Luke 7: 11-17
Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Okay, so I have a confession to make. I am a fan of the television show, “The Walking Dead.” If you’re not familiar with this long running program, here’s the gist of the plot. Our planet has been overrun by a plague that killed most of the population and turned them into zombies. A small group of diverse people, led by a former police officer named Rick Grimes, endeavor to survive and ultimately overcome this post-apocalyptic world. Forced into new living arrangements, facing constant threats and enduring frequent losses, they try and often fail to achieve stability and build community together. Ironically, the repeated danger they face often comes not from the zombies they must avoid but the neighbors they encounter along the way – the other survivors around them.
To be clear, I am not recommending this show to you. “The Walking Dead” is a dark, extremely violent and often heart-wrenching story. I continue to watch this program because I find this story resonates with the human condition apart from God. In many ways, the title of the show is not necessarily a reference to the zombies; it is to those who are left in a fallen world facing the inevitability of their own demise. This story of a people forced out of “paradise,” wandering in exile in search of a home is not a new story. In our faith tradition, it’s the story.
How many people around us – our neighbors – are just barely surviving?
For some, it’s a matter of economics. They are wrestling to make ends meet or worse, are on the street or existing out of their car. For others, the issue is one borne of loss or suffering. Overwhelmed by their grief, they struggle to face each day as it comes – to engage basic functions like eating, moving and sleeping. And then there are those who, on the surface, appear to be fine but truly are just going through the motions. They have rituals and routines but not much else beneath the surface. They are making a living; but they aren’t experiencing much of a life.
You can be breathing but still be lifeless. The walking dead are not just the fantasy of a comic book or a TV show. The dearly departed can be right in front of us – wasting away and becoming consumed by their pain – if we have eyes to see.
The truth of this statement will be revealed this Sunday through a very brief vignette we will consider from the Gospel of Luke. In fact, it’s a story that was only recorded by Luke. As always, Jesus has a crowd following Him. A whole bunch of people just witnessed Jesus cure a Roman centurion’s slave without lifting a finger. They are tagging along in celebration and in earnest to see what Jesus will do next. As they come to Nain, a village about two miles south of Mount Tabor, Jesus and His followers are about to come headlong into a devastating scene. What happens next, what Jesus does, offers us another opportunity for us to learn how to love our neighbors like Jesus.
There are moments in life where we meet at a crossroads. Living together in this world, the paths we walk upon often intersect with other people – our neighbors. Such intersections need not be viewed as obstacles to avoid or challenges to ignore. As we’ll discover, meeting another person at the crossroads of life are divine opportunities to help someone in need. Being a people of the Resurrection, may we heed the Lord’s call, not to run away from the walking dead, but towards them. Let us give life – the life we have been given in Christ, the life we experience through the Holy Spirit, the life that is everlasting – to those who act like they are already deceased.
Grace to you!