Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 5, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is what it is.
Maybe you’ve heard somebody utter this sentence in response to his/her life’s current situation. Maybe this is your personal mantra, the ho-hum attitude of just rolling with life’s changeups and curveballs. Maybe there simply is no alternative to whatever is on your plate before you.
It is what it is.
As a pastor I’ve heard this line, or some variation of it probably a million and one times. The humility of so many parishoners is that the last thing that they want is for you to make any kind of fuss over them and so they simply dismiss their current situation. In my prior call I had this little elderly woman, widowed, cancer stricken, often unable to get proper sleep and always experiencing pain, who would say to me whenever I asked her how she was, that I need not worry about her because there are others in much worse situations than she is.
Certainly, there are several different ways to go with this. There’s the direction of, OK, that’s what you want, let’s talk about something else. There’s the direction of acknowledging that yes, there are people who are in horrible desperate situations, but that yours is unique to you, and that I legitimately want to know what’s going on with you and how are you truly feeling. Or, there’s the direction of you’re right, I don’t know how you’re feeling, maybe you can’t even explain how you are truly feeling, but Jesus knows, and so let’s leave it with him.
Which is what flows out of our story from St. Luke this morning. It is what it is.
As Jesus enters into the town of Nain he is met from the other direction a funeral procession for a man who was a resident of this town. Our contemporary picture would have a similar funeral procession, but would be a line of cars following a Hearst from the church/funeral home to the cemetery.
So, our appropriate response during these funeral processions is to wait for the procession to pass, to certainly make sure that we are not encumbering this group of mourners. We show respect by staying out of the way, maybe momentarily trying to identify with the family and friends who are enroute to their loved one’s final resting place. Point is, we don’t get in the way because, there’s really nothing that we can do. It is what it is.
But Jesus, who’s been known to rock the boat once or twice in his ministry, does the complete opposite and approaches the mother of this dead man. Now, if anyone could be a candidate for the it is what it is poster child, this woman may be it. It states here that she is a widow, so obviously she has already lost her husband. The text also states that the dead man being carried out is her only son, so on that bier lies what is probably her only source of income and support. She may have daughters, we don’t know, but nonetheless, women of the ancient world were simply not wage earners, so she, and if she does have unmarried daughters, are probably at the mercy of the community to take care of them now.
So it’s easy to assume that this widow is quite vulnerable. No husband, no son, probably very little, if any money and possessions. For this widow, it is what it is may be her only option.
Until Jesus steps in. Now, I think that it’s very interesting to note that immediately prior to coming to Nain that Jesus had just had the encounter with the centurion and his slave in Capernaum, as we heard last week. And if you recall, the centurion, a man whom Jesus called having greater faith than anyone in all of Israel, sought Jesus out to heal his slave and to save him from what looked to be certain death. The centurion, a man of power and influence, was not ready to just sit back and accept life and death as it comes without taking any and all measures possible to save his slave. And this was all done without Jesus and the centurion ever coming in contact with one another.
But here, in Nain, this widow is right there in front of Jesus, and is making no effort whatsoever to see if there’s possibly anything that he can do to bring her son back to her. On the surface, it’s as if she’s simply settled for the lot that’s been given to her. It is what it is.
But then Jesus makes the move. He has compassion for her and so he comes to her, and telling her not to weep, he places his hand on the bier and says, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” And he gets up and starts to speak and is sent away with his mother in what is undoubtedly a most joyful and unbelievable reunion.
And Jesus shows us that things aren’t always what they seem. He shows us that His power isn’t present in our belief; this widow expressed none. This widow expressed resignation in the fate that had befallen her son and her. Instead, His power is present where He chooses it to be.
Which is so counter to what many Christians are taught to believe. So many Christians believe that we somehow have power or some say in how God will treat us. Dad was such a good person, why would God allow cancer to come into him. Susan didn’t have a drop to drink, so why did God make her end up in the wheelchair and the drunk driver walked away from the accident? Little Billy went to Sunday School every week, so why would God ever allow him to fall under the spell of heroin?
And then there’s the other Christians who shrug their shoulders, take it in, and simply state, it is what it is.
But Jesus says, it’s not. Jesus says that it’s what I say it is.
(10:00) And for you graduates, that’s something so very important to hang on to as you transition away from this season of your academic life. You’re going to go on to college or into the workplace, and it’s going to be hard sometimes. It’s a given. It’s going to be hard sometimes. And there’s going to be those moments where you may throw up your arms and look to the sky and say, “Why are you doing this to me, God? Why are you making it so hard for me?” And there may be other times where you simply put it out of sight and out of mind and take a more disinterested route and simply state, it is what it is.
But Jesus is passionately engaged in every aspect of our lives, and I can tell you with all certainty that God is not conspiring to do anything that will destroy you or your loved ones. Instead God is walking with you. When you struggle, He’s there to hold you up. When you are mourning, He mourns with you.
When you feel as if the world is coming down around you, He wants you to remember that actually the world already fell down around His Son, Jesus Christ when the world condemned Him to death for sins that he never committed, and that He has built it back up. And in building it back up by rising from the dead, Jesus shows us that sin, nor death, nor any power in this world, has, or will ever again have dominion over Him. In rising up, Jesus shows us that He rules our world, now, and for all eternity.
And that, my friends, truly is what it is. It is the love of God given to us through the gift of grace, God’s desire to give to us all that we have, our homes, our families, and our very lives. Amen.