The Walking Dead, The Widows Son.

November 10, 2013

It is a story told only in the gospel of Luke. Jesus is
coming into the community of Nain and around him a crowd of his followers
jostled one another to get closer to their friend and teacher. And as often is
the case when a group of like-minded people gather together the sound of
laughter rose above the sound of good natured conversation. They spoke of the
miracles he had performed and of the lessons he had taught.  It was a great day to be alive and those
following Jesus were celebrating life.
Another crowd gathered together that day in the same town
at the same time. But instead of celebrating life they were mourning a death.
The death of a son, a brother a friend. A life cut short. And we don’t know if
it was cut short by an accident or an illness. But we do know that however his
life ended it ended too soon and however the young man’s life ended it was a
tragedy.  And that was not the way it was
supposed to be, children are supposed to bury parents, parents aren’t supposed
to bury children.  But it happens; as a
matter of fact the first death recorded in the bible was not that of a father
but that of a son.  It was not an older
person it was a younger person.  But that
doesn’t make it any more right. 
And so here we have a collision of two worlds.  On one hand we have a group celebrating and
on the other hand we have a group mourning. Laughter and tears. One group
looking ahead to all the future holds and the other group looking back to the
past and what it had held.
This is week five of our Walking Dead series here at
Cornerstone, a series that has taken us on a journey through the Biblical
accounts of folks who were literally given their lives back.   From the 10 Lepers in the first week, to Lazarus
who Jesus called out of the tomb after he had been dead for four days, a valley
full of dry bones that Ezekiel watched re-animate and come to life, to last
week’s story of Eutychus who was literally bored to death before being raised
from the dead. 
And too often we just take these stories in stride but
they are anything but normal.  Dead
people don’t come back to life.
The theme of course comes from a Television series of the
same name, now in its fourth season.  In
the show “The Walking Dead” are those who have been infected by some unknown post-apocalyptic
plague.  The show follows Deputy Sheriff
Rick Grimes and a small band of survivors who are trying to stay alive and
discover the cause of the plague. 
It has developed a cult following and is one of the most
popular shows on Television right now. 
But really when you get right down to it, it’s just a soap opera with
Zombies. 
But it’s not just television that has caught Zombie
fever,  it has even spread to academia,
one example is the book “Zombie Autopsies” written by Harvard psychiatrist
Steven Schlozman.  Even my wife has
caught the bug, so to speak, when she read “Pride Prejudice and Zombies” last
year and enjoyed it. 
Today we are looking at a tragic event that Jesus comes
upon on his travels.  And in this event
we see the dichotomy that often appears in times of loss. 
I see it most times that I gather in a family home to
prepare for a memorial service for a loved one, a collision of two worlds. 
Most times when I’m with a family to discuss a  memorial service to be held for a family
member you will hear the sound of sound of laughter comes from the next room
mixed with the sobs as folks talk about their father, mother, brother, sister
or friend.  A collision of two worlds, as
we celebrate the life of a loved one and mourn their death at the same time.
And on that hot Palestinian afternoon so many years ago in
the middle of the collision was Jesus. 
And we are told on that day that Jesus’ heart broke as he saw this woman
who had already lost her husband and now had lost her only son. And so he did
what he had only done twice before, he reached out his hand and spoke to the
boy and told him to arise and he did. 
And through his touch and his words Jesus defeated death.  But the defeat was only temporary because we
have to assume that the time came that the young man closed his eyes for one
last time and died, and the second time the preacher from Galilee was not there
to bring him back. 
It is interesting that in the three instances that are
recorded of Jesus restoring life he uses the same method: he spoke to the dead
person. 
In the book of Mark we read about the healing of Jairus’
daughter and the climax came in Mark 5:41-42 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old,
immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally
amazed.
John records the story of Lazarus in John 11:43-44 Then Jesus
shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet
bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap
him and let him go!”
And here Dr. Luke tells us Luke
7:14-15
Then he walked over to the coffin
and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get
up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his
mother.
And Jesus doesn’t only call
dead people back to life; listen to the words of Christ to the church in Sardis
Revelation 3:1 “I
know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but
you are dead.”   Now listen to
what Christ tells the church in Revelation 3:2 “Wake up!”   
By the very sound of his voice Jesus is able to conquer
death, physical death and spiritual death and that remains true for each one of
us.
But back to the story, you see there are only two things
that we know for sure about this young man and those are two things that he
shares with every person who has ever lived and who will ever live.  The first thing we know is that he was born
and the second thing we know is that he died and in the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon
writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity
under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.
And every person in this room today has achieved the first
part of that equation, we have been born, and at some time down the road each
of us will experience the second part, we will die.
And there is absolutely nothing that we could do that
would affect us being born, every once in a while someone will be past their
due date and will say “This baby just doesn’t want to be born.”  Doesn’t matter, it’s still going to happen
eventually. 
And for the most part most of us will cling to our lives
but there is absolutely nothing we will be able to do to affect our dying.  It was David Niven who said about dying “I won’t go,
I’ll kick and scream and make a terrible fuss” 
But on July 29 1983 he still went.
I read recently the most important thing that will
determine how long we will live is our genetics so we have to be very careful
in who we choice to be our parents. You had no control over your life beginning
and you will have very little control over your life ending but you have an
amazing amount of control over what happens between those two points.  You understand that the most important thing
on our tombstones will not be the date we were born or the date that we die but
the dash that separates them because that little dash represents our entire
life.
It has been said that when we were born we cried and
everyone else was happy and we should live in such a way that when we die
everyone else cries and we are happy.  It
was John Wesley who said “The world can
say what they like about us Methodist, but they have to admit: we die well.”
Today I challenge you to live in such a way that when you
die not only will you die well but that you will cause a collision of two
worlds where people will gather to laugh and celebrate your life and at the
same time weep and mourn your death.  So
what is it that people should celebrate? 
Philippians
1:11
May you always be filled with the fruit
of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus
Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
First of all I think People
Should
Celebrate Your Life.  This is a matter of character.  When someone passes away one of the first
reactions people have to the news of their death is a description of their
character.  “He was a nice guy, that’s
too bad.”  Or “What a jerk, he sure won’t
be missed.”   And it’s not enough for you to be eulogized
as a person of character, people are supposed to say nice things about the
dearly departed.  How often have you been
told not to speak ill of the dead? 
I’ve performed more funerals in the past thirty years then I can count,
and I have never heard a bad word said about the guest of honour.  You’d think that I’ve only buried saints, and
I can assure you that’s not the case.  People even find nice things to say about
jerks, but when they are mouthing the words people may be nodding their heads
on the outside but they are shaking their heads on the inside.
The preacher was waxing eloquently at the funeral as we are sometimes are
wont to do. He described the dearly departed as a loving and supportive
husband, a good provider and a wonderful and caring father. Someone who was
loved and admired throughout the community. Finally the widow leaned over to
her son and said “Go up and see if that’s really your father.
Paul gives us some good advice in 2
Corinthians 6:3
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no
one will find fault with our ministry. 

