The lectionary has a 3 year cycle and 3 years ago, I was preaching and found myself drawn into the two stories about widows whose sons died and were brought back to life. These are the kind of tales that leave today's reader feeling incredulous. We are sceptical about miracles and struggle with the relevance of such ancient tales for faith that fits our world, our understandings. In studying, I discovered many parallels between the two, the story told in Luke is very much a retelling of 1Kings. Each story, however, is written for a particular audience, to get the message across in a way that speaks to the people of the time.
I preached this in the form of a 3-character readers theatre.The widow from 1 Kings, the one from Luke, and a present day widow alternate in telling their stories. They each give some background, talk about their descent into hopelessness, and then end with how God brings their hope (and their children) back to life. Hope and healing aren't just ancient needs, so how do we experience God's touch where it is needed today?
It was a powerful experience for me to think about the theme of rebirth after despair and how this might be real for a contemporary church goer. How is the scriptural truth of God's healing experienced (even for, and maybe especially for those who can't accept the miraculous as it is told in the ancient text?) I imagined a young single mother today, struggling to make ends meet, trying to be a good parent, and dealing with a child in crisis. A retelling of the Luke story in a contemporary setting.
The sermon concluded with the following sentence: "Be encouraged to think of your life as a continuation of the story, a picking up and reliving of the great themes of God's people throughout history. The hope, the new life, the continuation of God's love is apparent in the Old, the New, and the Now."
Psalm 30 speaks of how the psalmist is lifted out of the depths, he calls on God for help and he receives healing. "O Lord, you brought me up from the grave...weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Read the stories, absorb the themes, imagine how they apply to your life and to others who may be encouraged to find themselves in them too.
(I still have the sermon/readers theatre. If anyone wants to read it through, please contact me and I will send it by email.)