Sermon for 11/10/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the king Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA. I'm thankful for the teachings of Dr. Mary Havens at LTSS, who taught and challenged us to CONFESS not a theory or idea, but the God who has been made known to us.
Gospel: Luke 20:27–38
27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."
34Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ
I would like to ask you to try and do something right now, something I did with some Confirmation students recently.
Try to imagine, or think about, nothing. As you do this, I don’t mean try to clear your mind. I mean try to think of what “nothing” is. Can you imagine what “nothing” is?
I can imagine emptiness, I can imagine a void, but I can’t imagine, I can’t think about, I can’t possibly wrap my head around what nothing is; because in my life, I’ve always been surrounded by something. Many things for that matter.
Now, let me tell you about the God I know. This God, is eternal, meaning before there was nothing, which I can’t imagine, there was God. And, furthermore, this God created something, from nothing, namely, you and I. So, this God I know, is well beyond anything we can imagine. Not as a matter of hyperbole, but as a matter of fact.
You see, we, as human beings live in a world of starts and stops, and beginnings and endings, and though we can fantasize, editorialize, and theorize about what eternity is, we really can’t understand it; except maybe while listening to a sermon that seems like it will never end.
Knowing then, that I have plenty of time, we hear this morning about this group of people called the Sadducees, who were a sect within the Jewish people at the time, we hear them asking Jesus to theorize on what happens in the resurrection, the time when the dead are raised to new life. And, it’s a pretty good question, a question that could undermine Jesus’ authority and teaching.
And, it’s a question that I hear still today. Maybe not which brother is going to get this poor widow, but more along the lines of people wondering, or proclaiming “What is heaven like?” What I mean, is that when we humans think about life after death, we think of the people we’ll see and envision ourselves going to this great, eternal fantasy land in the sky, and we begin asking questions. Questions like, How old will I be? How old will others be, will my parents be older or younger than me? And, as we think about it, maybe we get a little worried about running into our ex, or someone else from our past. And then there’s the ultimate question, while I’m golfing at this awesome, heavenly golf course, will I ever hit a bad shot, and if I don’t will it still be fun?
Now, as a Pastor, maybe I’m supposed to have some answers for this stuff, but I don’t; at least none that don’t lead to us taking God’s word and parlaying it into museums that have statues showing the times when people were riding on dinosaurs. The truth is, I don’t have a clue about what happens when we’re dead, just as I have no idea what I was doing before I was born.
Since I’m not much help in these manners, maybe we can see what Jesus says to the Sadducees, how he sorts this whole mess of what happens in the resurrection out. He starts out by describing something really different, but, apart from these generalization, Jesus doesn’t really get into it life in the time of resurrection.
Rather than get into useless speculation, Jesus says to the Sadducees, “let me tell you about the God I know.” He points out that this is the God, who everyone knows can speak from a bush, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he says that this God he knows is a God of the living. And though they disagreed about the resurrection, the Sadducees knew this God who Jesus was talking about, for it was their God as well.
So, let me tell you some more about the God I know. This God who created us out of nothing, sent Jesus into this world not to give us all the answers, but to show us how to trust in that which we cannot understand. This God I know, sent Jesus into this world not to make us safe and secure, but to empower us to be bold and courageous in our compassion, our generosity, and our love. This God I know sent Jesus into this world so that in the midst of a world bound to such things as time and space, we may taste, see, and share the life of our Risen Lord and Savior who not even death could contain. This God I know, this Jesus that I know, has given this life to us so that we may bear the promise of God’s love, of God’s eternity, for all people and all of creation, in all times and places even as we face the certainty of our own death. And in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy in the Philippines, this God I know takes away the sting of death, with the promise that we will never be abandoned, and in this promise gives us space to grieve and mourn over those who have died and the loss of so many lives, without speculation about what has happened to them in death.
This God I know, doesn’t give us the answers, only the promise of new life. And just as we can’t wrap our heads around how big our God is, and around things like eternity, or creation out of nothing, we also have great difficulty understanding God’s abundance. As we talk about Stewardship and money, our minds immediately jump to budgets and planning, and what we can do if we can just all give enough money…and God can do some great things out of us with what we give. But just as God gives us the eternal food of Christ’s body and blood, despite our incomprehension, so that we can share that life with all the world. God gives us the practice of Stewardship, not so we can have an end result, but so that we can know, learn, and share in the never ending abundance of God. God gives us this practice of stewardship, so that with our lives of generosity, we can witness to all of creation, telling tales of this God we know, who is generous beyond our imagination.
May this God continue to be revealed to us through Christ, so that we may share in the unending mercy, the graceful abundance, the eternal love, life, and hope, of the God we know, with all of creation.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,