The Guptill paraphrase is: live in such a way so people won’t
have to lie at your funeral. 

This encompasses a wide range of activities, your morals, and
your ethics, how you treat your family, your friends, and your co-workers.  How do you want to be remembered when you die?
What is it that you would have them write in your obituary and carve on your
tombstone?

Hopefully you won’t be like the politician who Mark Twain had
in mind when he wrote “I did not attend his funeral, but I wrote a nice letter
saying I approved of it.”

Psalm
112:1
Praise the LORD! How joyful are those
who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands. . . Psalm 112:9 They
share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be
remembered forever. They will have influence and honour.
Secondly I think People Should
Celebrate Your Legacy.   Now I know all the clichés, that there
won’t be a U-Haul following your hearse, and at the end of your life everything
you’ve spent your life collecting will belong to someone else but understand
that we are not talking here about your estate, because often that isn’t a
reason to celebrate it’s simply a reason for your family to fight. 
It was Colonel Harland Sanders who said “There’s
no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.” What you leave in the
material sense may be celebrated while at the same time you might not be celebrated
for leaving it. 
I’m talking about the difference you make in your life. What you leave
behind is the change you’ve made in this world. 
I think that one of the saddest things that I see on a day-to-day basis
are people who are just putting in time. 
They’re just here going through the motions.  I mean they are here, they go to work every
day and raise a family but the overriding goal of each day is simply to make it
through to the next day.  They lay
absolutely nothing on the line, never take any risks, and never put anything
back into life.
I truly believe that even though we may never be another Da Vinci or
Rembrandt, may never be a Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa that we were
each put on this world to make a difference. 
We can help make an impact on our world, but only if we want to.
I remember reading, “If you want to put your life into perspective put your
finger into a bucket of water and then pull it out, that is the difference that
your being here will make.”  I am here to
say, “That is wrong, wrong, wrong!”  The
world is what it is today not because of what society has done but because of
what individual people have done.  And
every one of us has the potential to make a difference.
Hopefully on the day that people gather to say goodbye to the mortal
part of us they will talk about what we left behind in terms of making a
difference of how the world or at least our world is a better place because we
were here.
What mark will you leave behind on your community, your church, your
family?  How will you make your world a
better place?  What will be your legacy?
Theodore L.
Cuyler wrote “You may not be able to leave your children a great inheritance, but day
by day, you may be weaving coats for them which they will wear for all
eternity.”
Some people will come to your funeral because of how you lived and
others will come because of what you left but the people you want to be there
will be there for a deeper reason. 
Romans
12:10
Love each other with genuine
affection, and take delight in honouring each other.
People Should Celebrate Your Love.  John Donne wrote “No man is an
island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the
main.”  There are times when we
want to subscribe to being an island when we want to hide in a hole and never
come up but if our life is going to be all that it can be then we need to reach
out to those around us.  In each of our
lives are other people, people with whom we have to coexist and to those people
we owe a certain obligation, and that obligation is love.
Most of us have a spouse, many
of us have children at home, all of us have friends and each one of those relationships
require one essential ingredient and that is love.  Now not necessarily the same type of love,
that is impossible.  You don’t love your
children like you love your parents and you don’t love your friends like you
love your spouse.  But in our lives there
is to be reciprocity.  Just as we are to
make a difference in our world we are to make a difference in the lives of
people we share our life with. 
Do
the people in your life know that you love them?  I mean without guessing.  Is your love revealed through your
words?  Through your actions?   Ultimately it will be the greatest thing you
leave in the hearts of your family and friends. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 13:13 Three
things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is
love.   In the end they may talk
about your faith, they may remember how positive you were in life but the thing
they will cherish more than anything will be the love you had for them. 
Don’t leave with people having
to guess if you loved them. 
And
it’s not just the love we have for our family that will be celebrated but the
love we had for our God and our church.    You understand at the funeral of a Christian
the talk shouldn’t be about their theology but about their love.  Remember the words of Jesus in John 13:35 Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
But if you want people to
celebrate your love when you are gone you will have to demonstrate that love
while you are here.  And so your life
should be celebrated but we all know that isn’t the entire story.
Perhaps you’ll recall the shortest verse in the bible,
which is John
11:35
Jesus wept! 
On that day, when those two worlds collided there was not
only a celebration of life, there was also a mourning.  So People
Should
Mourn Your Death.  You see the old must die and the young may
die.  We will all die; every person here
today will die, unless the Lord returns first. 
Death is the only thing humanity has in common besides birth. 
And even though we know that death is inevitable it doesn’t
make it any easier, regardless if it happens when you are 9 or 99.  Let’s go back to John 11:35
Jesus wept!  That was at the
funeral of his friend Lazarus, the very same Lazarus whom he raised from the
dead just a few moments later.  And in
the story that was read it says in Luke 7:13 When the Lord
saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.  And then Jesus reached out and touched
the boy and raised him from the dead. 
So why do we mourn? 
If we believe in eternal life, that those who have embraced Jesus Christ
will live forever with their Creator and Saviour without pain, without sorrow,
without grief why do we cry? 
Because.  We weep for our loss, we
weep because we will miss our friend, our child, our parent our spouse.  We weep for the hole their death has left in
our lives.  And that’s all right, that’s
the way it’s supposed to be. 
So remember the way you live and love today will determine
the script on the day you die. Will people celebrate your life and mourn your
death?  Only you have the power to assure
that they do.
I know some people don’t like going to funerals and so I
leave you with the words of my favourite philosopher Yogi
Berra, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to
yours.”  When you have a chance to
go to a friend or colleague’s funeral make every attempt to make either the
service or the visitation beforehand. 
It’s not for the dearly departed but for those they have left behind.  So that those who have lost their loved one
will be reassured that their mother, father, brother, sister, child or friend
had an impact on their world and the people they knew and interacted with.