​A death, A diagnosis and A band

A Sermon for Proper 14: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, Psalm 50:18, 23-24, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40

Last week it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The week it was Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Last week it was JB, RW, and JT; this week it was a death, a diagnosis, and a band.

 

He was a mean crusty old coot. Nothing she and her family ever did was right. Nothing ever measured up to his expectations. None of their desires to improve themselves, nor any of their aspirations for their family measured up against up against his plumb line of life.

Still, when the diagnosis of cancer hit hard, she was the one who refused to lie to him. She was the one who firmly yet compassionately told him that he was not going to get better, or get out of here, or go home, he was dying. She was the one who listened to whispered regrets. She was the one who wiped his tears. None of which mattered the next morning, nothing she ever did, nothing they ever did ever passed muster.

And then he died. She saw the familiar SUV turn the corner and park in the Funeral Home’s lot. She watched the usual and customary exit ritual. As he walked across the grass, she rushed towards him. There was no greeting; she flung her arm around his neck and cried. Quietly and deeply, she cried, oh so deeply she cried.

In the cloudless blue sky of a Delta morning she held tight, she dares not let go. As hard as the time had been, she knew the routine; she knew how to negotiate it. The waters were dangerous, but her map was accurate. And now, with the patriarch dead, everything was unclear. No one could know how the family’s relationships would resettle, you never can. As the thermometer pushed 100, she held on.

He was surprised by how tightly she clung. He was surprised by how calm he was. He kept his breath regular, deep and calm. He stood straight and still. He felt her shake as she sobbed. And only on the Spirit’s breath do the words come to him. Only to her does he whisper “It is amazing how much you love the one who annoyed you so much.”

 

The call was expected; the timing was not. He left the meeting, so he could speak privately with his brother. He knew the circumstances; he knew what the conversation would be about; he thought he knew how to navigate the conversation and be there for his brother. His brother walked through the past week; all the tests, all the decision points, all the unknowns, everything. At every point, the protocol was correct, decisions were correct, even as they now created some complications. Last night’s decision to go home and tend to other matters is sensible; they expected to learn the results of the latest tests in the morning. The timing was off. The doctors came that evening. Alone, his son and wife heard completely unexpected words “cerebral palsy.”

Actually, his brother’s first words were “It’s cerebral palsy.” He was unprepared. There are things you simply cannot be prepared for. He knew the experience of his first 20 plus years in business were useless. Then it was his responsibility to know the symptoms, know the answers and to execute the necessary corrective plan. In short, it was his job to do. For the last twenty-five years, his vocation was to be. At times he spoke. At times presided. At times he was the manifestation of divine presence. But beneath all of that, the vocation was to be. And now miles of separation prevented that. All the technology of wires, and fiber, and wireless were completely useless; he simply could not hold his brother in his arms in a loving hug. It was a lonely, fearful thing to hear his brother fall into the arms of a loving God.

 

For more than a decade she and her husband lead their church’s band. Every Sunday they coordinated, and made music and sang praises to God. Every Sunday, with love and purposeful preparation, they created musical moments in which their colleagues, friends, family and the strangers among them, might encounter the transforming love of God. But no more.

Both their parents were aging. Both their parents needed their attention. Weekday responsibilities and distance so shaped the context that weekends were the available times for them to honor their parents. And so they do. They have given over to others the work they so love.

At times she blogs. Friday morning, she blogged about their decision. A high school friend who sometimes reads her blogging saw and read this one. He was caught by her words “As I ramble through my first churchless Sunday in I can’t remember when my heart is heavy and tears well unbidden.” Immediately he knew the connections. The words of the prophets spoke with the clarity God intended. His impulse was to share. He demurred; for good reason, he knew the depth his friend’s faith, even when they disagreed on one point or another.

