By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
June 10, 2007
Read: 1 Kings 17:17-24 and Luke 7:11-17
As Jesus was journeying on to a town called Nain, he approached the gate of the town, and saw that a man who had died was being carried out. Jesus discovered that this man was his mother’s only son and she was a widow. That information is very important to this story, because you see, widows in first century Judea were women on the margin of society. There was no social security system as we know it, these people relied on their extended families for support which was often lacking due to the overall poverty of most of the population. In both the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and in the New Testament we hear about poor widows.
So why is this important? For this woman it is not only a personal tragedy, but an economic and social one as well. With the loss of her son, a male, she had no means of support. Jesus knew this and, when he reached that point of intersection with her life, he stopped and had compassion. The Greek word for compassion is “splagchnon”. A funny sounding word…but its meaning is: “one’s innermost self or feelings, heart, affection, love and…the word for entrails is related to the word compassion. Perhaps best rendered in English with the words…”the pit of the stomach”. Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach or your “entrails” when you heard really shocking news, perhaps about the illness or death of a loved one? That is what Jesus experienced…a feeling in the pit of his stomach. Compassion.
Jesus was at an intersection. He was journeying from one place to another and found himself at the gate to a town. He was at an intersection….he could conceivably go back from where he came, he could go through the gate, he could pass by the gate and continue the journey by going either left or right. There is something about that intersection. Our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures today is also about the raising of a widow’s son from death to life. The intersection, or crossroads, of death and life.
Think of a cross. It symbolizes an intersection a crossroad. And, it is on the cross that Jesus died for us, for our sins, for our salvation. It was the ultimate act of compassion. Divine compassion.
Jesus had compassion. We, too, are called to be a compassionate people. We are called to notice others on our life’s journey and when we reach a crossroad to pay attention to who and what is around us. We cannot do what Jesus did. We cannot resurrect the physically dead, only God can do that. What we can do is ease the pain of others by listening and caring. Often that leads to resurrection in a real and meaningful sense.
When you think about it, there is virtually no time in our lives when our paths are not intersecting with someone else’s, and to be sure, no time when the path of God does not intersect with our own. There are times we are aware of the crossings, times when we are both aware AND moved to compassion, times when we are simply oblivious that anything or anyone exists outside of own selves and our own concerns.
But don’t we all need a little compassion in our lives? This can be a tough world and people are hurting. They are lonely, they are afraid, they are broken-hearted, they are grieving. We need compassion; we need someone who will touch us with a gentle hand. And the people around us at home; at work and at play need a little compassion too.
When Edgar Guest, a famous poet, was a young man, his first child died. He just felt terrible. He says: “I was lonely and defeated. There didn’t seem to be anything in life ahead of me that mattered very much.” Then he had to go to the drugstore for something. The pharmacist, a man named Jim Potter, saw him come in and motioned for him to follow him to the little office in the back of the store. When they were standing together in that quiet place, the pharmacist put his hands on Guest’s shoulders and said: “Eddie, I can’t really express what I want to say, the sympathy I have in my heart for you. All I can say is that I’m sorry, and I want you to know that if you need anything, anything at all, come to me. What is mine is yours.” Many years later, Guest remembered that moment. He said: “Just a neighbor across the way—a passing acquaintance. Jim Potter may long since have forgotten that moment when he gave me his hand and his sympathy, but I shall never forget it, never in my life. To me it stands out like the silhouette of a lonely tree against a crimson sunset”
And isn’t that how it is? Can you remember when someone reached out to you and touched you with a healing hand? Don’t you wish someone would reach out today and touch you with a healing hand? Don’t you wish that you could reach out and touch someone else with a healing hand? You can.
Another poet, Ann Weems, wrote a few lines that go like this:
I see your pain
And want to banish it.
I see your tears
And want to dry them.
I am the one God sends to sit beside you,
Until the stars come out
And the angels dry your tears
And your heart is back in place.
This is what Christ wants us to do. That is what his disciples do. Let us strive to help banish the pain, dry the tears and sit beside the person—until their heart is back and place. Let us strive to be aware of who intersects our lives.
Christ’s “cross-ing” is our surety that God is never unaware and that God’s compassion and grace endure, for each and every one of us.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.