Have you ever seen those houses that looked dead? Broken window panes wink at you as you stand on the other side of an otherwise attractive dead-end street with an esplanade of gum trees. The door knobs and the mouldings and the floors and the walls all cry out to be brought back to light and life. When faced with such a sight, do we feel as though we need or maybe want to revive such a building.
Jesus brings someone back from the dead in every gospel. I’m not going to pretend to know whether these things happened as written, but I’ll promise you this: no matter how broken and breathless and apparently all over being useful to anyone we may feel, God has the power to lead us from death to life.
To go back to the house. Let us thing about it as if it is chosen for one of those restorations on a reality TV show and you are the one to bring it back to life. For six weeks, you would go to the sad, dirty house every day and work with painters and carpenters. You would choose paint colours and wash nicotine-coated walls and pull up old kitchen floor tiles.
Maybe you have come to the tasks on the waning edge of a long postpartum depression complicated by the end of a marriage. As you work, train your attention on your identity and if you have been through a marriage breakup, as mother or a father to any children you may have. You may need a place to live. You may need a place or space to come back to life in.
Ever noticed also this line in the story of the widow of Nain: “And the bearers stood still.” For me it reminds me of those times when my heart stands still. In this great darkness as we work and finding new life and space we make room for the Holy to pass through the midst of death like the flaming torch and smoke passing through Abraham’s sacrifice. Like Abraham, we can drive away the birds of prey while waiting in a darkness deeper than time.
This is where I perceive the new thing, here, in this empty space. And the bearers stood still. In prayer, I stand still. All I can do is give myself to that secret, newly emerging from the darkness.
Luke tells us Jesus raised the young man because he had compassion for the mother. God loves us that much, too, and never gives up on us. It may not come in an instant. Sometimes the way back is as painstaking and ordinary as pulling up one floor tile at a time. But hear the good news: no matter how broken and breathless and apparently all over being useful to anyone we may feel, God has the power— and the desire— to lead us from death to life.