Well, he tried to demur. However, the urging would not go away. And so, as is his custom, he writes through a private channel:

I read your blog this morning. I am reminded of the prophets, who, after criticizing    empty worship, point towards God’s desire which includes care for God’s people. Tending to parents in waning years fits the bill, and you will meet the prophetic understanding of ‘church.’  Moreover, in John 9 when asked who sinned Jesus replies “No one. this man was born blind. Let the work (glory/presence) of God be made known” again you are making God’s presence known. You are not churchless; you are simply in another manifestation of church.

He was not surprised she replied; although the words were more than expected.

Thank you, for taking the time to read my post today, and for writing such words of encouragement.  I did need those so much!  We know we made the right decision with regards to our mothers.  Change is never easy, but knowing God walks with us is a comfort and a blessing.  Thanks again, my friend

 

This morning’s reading from Hebrews encourages us to have faith. The author provides us an example, Abraham. Abraham trusted God and ventures forth into the wilderness with no map and no real idea where he was going. The journey is long, decades longer than expected. He questioned God, more than once, about the promise of countless heirs. He and Sarah did see their son; they never saw a people more numerous than the stars of the night sky. But still they kept the faith, they never lost their trust in God, as shaky as it got. And they were, for the most part, honest with God about his timing.

Luke tells of Jesus telling the disciples to be prepared. He challenges them to know what matters most. He challenges them to be ready for God’s appearance. And in the last bit share with them the curious notion that God’s presence is to serve them.

You can be prepared, but not for everything. You cannot be prepared for a death, a diagnosis, and a band. We’ve been told by various preachers that we can always keep our faith. There are deaths, and diagnoses and moments when faith ~ belief, and trust are shaken; badly shaken; beyond the of point doubt. There are moments when we stand over and see into the very depths of the abyss.

Both Jesus and Isaiah are clear, standing over and staring deep into the abyss of doubt and rejection are to be shared with God. God wants you to share all the depths of your soul, no matter how offensive you think God may think they are. Because God knows that in those moments, you will glean brilliance of a single point of love and light of life.

Your map may be worthless. Your faith may be shattered. Your trust may have faded with the passing of long – gone years. Being prepared may have vanished in the heat of the sun. But you are never alone; those you love are never alone. God’s love bears all things, endures all things, God’s love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

Last week it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The week it was Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Last week it was JB, RW, and JT; this week it was a death, a diagnosis, and a band. The week to come? is not ours to know, except the eternal love of God, in Jesus Christ by the whisper of the Spirit.

 

References

Adam, A. K. M. Commentary on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. 7 8 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. CashMax fees break state law, NLR says. 7 8 2016. <arkansasonline.com/news/2016/aug/05/cashmax-fees-break-state-law-nlr-says-2/>.

ASHLEY, DANAE. “Listen to Love, Proper 14 (C).” 8 7 2016. Sermons that Work.

Bratt, Doug. Old Testament Lectionary | Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. 7 8 2016. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 7 8 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Hardy, Quentin. Wasting Time on the Internet? Not Really. n.d. <nytimes.com/2016/08/07/education/edlife/kenneth-goldsmith-on-wasting-time-on-the-internet.html>.

Hoezee, Scott. Lectionary Epistle | Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. 7 8 2016.

—. Proper 14C | Luke 12:32-40. 7 8 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Treasured Possessions? Part Two. 7 8 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Thompson, Erick J. Commentary on Luke 12:32-40. 7 8 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Wines, Alphonetta. Commentary on Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. 7 8 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

 

Burnt Up or Going Up

Yesterday I did my commentary reading for this coming Sunday’s sermon. Since StS is following Track 1 of the Revised Common Lectionary (don’t ask) was wasn’t surprised to read the story of Abraham’s being tested via the requested sacrifice of Isaac. I was surprised that one commentator mentioned the nearly immediate story of Abraham driving Hagar and his, legitimate first, son Ishmael into the desert to die, at Sarah’s request. Surely Ishmael’s expulsion influences Abraham’s behavior as he took Isaac to the mountain as sacrifice.

