Kickin’ it with Jesus

The Rev. Shelby Ochs Owen. This sermon is based on Luke 7:11-17

In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is on the move (again). He was coming from Capernaum, where he healed the centurion’s slave, to a city called Nain and we hear that “his disciples and a large crowd went with him.” Who were these people who would follow Jesus around? Didn’t they have jobs to do? Didn’t they have responsibilities at home? How is it that a large crowd, this entourage, this pack of folks, could just follow Jesus around? We know that some of the crowd had just witnessed the slave healed from a deathly illness, and maybe that was enough for some of them to want to hang out with Jesus, to see what he would do next, to see what he was all about. And the disciples, the ones who had been going around with Jesus for a while longer, what was it they were learning, experiencing as a result of their time with him?

Years ago a man I know was driving his teenage daughter and her best friend back from the beach, when the friend, whose parents grew up in Thailand and are Buddhists, saw a Bible on the back seat of the car. She said to her friend, “You know Emily, whenever I read the Bible, I’m struck by how epic it all is.” Emily, not particularly spiritually inclined at that point in her life, said, “Oh yeah, it’s the most epic book there is! Let me tell you how to read it. The first few chapters are the creation and the flood and Moses and the Jews leaving Egypt and all that stuff, so those are good. Then there’s Leviticus and Numbers and those are just a bunch of rules and lists so you can skip them. Then there’s Psalms and Proverbs and they’re nice poetry so those are good. The rest is okay but you really want to read the Gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, because they were kickin it with Jesus”.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term “kickin’ it” with someone, the urban dictionary will tell you kickin’ it means “hanging out” or just “being with.” So let’s see what it means in the passage for today to kick it or hang out with Jesus. Jesus encounters a widow. As he and his large crowd enter the city and immediately meet another large crowd that is part of a funeral procession, Jesus sees a dead man being carried out and the dead man’s mother, a widow, who is sobbing.

For this woman to have lost her only son is overwhelming. To lose a child, as many here in this congregation have experienced, is about as deep a loss as one can experience on an emotional level. And yet in Jesus’ time and culture, for a widow to lose her only son was also a great economic loss. The son would likely have been her only means of economic support. So in addition to experiencing her own personal grief, she would have been both socially and economically devastated as well. So her well of grief is bound to be very deep. Her suffering profound. Likely she could not even see through her tears.

But Jesus saw her. And when he saw her he was moved with compassion. His compassion was both an emotional response as well as a desire for mercy. And Jesus’ compassion included action. He came forward, touched the bier, the pallet on which the dead man lay, and with a word, the young man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

This scenario very possibly would have reminded the crowd of the story we read earlier from Kings where the prophet Elijah raises another widow’s son from the dead. This parallel story raises questions about who Jesus is. What is his character and what is his intention? The crowd, at least some of them, and the disciples, at least some of them, see again that Jesus is concerned for those who suffer, concerned for those at the margins. Notice that Jesus notices the widow. She doesn’t even ask for help before he steps in. In Roman and Hellenistic culture being moved by another was considered a sign of weakness. But this is not so with Jesus. Jesus shows us that the character of God is to be moved by suffering. He steps into the chaos of suffering and grief and faces it head on. He willingly risks his reputation by being moved, by having compassion and he also risks being ritually unclean by touching the bier of a dead man. His compassion trumps his regard for his own social or religious status.

So what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be kickin’ it or hanging out with Jesus? Well, first of all, we remember that we are not Jesus! But that we are with him and that as we get to know him better and follow him, we will be changed. To be a Christian, or follower of Christ is to be open to the future, not knowing exactly where we are heading. Our world begins to change. We may find ourselves less fearful, and more willing to face the suffering in ourselves and in others. We may find ourselves entering into the chaos of difficult situations, allowing ourselves to be moved by compassion. The word compassion actually comes from the Latin “to suffer with.” This is what God’s intent is: to be with us, never to leave us. And in turn, as people who hang out with Jesus, we are called to have courage and a willingness to enter one another’s suffering.

We all suffer at various points in our lives. We get sick, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We ache and we weep as we hear about hundreds of refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean. There has already been no small amount of suffering as we wind our way through this current presidential election process and the polarization and vitriol that has accompanied it. We grieve losses of friendships and other relationships; we experience loneliness. Sometimes we even lose our children… And Jesus knows all of this. And we yearn for a miracle, a miracle of the type that we read in today’s lesson. But perhaps we can look for the not so flashy miracle, the miracles that are not quite as dramatic.

The miracles of forgiveness that restore a relationship, the miracle of the courage to sit with another person who is suffering, the miracle to pray boldly for those things we normally would dare not, the miracle of allowing our hearts to be changed, from seeing a so-called enemy as a child of God, the miracle of having compassion for ourselves and others.

So maybe this summer Jesus is inviting you to hang out with him, to spend time with him through worship, prayer and reading those Gospel stories. And while you are kickin’ it with Jesus it will be interesting to see who is in your path, what person or people might move you to compassion, those you normally might not even notice. Where do you see suffering or a difficult situation? How might Jesus be calling you to restore life with a word or prayer or other action. We really have no idea where the journey with Jesus will take us, what folks we may encounter, no idea of what miracles may happen along the way, both large and small, but we are assured of the most excellent company along the way!

Amen.

Comments

  1. Shirley Ruedy says:

    Beautiful sermon.