I have to say I have no parallels for the story before us now. Never in my life or ministry have I encountered such as this. I have been part of hundreds of funerals by now and while there are some which have perhaps proceeded not quite as expected, all of them have ended in the usual way.
Not so in the remarkable account before us now. Death has been pronounced. The mourners have gathered. Words have been spoken and perhaps sung. The procession is making its way to the cemetery. The widow’s grief is of course, as grief often is, complicated by what this will mean for her now. With no ready means of support, with no male voice to speak for her, from here on out life will be only hard. And then the procession is interrupted. She has been seen by Jesus. Weeping may have spent the night, but joy has certainly come on this new day (Psalm 30:5). And all those gathered that day know that nothing will ever be the same again.
I have no parallel for the story before us now. But like this widow, I do know what it is to have been ‘seen.’ And I have a sense of what a wonder that can be.
It was the first day of January sixteen years ago. My dad’s surgery had not gone well and his doctor was urging us to transfer him to a hospital where he could get more specialized care. The fog lay heavy on the ground that night, so he would be going by ambulance instead of helicopter.
I remember little of the hour’s drive into the city that night. I do not remember parking the car once we got there. I can’t recall the elevator ride up to the intensive care unit or even what floor it was on. What I do remember is this. The nurse who rode with him in the ambulance tracked us down that night. And while I did not, do not, know her name and would not recognize her if I passed her on the street, I will never forget what she told us then: “I want you to know I held his hand all the way here.”
I remembered this today as I thought about Jesus ‘seeing’ the widow in all of her pain. I remembered this as I thought of Jesus feeling that woman’s loss deep in his own being. And I thought of a nurse whose name I do not know who saw my dad — and even more than that — ‘saw’ the rest of us, too, knowing that this difficult time was felt by a whole web of people, each one impacted by that hour’s ambulance drive and all it meant. She must have felt that same kind of compassion for us then. Oh yes, I remembered this today and truthfully, I wept, remembering that ‘seeing’ and the act of kindness shared.
No, we have no parallels for the story shared today. And yet, as I remembered the story of one nurse’s kindness, I found myself remembering another dozen times just like it: times when I have been ‘seen’ beyond my role. Occasions when I have been seen in my vulnerability or need and have experienced the compassion of another. Oh yes, every time we are ‘seen’ by another. Every single time the ‘seeing’ results in even small acts of kindness offered. Every time we get a glimpse of at least the start of what it will one day mean when all of our funerals are interrupted. When our grief will be interrupted by joy once and for all. For the story before us today begins with simply being seen by Jesus. And from time to time we know what it is to have that lived out between us and among us already. Indeed, in those remarkable moments, it seems to me, we, also, experience the very presence of God.
- As I said, I have no parallels for the story before us now. Perhaps you do, though. What would your story be?
- When were you last ‘seen?’ Were you seen in your vulnerability or your strength? Did you experience that as a gift? Why or why not?
- Does it make sense to you that the beginning of the remarkable event which plays out before us now begins with Jesus ‘seeing’ the widow? Why or why not?