Each day this week, we have seen news reports of the 11 year old girl from Pennsylvania who needs a lung transplant. Because of a court ruling — which set aside the age restriction established by the Department of Health and Human Services, she and another 11 year old girl are now on the adult transplant list. Normally, one has to be 12 years old to be on the adult transplant list. The problem: of the 1,750 lung transplants last year, only 20 were for children under 12. It is not because there are no young children waiting for lung transplants — it is because there are so few lungs from children available for transplant.
Watching the agony and desperate hope on the face of the mother of the 11 year old girl, it is easy to sense what the women in this weekend’s Scripture [1 Kings 17:17-24 & Luke 7:11-17] were going through as they experienced the death of their sons.
Then in the story from Kings, we hear the prayer of Elijah, “O Lord my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “Young man, I tell you arise!”
In both situations, the people knew that God had come to them.
Let the life breath return to the body!!
This is the prayers of the people of Oklahoma as they continue to rebuild from two episodes of deadly tornadoes.
This is the prayer of the parents — the friends — of a young child killed by a gunshot.
This is the prayer of the parents and friends — the community — that prays for the teenager(s) killed in a traffic accident following a graduation party.
Like the widow of Zarephath, the first words and feelings of those who grieve is, “Why have you done this to me, O man of God?” We want to know who is responsible for our loss, our pain. We want someone to blame for our misery and our loss.
Yes, in faith we believe that those who have died have risen in Christ. In faith we know that our loved ones taken from our midst are where we will one day be. But in the moment, in the now — all seems dark, all seems lost, all seems so pointless.
Mentally and emotionally, we have all been in the place of the “one who has died” and in the place of the grieving one who has “lost a loved one.”
We “have been dead” when we felt alone, abandoned, mistreated, unappreciated, misjudged, or ignored. We have “been dead” when something was taken away from us, when something that was rightfully ours was denied us, when we endured immeasurable pain. We ‘have been dead” when sadness has paralyzed us or we could not act because of fear.
We have literally grieved at the death of a child, a sibling, parent(s), a spouse — our best friend. We have grieved when we have seen a dear friend or loved one mistreated. We have grieved through a divorce. We have grieved through bankruptcy. We have grieved as a friend or a child has gone to jail. We have grieved when we witness injustice on television. We can grieve — feel with and for — an elderly man or woman as they push a cart through a grocery store — we feel sad for them as they seem so frail and vulnerable.
As in the case of the 11 year old girl, it is tough trying to decide who gets a chance at life — who might live and who might die. If a lung becomes available, somebody will get it — and somebody will not. Two 11 year old girls await a transplant — they cannot both get a “share” of the one set of lungs.
Many applications to life come from the scripture.
First and most obvious: what do you believe about organ transplants? Do you know someone who has given the gift of life through a transplant? Do you know someone who has received the gift of life through transplant? What if you or a friend was on a waiting list for a transplant?
Second: who are those we see grieving around us? Is there something you can do? Is there a way to ease the grief of another? How do others know we care?
Third: maybe we might think that everyone around us … everyone with whom have contact …. might just be carrying a burden in silence. We have no clue what is going on at home — or with their finances — a kind word might be the lift they need — a harsh word or an act of impatience might be the “straw that breaks their back” and brings forth the silent cry — or literal tears. Everyone hurts sometimes.
Fourth: Maybe our relationships, our parish, our Church denomination, our workplace, our City —- need new life breathed into us …. maybe we all — as groups — need to hear the call of God to Arise and move forth.
Fifth: If we are feeling the pain of dying, we need to pray in earnest — “Let the life breath return to my mind, my body, my spirit.” We need to hear the words of Jesus calling out to us —I tell you arise!
Oh God, please, let your life breath flow through me! Help me to get up and come to you!