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Posted: June 18, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: Victory of Life

She was a lucky lady. Of all the funerals going on that day, it was her son's that Jesus happened to meet on the road. Talk about good fortune. But her good fortune had started even before Jesus showed up. This story is recorded in Luke 7:11-17. The widow was getting ready to bury her son when Jesus happened upon the funeral procession and raised the young man. She's the one I'm calling lucky. You see, her child had died.

Let me explain why I'm calling that good. If you've ever seen the fans at a world cup game - if you've seen them celebrating a goal, if you've seen them celebrating a win - you can tell that victory is important to them. And that's fine, right? But when that desire for victory leads to people crushed to death in the crowd, when it leads to brawls when the realization dawns on a fan that both teams don't win, when it leads to players killed for missing a shot or failing to prevent one, it's clear that there's something wrong there, right? Perspective is skewed somewhere. That's why this lady was lucky. This lady had everything drawn back into perspective by her tragedy.

Now, I'm quite sure that none of you reading this have your priorities so far out of whack that you'd murder someone for your soccer team. But I'm also quite sure that there have been times that you've been surprised at (or maybe you haven't even noticed) the astoundingly bad things you've been capable of when rooting for that team called "self." A long enough look in the mirror and at your life and you'll see like I do, that all too often, my life is a constant chant of "I'm number 1" in my thoughts, words, and actions. Yours too. And in so many ways, we stomp on others in the assumptions we make about them, what we whisper about them, even how we treat them. That's what sin does. It is always selfish. It puts me first and God last as you handle your time, your heart, or your cash. It puts me first and others behind in how you treat each other. It rationalizes and excuses its selfishness, and it all too easily gets horribly out of control.

But then, every once in a while - something happens that has to shake up, has to break up our sin-filled chant of "I'm number 1," that makes us realize that what we were getting crazy about doesn't really even matter. That had happened for this woman in the text.

We need that, too, because it's just so easy to live like it's the things of this life that are ultimate. So, open your Bible, go to church and have this encounter with Jesus that the woman in our text did.

In verse 13, we get to the heart of it. Jesus saw this total stranger and his "heart went out to her," literally - "his guts were wrenched for her." He can't just look past pain like we so often do. Even though he may have never met her before - he had compassion

Think about this. Our misery provokes his pain. That's what makes this scene such a powerful declaration of our victory. Jesus saw the pain of your sin and its consequences, and his compassion caused him to do something. He loved you enough to be beaten for your mistakes, pierced for your transgressions, crushed for your iniquities, crucified for your sin. As you see Jesus walk up to this funeral procession in our text, realize that he has done the same for yours. He saw our dead condition - the only possible result for even one of our sins - and his guts were moved. And as Paul wrote, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That makes you and me the lucky ones.

We've got reason to cheer.

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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