God Has Visited His People!
Rev. Michael A. Trask
If someone were to ask you, what goes on within this church, what would you say? There’s a lot you could say I suppose. You could say “we hold worship services,” “We study the bible” “We teach our children about the Lord, ” “We teach other people’s children about the Lord in our Preschool and in Vacation Bible School.”
There’s a lot of things you could say if someone asked you about the doings of this place. But to my mind, one of the best things to say is what the people in city of Nain said, in the Gospel lesson for today. They said with no small amount of awe: “God has visited his people!” (Luke 7:16) That’s what’s going on within these walls. God is visiting his people.
But you say “Pastor right now we are looking at you, and your not God.” “And everybody around me are my neighbors and friends, fellow citizens, all of whom, in one way or another bear the fingerprints of God insofar as he knit them together in their mother’s wombs, but they are still are not God. What exactly are you saying, when you suggest that God is visiting his people here and now?”
This question is not new to me, when I was all of three years old my parents reverently informed me as we entered the church we were coming into “God’s house” I looked around hoping God was going to put in an appearance. Our pastor at that time was a 7 foot tall man, when he entered the sanctuary my eyes grew wide and I asked, “Is that God?” In a loud three-year-old voice, that echoed in the rafters. My mom, now flushed with embarrassment said, “no, he’s just a man who works for God.”
And so I crossed my arms waiting for God to come home to his own house, because I wanted to see him. As I grew up in the church I kept waiting. And I noticed how the church wasn’t perfect, that the people in it weren’t perfect and really wondered if it truly was God’s house if God really did visit us in it. Or was it just something people said to shush children.
And Yet I stand before you today, completely convinced that God is visiting us every time we gather; right now actually. So How did I come know this? I’m going to tell you, but first I would like to take a look at the people of Nain, in today’s Gospel lesson. How were they able to say, “God has visited his people!”
By this time in Jesus’ Ministry a great crowd was following Jesus. The people who followed had noticed something special about this one from Nazareth. He wasn’t simply a preacher, he was more than that, He was the Messiah, could he be the one they were waiting for? Oh, they were excited, happy, boisterous even.
But as Jesus and his happy crowd approach the gate of Nain, They were met by a completely different crowd coming out of the city. a crowd of mourners, in a funeral procession. While no funeral is a joyous occasion, this one was especially difficult. For you see, it was the only Son of a woman who was a widow. In those days your children were your economic safety net, so besides losing her only Son, she now was confronted with a life of poverty and perhaps begging in her old age.
The text says Jesus sees her and has compassion on her. The Greek word translated here as “compassion” is a fantastic one: “Splagkanomai” meaning he felt it in his guts. In other words when Jesus saw her situation, in the guts that were his since his incarnation he felt it. We all know what that feels like. We often say things like my “heart fell into my stomach” or “I just feel sick about this.” And when Jesus saw this woman’s situation, that’s how he felt. That’s how he feels about anybody who finds themselves in such sad difficulty. But he didn’t send here a greeting card, describing how his guts felt….. Because he could do more than just feel. He joined her in her suffering met her there actually.
He came to here and said “Do not weep.” He didn’t say this because her tears made him uncomfortable and he wanted him to stop it. He said it because he was soon to provide a reason for her tears to stop. He then went right up and touched the coffin….an extraordinary thing for a jew to do…. for fear of becoming unclean for a time. But this did not deter Jesus, for this is why he came he came to engage in battle against death, to absorb the ancient curse which came about as our disobedience, to wipe away our tears and to swallow up death for ever. He would soon meet death head on in a personal way in his own body, only to declare victory over it. at his resurrection.
What Jesus was doing for this woman and for her Son was to to give them Easter before Easter. He touched the coffin, He said with his words he commanded the man to arise, and he sat up, alive. And the people were seized with Fear and said “God has visited his People” and they were exactly right! In Jesus God visited them with compassion, with good news of tears taken away, and with new life. “God has visited his people.” And nothing has changed He still brings the same stuff to us today.
The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus walking among the lamp stands of the churches. Jesus said “I am with you.” “I am with you always” Wherever and whenever the church gathers, there he is. And before he left he gave three specific commands as to what we are to do together.
1. Jesus commanded us to Preach and teach and hear the word. Why? Because he is the word. When receive the word of God, you receive Christ. When you hear it and it penetrates your heart Christ penetrates. And as he Penetrates your heart he strengthens comforts, forgives. Easter is brought to us through the word.
2. Jesus commanded us to Baptize. In baptism, the name of God is applied to us. Wherever his name is, there he is. Together you and I and all the baptized form the house of God on earth. Paul explains whoever is baptized into Christ Jesus is baptized into his death. By our baptism, our lives become bound to his. Our sins die with him…. and we walk in newness of life. Easter is brought to us in baptism.
3. Jesus command us to have communion. IN that he says this is my body given for you, this is blood shed for you. Through this sacrament of the altar he connects us to the cross and brings us into direct contact with his saving work. Easter is brought to us in the Lord’s Supper.
God has visited and is visiting his people in these things. This is how he reaches into this world of death and touches us with life. . Every time we come together for the Divine Service our compassionate Lord is there attending, preaching to our hearts, giving himself and the life he earned for us. And I’ve seen him at work. In my own life and in the lives of the people I’ve been called to serve as Pastor. God has visited his people here, today. AMEN