A quick review of Ishmael’s story. Sarah decides Ishmael is a threat to Isaac and tells Abraham to take Hagar and Ishmael into the dessert. He is distressed by the idea; however, God tells him to do as Sarah says, but that Ishmael and Hagar will be okay, that God will also make a nation of him also (Genesis 21:13). He does as God tells him, which is not always the case, remember Ishmael is the result of Sarah and Abraham taking the concern about an heir into their own hands. Genesis tells us Ishmael does well. It’s not unreasonable to believe Abraham knows of Ishmael’s status.

Genesis does not tell us how long it is between Ishmael’s and Hagar’s dismissal and Isaac’s journey to sacrifice; however it must be some years, because Isaac walks the distance, carries the wood for the sacrifice, and engages his father in knowledgeable conversation about the sacrifice, so he would be at least in his early teens. Time enough for Abraham knew of Ishmael’s life. He knew God kept God’s word.

So here’s the logic. Abraham knows God’s logic is incomprehensible, it took how many years for God to fulfill the promise of an heir? Abraham knows God keeps God’s promise, Ishmael is growing into a nation. Abraham knows God promised him an heir, knows Isaac is that heir: it is through Isaac that offspring ill be named for you. (Genesis 21:12 b) so even though this journey to sacrifice Isaac makes no sense Abraham makes the journey in faith that God will do as God always has, keep his promise.

A note about burnt offering. The Hebrew ʿōlâ is most frequently translated burnt offering however it is also translated to ascent or to go up. It’s root ʿālâ means to come up, to ascend. (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.) Easton’s Dictionary notes burnt offerings were regarded as ascending to God while being consumed (Easton). It is at least conceivable that Abraham has a notion that he is ascending to God perhaps to commit him to God’s service, as all first born will be after the Passover, or as Nasserites are (Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:11).

All this is to realize the story of Isaac as sacrifice is far more complex than the horrid idea of human sacrifice as a test of loyalty. There is a test of loyalty here; Abraham is being asked to commit his (now) only son to the service of another, no easy task, and does involve trusting God, place your child’s and your futures solely in God’s hands.


Works Cited

Easton, Matthew George. Illustrated bible Dictionary. Wordsearch, 2008.

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Wordsearch, n.d.

 

 

Divine Discomfort

This week our Ministerial Alliance holds noon time services that includes a light lunch, inviting people to prepare for Easter in the midst of their daily lives. Every day we hear from a different preacher, in a different church (not the preacher’s),  are inspired by different music and are served an interesting variety of  simple lunches.  It is church as I expect we should be a multitude of people with widely varying religious beliefs joining to hear differing perspectives, everyone respecting the other.

Today is Maunday Thursday and if your observation is focused on Jesus establishing Eucharist, or Foot washing there is an element of the unexpected, a surprise that begins to reshape the disciples understanding of who Jesus is; and it is uncomfortable.

May your day be blessed by those who experience faith is different than you, so that your faith may be unexpectedly expanded, especially if it begins in divine discomfort.

 

 

A sermon for Christmas 1

Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7, John 1:1-18, Psalm 147 or 147:13-21

Shiloh is where Joshua and the Hebrews setup camp after entering the Promised Land. It was the home of the Tent of Meeting, where the Ark was kept throughout Joshua’s reign, and through the Judges, until they lost the Ark in an effort to use it as a weapon. Shiloh was a seat of governance; a place of meetings for the Tribes; and Eli’s and later Samuel’s home. There is some indication a structure was built to replace the Tent. Shiloh was likely destroyed by the Philistines; archaeological evidence point to something like 1050 BCE. It’s destruction made a lasting impression in the peoples’ minds; so much so that it was used a reference by the Psalmist, Jeremiah, and an occasional prophet. It is clear that Shiloh was once the seat of Israel’s power and their connection to God. It was completely destroyed. [i] Nonetheless, God continued to be present to Israel, and the ministry of faithful prophets, priests and Kings continued after Shiloh’s destruction.

