Monday, June 6, 2016

We Can't Touch A Stretcher and Bring Our Youth Back to Life

A Sermon for June 5, 2016, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, Chicago

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow;  

and with her was a large crowd from the town. 

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 

Fear seized all of them; 

and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. 

- Luke 7:11-17


A man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son. 

Unfortunately, this story could be lifted right out the newspaper.


Another child, another son, another funeral, another loss.

For many of us, this story from the Bible is the story of life everyday here in Chicago, Amen?

As of this morning (according to DNA Info) the homicide count, since January is 263. 

And that doesn’t count the days since June 1.  

And even though we’re Christians, even though we believe that Christ shows us the Way to Life, 
and life abundant…

Even though we hold to the promise
that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more
and nothing we can do to make God love us less, 
that God loves us, period. 
And there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, 

Even though we believe all of that… 

Even though we believe all of that, 
We also know that, unfortunately, Jesus and his disciples aren’t right here at the gate waiting, to miraculously just “touch the stretcher” and restore our youth to life as we’re carrying the casket out of the church. (right?)

And if he was…  
even if he was, just by virtue of living here, in the city, he or she, even resuscitated, would sill be “at risk.”

We (you and I) also can’t just go up and touch the stretchers and bring our city’s youth back to life. 

We don’t touch bodies and make them resurrect. I know. 

I touch them at funerals. I put the cross on them, the same one I put on at baptisms. I touch them. They’re cold. And then we go and put them in the ground. 

We don’t have the power to touch a stretcher and bring our youth back to life. 

We don’t get magic tricks. 

Then why do we call ourselves Christians? 
Followers of Jesus? 
Why do we call ourselves “People of Faith”? 

There are a lot of answers to that question. 

But here’s one

We, people of faith, do do strange, even miraculous acts of faith. 

Sometimes, right? 

I think, we even did one yesterday.

It may not seem miraculous at first, or even that full of faith. 

But it was:

Sisters and brothers, we cleaned out the basement! 

Well, we got a good start, anyway. 

Why? Because we are creating space dedicated to our youth, those here, and those who are yet to come, those who don’t even know we’re here yet. Right? 

Yesterday, a handful of people, (without evidence, just moving in hope) 
acted in faith with the belief that this place could be a safe space for kids to grow up, 
a place to learn and live an alternative set of values, 
values about caring for the least of all, first
values about feeding the hungry, and lifting up those who are pressed down… 

We acted in faith believing this could be 
a place for our youth (and for all of us)
to belong, to grow, to find an extended family of people of all stripes and conditions…. 

We acted in faith: 
Because  we believe that we are called.

Despite the violence all around us, 
despite the injustice, (and there’s plenty of it) 
despite everything that threatens to swallow us up, 
to take away our children on stretchers to the edge of town, 
to create mourning for mothers and neighbors 
and for us… 

Despite all of that, 
We “people of faith” 
are faithful enough to believe we’re somehow called to 
to Life, 
to do good as best we can in this world, 

and to teach one another to follow

in faith, in hope, 

that we might actually learn, and listen

and follow: the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Love, and the Liberator of Creation

into paths of peace, communities of love, the lifting up of all people, and the healing of all of creation. 

It’s true. 

And it sucks: 

We can’t raise the dead. 

But we can all raise up a community (together),

A community that strives for peace 
and for love 
and for liberation. 

We can. In fact, we’re doing it. And it’s miraculous. 
May God give us the courage and the grace to carry on. 


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