How many of you have ever been part of planning a wedding or another banquet-type event that called for a seating chart? How much fun was placing people at the appropriate table? If you’ve ever been part of such a process you know what I’m about to say is true: placement is important.
The author of Luke’s Gospel operated under this premise, too. He knew that placement is important. It’s no accident the stories of the Good Samaritan (a story of active service) and the story of Mary and Martha (a story of quiet reflection) are placed back-to-back in Luke’s Gospel. Their placement one after the other shows how both active service and quiet reflection are important parts of the Christian journey.
In the same way, two resuscitation stories (the one we heard last week and the one we’ll hear today) come one after the other in Luke’s Gospel. Last week’s story shows Jesus responding to the centurion’s plea for help. This week Jesus responds without even being asked. In this week’s story there is no mention of calling out to Jesus…no mention of the widow’s faith…there is only Jesus’ compassion. “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Not because of anything this woman has or has not done, Jesus saves the woman’s life by raising her son.
Because of their back-to-back placement in Luke’s Gospel, we get the message. Part of our Christian journey is reaching out like the centurion…or crying out like the psalmist in today’s first reading. But even when we don’t reach out or cry out…even when we aren’t able to imagine a future with hope…the Risen Christ is at work turning mourning into dancing, taking off our sackcloth and clothing us with joy.
We are no longer in the Easter season, but these are Easter stories. They are stories of Jesus turning darkness into light, mourning into dancing, and death into life…so that, even in June, we might say, “Christ is risen!”