“He went to a town called Nain, and hid 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!'”
I know we’ve been here before. My guess is we’ll pass through again. This morning’s reading made me think, once more, about miracles, about they don’t make miracles like they used to, and we no longer expect them to.
I worked for a little while at a hospital. One day, a young man died, suddenly, tragically, bizarrely. Irrevocably.
His family, his friends, his church decided to perform a resurrection. Loudly, tearfully, prayerfully, ecstatically, noisily, they tried, for hours I’m told, to raise their dead son.
I wasn’t there that day; I know the story because when I came in the next morning, my colleagues were still shaking, shaken by what they had witnessed, in the lives of a bereaved family, in the life of their own faith.
They had done all that they could to help, offered their space and time, oils and candles, advocacy and prayers. But not their faith. They knew dead when they saw it, and they had no expectation or belief that this young man would “sit up and begin to speak,” no matter how hard his mother hoped.
I thought of this family of strangers this morning, reading this other story which ended more happily.
I wondered what would have happened if they had got their miracle, beyond the obvious joy of a son restored 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 upon his people!'”
Would this small and fervent church have collapsed under the weight of the glory, even as it stood, broken-hearted but unbowed by its grief?
What would have happened to the reasonable, fragile faith of my own friends, myself?
Does the absence, or rarity, of those old-time miracles help to save us from ourselves, help to save us for the sake of our reasonable, fragile, fervent faith?