Sermon 5 June 2016

Sermon for Sunday 5 June 2016, Westbourne Church

Trinity 2 Pr5    1 Kings 17:17-end    Gal 1:11-end    Luke 7:11-17

A few months ago we went to see Roger Redfarn’s production ‘No 60 to the Somme.' The play is about the people involved in the use of London buses as transport vehicles in France in WW1. There are many strands to the plot and one small thread which came to my mind as I read the readings for today. There is the usual love story and it is between a bus driver and the vicar’s daughter.  The vicar had brought his family from the Yorkshire dales to the East End of London in the belief that he and they had a vocation to live and minister the Christian gospel there.

The driver had gone to war and letters and cards were being exchanged. We see the girl with her arm in a sling.  No explanation is given at that point.  Later she remarks that she has caught her arm on a rusty nail and it has become very painful.  Some time later the lad in the battlefield receives a letter from home telling him that she has died.  It is a bit of a pull up in the play as it is unexpected.  You realise that the trouble was probably sepsis. The mind of the audience has been concentrating on the hope that the lad will come back to her but half expecting that she will get the fateful letter.

The First Book of Kings in the OT is in part of the writings which follow the development of the nation state and monarchy of ancient Israel from a collection of rather disparate tribes to an organised country. You can read it through from the book of Joshua through to Ezra and Nehemiah, an interesting read in these week coming up to the European referendum, showing the difficulties of becoming and being a united people.

Elijah lived in the 9th century BC and is known mostly for fighting against the worship of the Baals fostered by Jezebel. So he would have been popular with some and not others.  He was seen as a prophet of God. One who was able to look at what was going on and apply his faith to it to enable comments on what it was doing to the people based on a sound analysis. He would have been the champion of some and the enemy of others. Like the healing miracles of the NT it is difficult to know just what was going on and we could try to explain it all away but suffice it to say he is instrumental in the son’s recovery. Elijah becomes associated with the end times when God will triumph once and for all against the forces of the world and this little story opens up that strand.  The resurrection and ascension of Jesus stand in that tradition, and reading backwards, Elijah foreshadows the resurrected life of the believer. He is said to have been assumed into heaven without experiencing death and will one-day return.  Today the Jewish family celebration will have a spare place at the table in case Elijah should return.

We see the desolation of a widow, the resulting poverty of someone excluded, just as the bereaved are often excluded by people who don’t know how to cope, and the consequential inability to feed the next generation and the action of God in restoration.  Quite a challenge.

Luke is writing his biographical theology of Jesus for the Gentiles and says, ‘You may have heard the Jewish one about a widow and her son.  It was very like the moment the other day when Jesus found himself with a widow and a son who had just died. Being God you see he could do something about it.’ Paul, probably writing some time earlier attributes what he does to the action of God.

What does it say to us, we latter day members of the Body of Christ? The bus driver feared he would be the subject of a letter home. His fiancée would experience widowhood before her wedding but it happens the other way round. We might say that as human beings we have lost the love of our lives when the brick was dropped in the Garden of Eden. It is not that we are not now loved but that we have fallen out of relationship, become as dead to the parent and in need of new life.

If we believe that we are the body of Christ, the body of believers (or those trying to believe) we have the touch, the touch to restore and enliven. Our storehouse will, or should, have little more in it than our immediate needs and some to give away. We don’t sail past the bus-stop because we are full up and leave people standing in their bereavement, we do something. But we don’t just do something, we stand there, making the link between the eternal, the maker, the great lover and the here and now, the moment of time and the fragility of our human relationships. The prophet gets things done, often challenging the status quo and the structures of power that the weak or those weakened may flourish.

© 2016 Frank Wright

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