Monday, April 28, 2014

Unusual Service

The late-morning sun beat mercilessly on the large procession of mourners as they walked out the village gate.  Those carrying the simple wooden bier on their shoulders had to fight off the urge to swat at the flies lighting on their faces.  The rain shower the previous evening had settled the dust, but the pesky bugs were out in force.  

Though it was common to find professional mourners who wailed incessantly at funerals in larger cities, this group was far from professional.  It seemed that the whole village had left their shops and their work benches to attend this deeply broken ceremony.  Their focus was the woman dressed in the traditional black of mourning who walked beside the lifeless body.  Her slight frame was bent with fatigue; her cheeks smeared with tears.  Though her halting steps slowed everyone down, no one seemed to rush her.  They all believed as she did, that the body of the young man was simply a shell and that his life was now with the Eternal.  Still, they wouldn’t hurry the woman’s final moments before they placed her only son in a tomb.
The group of travelers stood on the small hill and waited for the funeral party to exit the gate.  One of them saw a familiar face in the crowd and solemnly walked over to inquire.  When she returned, she said, “He was a young man who grew very sick and died.  His father died a few years ago and he was their only son.”  
Quickly, the whispers spread through the whole group.  “What will she do?” asked one. 
 “She has no choice,” said another.  “She will have to beg, unless some distant relative can afford to care for her.”
The servant listened to his fellow travelers as he looked intently at the broken hearts in the funeral procession.  His face grew dark with sadness and tears began to spill down his cheeks.  Catching himself, his look changed from sorrow to resolve.  He left the group around him and walked over the the weeping mother.  Stopping her and the whole funeral gathering, he took a deep breath and said to her, “Don’t cry!”  
Then turning to the bier, he reached up and touched the young man’s body.  “I tell you, get up!” he said with authority.  Suddenly, the dead boy got up and began to talk.  Some of the crowd was filled with fear and others with wonder.  The servant took the young man's hand and placed it in the hand of his mother.  
Not long before that day, the servant had said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…the oppressed will be set free…it is the time of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)  
Those who follow the servant think of him by other titles, like Master or King of kings or Messiah.  It was the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53) who first told us, though, that he would come as a servant.  We like to think of servants as people who do simple tasks for others.  While that certainly describes the work of serving, being a servant is about far more.  Just look at how Jesus did it.  
Last weekend at Stone Ridge Church, we cruised through the Old Testament part of the Bible, looking at passage after passage in which God called His people to serve Him with their whole hearts.  Again and again they fell short, but the Old Testament included the promise of a coming Servant who would change everything…and He did!  This weekend we will take some time to see ways that Jesus helps us fulfill the destiny of ones designed in the image of God; it’s a destiny of serving.  
You don’t want to miss it.  The conclusion is pretty fantastic!  But, if you can’t be there, catch the podcast

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