Sermon for June 9, 2013

Sermon for Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 9, 2013

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Luke 7:11-17

Sermon Theme: “All Things Are Possible with God”


(Sources:  Emphasis online Commentaries; Emphasis online Illustrations; Brokhoff, Series C, Workbook; original ideas)


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.


I want to begin with a modern allegory written by Walter Wangerin, Jr.  It’s like a fable, but fables are usually about animals, and this story is about people.

Put yourself into the story.  You’re in a city on a Friday morning.  A handsome young man comes to town, dragging behind him a cart made of wood.  The cart is piled high with new, clean clothes, bright and shiny and freshly pressed.

Wandering through the streets, the vendor marches, crying out is strange deal, “Rags!  New rags for old!  Give me your old rags, your tired rags, your torn and soiled rags!”

He sees a woman on the back porch of a house.  She is old and tired and weary of living.  She has a dirty handkerchief  pressed to her nose, and she is crying a thousand tears, sobbing over the pains of her life.  The Ragman takes a clean linen handkerchief from his wagon and brings it to the woman.  He lays it across her arm.  She blinks at him, wondering what he is up to.  Gently, the young man opens her fingers and releases the old, dirty, soaking handkerchief from her knotted fist.

Then comes the wonder.  The Ragman touches the old rag to his own eyes and begins to weep her tears.  Meanwhile, behind him on her porch stands the old woman, tears gone, eyes full of peace.

It happens again.  “New rags for old!” he cries, and he comes to a young girl wearing a bloody bandage on her head.  He takes the caked and soiled wrap away and gives her a new bonnet from his cart.  Then he wraps the old rags around his head.  As he does this, the girl’s cuts disappear and her skin turns rosy.  She dances away with laughter and returns to her friends to play.  Bu the Ragman begins to moan and from her rags on his head the blood spills down.

He next meets a man.  “Do you have a job?”  the Ragman asks.  With a sneer the man replies, “Are you kidding?” and holds up his shirtsleeve.  There is no arm in it.  He cannot work.  He is disabled.

But the Ragman says, “Give me your shirt.  I’ll give you mine.”

The man’s shirt hangs limp as he takes it off, but the Ragman’s shirt hangs firm and full because one of the Ragman’s arms is still in the sleeve.  It goes with the shirt.  When the man puts it on, he has a new arm.  But the Ragman walks away with one sleeve dangling.

It happens over and over again.  The Ragman takes the clothes from the tired, the hurting, the lost, and the lonely.  He gathers them to his own body and takes the pain into his own heart.  Then he gives new clothes to new lives with new purpose and new joy.

Finally, around midday the Ragman finds himself at the center of the city, where nothing remains but a stinking garbage heap.  It is the accumulated refuse of a society lost to anxiety and torture.  On Friday afternoon the Ragman climbs the hill, stumbling as he drags his cart behind him.  He is tired and sore and pained and bleeding.  He falls on the wooden beams of the cart, alone and dying from the disease and disaster he has garnered from others.

After what seems like a total blackout, the ground quakes and rumbles.  The Ragman stands up!  He is alive!  The sores are gone, though the scars remain.  But the Ragman’s clothes are new and clean.  Death has been swallowed up and transformed by life!

Surely by now you’ve figured out the allegory!  It is Jesus coming into ouir world to share our sufferings and to bear our shame and guilt.  Jesus stands in our place, dying our death so that we might gain a new and renewing relationship with God.

In the miracles that Jesus performed before He Himself went through death and arose from the tomb, we can already see that focus.  How hard it must have been for those in the crowds that day in Nain to explain what they had witnessed, this astonishing miracle.  “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  And the dead man sat up and began to speak…

In my lifetime, I have not ever seen God perform a great miracle like this, though I do truly believe that Jesus did bring the boy back from death just as He raised Lazarus from the dead.

However, in my 30 years of being a teacher and my 23 years of being a pastor, I have seen God perform great miracles.  Many times I have watched people whose lives were as good as over “come back from the dead.”  Because of their involvement with alcohol, dangerous drugs, hate, sexual addiction, they had no future.  But by God’s grace in Christ, they came back.  Jesus regularly performs that kind of miracle, — it happens every time someone gives up sin and turns to Him!  Some times it happens just a few weeks or even a few days before a dying unbeliever leaves this world as a believer.

We can’t help but feel that often it is in the most desperate of times that God shows up.  I have heard of or read about many situations in which God has acted only when the situation was hopeless.  There are stories of persecuted Christians in other parts of the world who we re practically on their way to their execution when God granted them a means of escape.

Just recently in China, a Chinese Christian who was in prison for his faith, was enabled by God to make a miraculous escape from a very secure prison.  God helped him to be released from his captivity by enabling him to literally jump over a prison wall.  People can’t jump that high; kangaroos can, but people can’t.  He did!

Once when Jesus was explaining things to His disciples and they were amazed at all He said and did, He told them, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  (Mark 10:27).

To be sure, it is a cold and hard world.  The endlessly repeated refrain coming from the people is “Nobody cares about me.”  Most of us feel our own weakness.  It is as though the world is often too much for us.  Death is the final declaration of defeat.  We need to hear the story in today’s text of Jesus’ raising the widow’s son at Nain to be reminded that life is stronger than death and that this life comes from Christ.   Remember that the reason Jesus restored the young man to life was to comfort his mother.  Our Lord has the power to comfort, to renew life, and to restore relationships.  That is our joy and our hope!  Amen.


The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.