by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Scripture: Luke 7: 11-17, NRSV
“Soon afterwards [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
Memory Verse: Luke 7:14
And [Jesus] said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”
Reflection on Scripture
All made their way into the pile that transformed before my eyes. Nutrient-rich, life-giving soil. Our compost. Our food scraps turned into something that would be used in our garden. Before my eyes, renewed life emerged. As if someone said to the earth, “Rise.”
I read the scripture passage above and I thought of compost. Even though the scripture recounts a death. A mother weeping. A man who lost his life – a nameless man and a mother. A large nameless crowd witnesses the death and the grief. And we have Jesus who says, “Rise.” One word, one command: “Rise.” With that one word from Jesus renewed life bursts forth from this once-dead-man.
Obviously, the cultivation of compost isn’t the same as bringing someone back from life. But this story as well as any of the miracle stories of Jesus remind me that life is always about being made new. That death brings us to new life. That transformation takes time and pain and loss.
The process of creating compost began with the compost bin. We set to work filling it with our food scraps and leaves and grass. We’d mix it, water it, add to it, mix it, forget about it for a while, add more scraps, and keep mixing.
All winter long.
And finally the time came to get our garden started. Time to put our compost to work in the garden. I don’t know quite when it happened, but it seemed to change overnight. Somewhere in the mixing and adding and leaving it alone, inside our compost bin, soil emerged. We were no longer able to identify what we placed inside the bin. We now had a whole bin of dark, rich, nutrient-laden soil.
Honestly, I couldn’t believe we did it. I couldn’t believe we actually had workable material to put on our garden. Yet it wasn’t my miracle. It wasn’t even my doing. There was more of forgetting on my part than working the compost by adding and mixing. I allowed myself to be a part of the organic and beautiful way of the earth. I witnessed the wholeness of how nature is intended. How all of life is about following the rhythms of nature. How we are meant to use only what we need and to take what’s left and give it back to the earth. And when we return what wasn’t ours to begin with, transformation and new life emerges.
Isn’t this what our life of faith tells us about being a disciple of Jesus? That Jesus, the One who raises the dead to life, the One who brings sight to the blind, and the One who calls fishermen and tax collectors is the One who transforms us, too? When we feel like all we have to offer are scraps and brokenness, Jesus takes those scraps and pieces and turns them into something new. Over and over again.
For Jesus says to us: rise!
Questions to Spark Discussion
*Tell about a time when you fell down and someone had to help you up.
*Have you watched a garden grow or planted your own garden? If so, what did you notice?
*What would it have been like to be the crowd witnessing the miracle of Jesus raising the dead man to life?
Grab a handful of soil. Feel it in your hands. Let it run through your fingers. Say a prayer for this earth. Reflect as a family how that soil can bring forth so much produce and life.
You call us as we are: loved, beautiful, and chosen.
You walk with us.
You pick us up when we stumble.
You gather us as your people, made new every day.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a one-year-old, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Missouri.