The Widow Meets the Lord of Compassion (Luke 7)

Christ Raising the Dead by Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford 1818-1891

Christ Raising the Dead, a watercolor by Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford

Luke 7:11-16 NIV
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

Compassion lies at the heart of the authentic Christ-following life. Any spiritual experience – whether it be one of solitude and silence, prayer and fasting, or worship and celebration – that does not result in a deeper concern for our suffering neighbors can hardly be called Christian. The critical test of relationship with the Holy One always involves the quality of our love for those around us. If our communion with God isolates us from the painful realities of our world, inoculates us into an excessive preoccupation with our own well-being, it must be considered suspect. If, on the other hand, it finds expression in greater compassion and a willingness to show care, then it passes the test for genuineness. – Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion

The cultivation of compassion is really a process of recovery – of retrieving an inherent capacity that has become, either in the moment or over time, buried and obscured. Jesus’ knowledge, which is grounded in the Hebrew scriptures, tells him that each person is created in the image of God – a God of infinite and extravagant compassion. (See Genesis 1:27; Exodus 34:6.) This image dwells unmarred within each soul. As such, we know how to care. We are wired for connection. We are born to love and to be loved. In truth, our deepest core is naturally compassionate. This compassionate core is our true self – our true face. We are most fully human when we live from this essence. We are most fully our true selves when we love. – Frank Rogers Jr, Compassion in Practice

Jesus disclosed that God is compassionate. Jesus spoke of God that way: “Be compassionate, as God is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36) Compassion is the primary quality of the central figures in two of his most famous parables: the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). And Jesus himself, as a manifestation of the sacred, is often spoken of as embodying compassion.
Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew, Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith

Excerpt of a prayer by Nadia Bolz-Weber based on this scripture
Lord of Compassion, who saw the Widow of Nain, we thank you for seeing us.
Seeing our loneliness and our bravery.
Seeing the times we can’t say what we need to.
Seeing the ones who suffer in silence.
Seeing the moments when we are more than we thought we could be.
Seeing what no one else can or will.

We praise you for seeing as beautiful what we call ugly
and that in your compassion you wipe away all tears.

Reach out once again and wipe our tears and raise us Lord of compassion.
Touch us as you did the wood on which the widow’s son lay dead
and speak those same words to us:
Young man arise.
Little girl, get up.

  • To those who think they are not worthy to be loved
    and medicate themselves with food and booze and shopping, say “rise up”.
  • To us who have been hurt by those who say they follow you say “rise up”.
  • To the proud at heart who think they are not dead say “rise up”.
  • To the ones who care for the least of these and who feel too burnt out to keep going, say “rise up”.
  • To we who are holding onto resentments like our own personal security blankets say “rise up”.
  • To those who hide their failings behind good works say “rise up”.
  • To the unloved child who has no idea that one day they will change the world say “rise up”.
  • To the one who has given up say “rise up”

And when again Lord of Compassion, you have raised the dead…
when again you have made whole that which is broken,
when again you have ripped out my heart of stone
and replaced it with a heart of flesh,
when again you have reached into the graves we dig ourselves
and loved us back to life…

help us, like the young man of Nain to sit up and speak.
Give us the words that are not empty praise or platitudes of piety,
but give us strong words,
as real as the very soil from which you raised us.
Give us the words to speak of you.
And then, as you did the son to his mother, give us one to another.
That when we speak others may hear
and know that you are without question
and without end
the Lord of all Compassion.
AMEN.

****************
I am grateful for the preaching ministry of Nadia Bolz-Weber. The raw honesty and beauty of her posts inspire and challenge me every time I read them. Click here to go to her blog, Sarcastic Lutheran: the cranky spirituality of a post-modern gal.

Nadia Bolz-Weber holds the copy write to this prayer, including this excerpt.

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