day story, was asked in an interview what went through his mind the moment he took his son out of the pool, He said the feeling of complete loss. Never to see his son live again was total depravity. It took the air out of him and he felt sunken. Yet, the moment his son came back to life, something unforgettable rose up inside. Simply put, it was salvation. Salvation does not come to us by a prophet. Salvation comes to us by a savior.
Whatever happened to the widow's son that Elijah raised? Whatever happened to the widow's son that Jesus raised? Who knows what they went on to do for God. What resonates is the knowledge that God alone has the power to raise each of us from our death in sin. Moments like these inspire us and guide us for the author is our savior. God meets us in the procession of life. He meets us as we walk in faith. There will be times when we feel all is lost. There will be moments when we feel dead. Only Jesus is able to lift you up. He alone, has already paid the cost of sin and death, raised higher than anyone else. In Him we see there is a procession of certain good when we abide by faith in what rose from the wood.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Paul Richardson, A Certain Risk, Zondervan, 2010.
[3] 1 Kings 17:8-24 & Luke 7:11-17

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