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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


10th June 2007

Fr David Shepherd

Trinity I

Today’s gospel about the widow of Nain is one that speaks to us. As with the story about Elijah it connects with our fears and experiences of loss.

The gospel passage begins with a meeting of crowds. One following Jesus and his disciples as they enter the town meets another following the funeral procession of the widow’s only son leaving the town to the place of burial. One heading for the place of life meets another heading for the place of death. One heading for the place of belonging meets another heading for the place of ultimate isolation.

When you’ve taken part in a funeral procession you will have been struck, angered even, that nobody else seems to notice or much care. Life goes on, the traffic speeds by, people shuffle embarrassedly and then carry on with the business of the day.

With Jesus it was different – he noticed and had compassion, saying to the widowed mother, ‘Do not weep’. What he did was extraordinary, literally outside the ordinary and everyday. He brought the young man to life once more and gave him to his mother.

The point of the gospel lies in what is signified. The raising of the widow’s son is a sign that Jesus himself defeats death and will do so through his resurrection. There is no prayer to God the father, just a command to the young man. Something important is being said here about the nature of Jesus, who he is, the Son of God.

If the outcome of the gospel is the same as the story of Elijah and the raising of the earlier widow’s son, the details are different. Elijah had been staying with the woman during a hard time of drought. He had kept her going through his prayer. Her flour cakes and oil were constantly replenished – hence ‘Cruise’ the organisation for the bereaved.

Now Elijah the man of God seemed to have brought only misfortune on the woman, her son had died. In his prayer Elijah blames God, venting his anger that God has brought great evil on the woman. Elijah relationship with God is very earthy and direct – he says what he thinks. The same should be true of us! His prayer for restitution is answered the boy is restored

What the stories can’t do is to save us from death. As with Lazarus, the two sons were only restored to life, to go finally into the dust of death. They do however fill us with hope in the Resurrection that comes through death. Jesus raised from the dead dies no more so that we may pass through death to eternal life.

There is another aspect to consider in all of this. That is how awful life would become for widows who lost their only sons in ancient times. Such women lost everything.

As well as breaking the bonds of affection and love such loss left women with out any economic means of support. They were condemned to a life of poverty and despair.

As well as filling Christians with renewed hope in the resurrection through Jesus Christ who has won the victory over death the stories inspired them to care for the widows.

Those earlier Christian communities such as those Paul first persecuted and then went amongst were noted for their practical support for widows. Deacons were originally those who organised the relief of widows.

Such loss of a widow’s only son would be devastating enough in our society where the place of women has been transformed and the welfare state protects against absolute poverty. This is not so in other parts of the world. In Afghanistan women who have lost husbands and sons in the recent conflicts struggle to survive. In Southern Africa Aids has left many women in a similar position. Many agencies including the churches seek to bring relief.

Today’s gospel speaks to us because it moves us to compassion. Filling us with hope in the new life that Christ gives us it also inspires us to find about more about contemporary women who have lost husbands and children and with them the means of livelihood and to act on their behalf.

Amen

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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at webmaster@stmatthewsoxhey.org.uk Last updated 12/06/2007 12:30 Author: David Shepherd