+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +
Text: Luke 7:11-17
Theme: The Only Son
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
No one can exist in isolation. Yes, in this earthly life, a person could sever all ties and contact with others. But a person still has parents. Infants are not self-sustaining. We are bound together into a common humanity. We are all descendents of Adam and Eve, who were created by God. Christians are especially dependent upon relationship. Christ has bound us to Himself and united us with other believers. Meaningful Christian life entails understanding and appreciating and exercising the gift of relationship; Christ to us, and through us to one another. Therefore St. Paul writes, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die we belong to the Lord.”1
Christians belong to the Lord and they belong to one another. A person’s identity is tied up in many things. Family, career, education, interests, and relationships are a few of the things that help to define and characterize who a person is in regards to their self-identity and their influence on others. By and large the most important of these throughout history has been that of family. Our place or status is never absolute or independent. Who and what we are is always in relation to others and to God.
It wasn’t uncommon in the Middle Ages for Europeans to have only one name. With the population increasing it became more difficult to distinguish among people, so people started using surnames. They came from four main sources: a person’s occupation, such as in Cook or Baker; location, such as Overhill or Brook; the family name, the son of John might become Johnson; and characteristics, such as in Small, Short, or Longfellow. The surname nearly always said something significant about the person. It was part of identity.
Identity through relationship is the topic of today’s appointed Scriptures. In Galatians, Paul is identified as the one who received the gospel by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. The Old Testament and Gospel accounts are parallel. In the Old Testament, Elijah revives the son of the widow of Zarephath. In the Gospel, Jesus raises from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. Both women were grief-stricken over their losses. In ancient times, a woman with no male relatives had not lost her identity, but she often had little means of support. These widows had lost their husbands, and now their sons. But their despair was short-lived. Two widows, two sons, two miracles and one Saviour. The only begotten Son, the Lord of Life, exercises power over death. In doing so He identifies Himself as God and restores a meaningful relationship back to the widows.
Dear friends, through Christ, His only Son, the Father has restored believers to a meaningful relationship with Himself. Without question, people in our culture seek meaningful relationships. They want an identity. The world has plenty to offer. We cannot be so naïve as not to believe that people think they find meaningful relationships in the sin and evil they pursue. People practice lying and falsehood, immorality and all types of idolatry as a means to identity. Our sin becomes part of who we are. It becomes a comfortable part of our identity even if we are ashamed of it. That is why people try to keep it hidden. We must cease the charade of pretending that our pet sins, our materialism, our sexual immoralities, our habitual dishonesty, our ungodly addictions, are not really part of us; as if they are some foreign entities that we have control of. We must forsake these identities and embrace the new identify we have through our relationship with Christ.
Christ would have us in our totality and He promises to care for us completely. To believe in the Son is to have the Father. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Our Father in heaven.”2 What does this mean? “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”3 Christian fathers seek to model the Heavenly Father as the head of their families. Christians fathers seek to imitate the Heavenly Father in the care of their children. It is with this intent that the Bible says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise- ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”4
It is certainly no coincidence that Luke tells us the widow of Nain had only this son. In this miracle, Jesus, the one and only son of God previews His own resurrection. The powers of death are subdued by Him. His death defeated death. In Him all proper relationships and identities are restored. Humanity was brought down by a relationship to a tree in the Garden of Eden. It is raised up by a relationship with the tree of Calvary. Adam ate the fruit and incurred the divine wrath. God’s Son drank the cup and consumed the divine wrath. God’s first Son, Adam was given a body prepared for life. God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, was given a body prepared for death. Adam’s living body brought death to the soul. Christ’s dead body brought life and immortality. Condemnation was brought to unbelievers by the waters of Noah’s flood. Forgiveness is brought to believers by the waters of the baptismal font.
It is in Christ alone that we have our identity. The Scripture says, “You received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”5 The Bible says we are co-heirs with Christ; the result of our baptisms. What a profound and humbling thought! We are in the divine will. We are granted gifts for eternity, not to be enjoyed apart from Him. Sometimes we wrongly look to Christ as an aloof benefactor who will simply supply all of our riches for eternity. The greatest gift is precisely the relationship we will have with Him for eternity. That is the reality of our faith.
Dear friends, the gift of faith and the promise of salvation should properly be understood in terms of relationship. Faith is the means of a relationship with Christ that is going on now and extends right through eternity. Faith is not self-authenticating or self-existing. Faith is dependence on and trust in another, specifically, Christ. Faith clings to the One who gives us our identity and enables us to weather the storms of this life. His name is our name.
So we seek at all times not to be identified first by our personal names or occupations or accomplishments, but by the name of Christ. By His grace and through His power we are Christians; both in our individuality and in our unity together. His is our name. For us He bore the cross. He suffered, died, and rose again. The widow of Nain had her hope respired when Jesus raised her son. The same promise will be fulfilled in us. Thanks be to God! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Third Sunday After Pentecost
5 June, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Romans 14:7-8
2 Matthew 6:9
3 Martin Luther
4 Ephesians 6:1-4
5 Romans 8:15-17