Thursday I blogged about Jehoikim’s court’s response to Jeremiah’s prophecy that God will make his house like Shiloh; suffice it to say they were not happy. My point was that Jeremiah does not back down, doesn’t seek safety, doesn’t try and negotiate his way out. Jeremiah trusts in God. I believe that Jeremiah drew inspiration for his strength from Proverbs (8:22 ff) (appointed for Friday’s Daily Office) which speaks to Wisdom’s part in creation; her delight in humanity; how those who listen to her find life and divine favor, and those who don’t find injury and death. Thursday was Stephen’s day, when we, if it weren’t the day after Christmas, observe his faithfulness, and his martyrdom. I believe he drew strength from Jeremiah’s example, from Wisdom, and from likely conversation with John, who wrote the Gospel whose prologue we heard this morning. John is among the disciples whom anointed Stephen.

The language of John’s prologue is similar to Proverbs 8:22, in its reference to creation, and relationship to God. We all know ‘The Word’ in John comes to be the incarnate Jesus. I believe Wisdom is an older story of the same divine manifestation, in other words Wisdom comes to be the incarnate Jesus. I also believe that the Church is the continuing incarnation of Wisdom and The Word. So while both speak to a particular fully human manifestation in Jesus of Nazareth, they equally refer to his continuing ministry of which we as Church are stewards. Both Jeremiah and Stephen, are exemplars of our calling to be stewards of The Ministry: Wisdom’s The Word’s and Jesus’.

Wisdom and the Bible also referred to as the word, as literary works tell the story of God’s active presence in the midst of creation in the middle of people’s lives. Wisdom and The Word as a manifestation of God are God’s active presence in the midst of creation in the middle of people’s lives. Ministry is the trick of using one to draw people to the other. Ministry is using Wisdom and John, or what-ever applicable part of scripture, to draw people to the presence of  God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. That’s the work Jeremiah and Stephen did so well, not necessarily by the results: Jehoikim’s house is destroyed, and Stephen dies, but how they did their work, in unabated faith and trust, in a promise they could not see but nonetheless believed. That is the road ahead in 2014 and beyond.

Beginning next week our service schedule changes. We will gather to celebrate Eucharist at 9:00 am, and then share fellowship and engage in faith forming discussion, previously known as adult Sunday School. We will do so on the 1st, 2nd, 4th and occasional 5th Sunday. On the 3rd, St. Stephen’s will offer Morning Prayers. Your vestry has worked hard to work out this new arrangement; it is a bold act. And they will be the first to tell you it’s not about an extra 30 minutes sleep Sunday morning. Not at all. This is an opportunity  to follow our Parton, St. Stephen, and not worry about the lurking fear of Shiloh, but to boldly love and share the Word, or Wisdom, or God, or the Holy Spirit, or Jesus , or however you encounter the Divine presence.

I know folks who should be with us. I suspect you know more than I do. So now you have an opportunity to invite them, to be as persistent as the widow seeking justice and as gentle as Jesus reply Come and see. We also have an opportunity to discern how to increase our inviting families of any configuration to Friday Families.

And as any late night, or early morning commercial, there is more. The first is a vision I’ve named Brewing Faith. The vision is to establish a place where two or three times a week, once in the morning, at mid-day and/or in the evening people will be invited to gather over coffee or tea, or other brew and talk about the light the word and everyday life. Everyone of any faith persuasion, including those who are not quite sure, and those who really don’t buy this stuff, is invited. The setting is intended to invite conversation, to shine the light to share the word of Old Testament Wisdom, and the incarnate Jesus.

The 2nd vision I have to share is a longer term calling, I’ve come to call Stephen’s House. As I have shared with your vestry, it honors our patron saint, it builds on the ancient custom of house church, and the ancient custom of cathedral weekday community space; did you know the naves of Cathedrals were community market places, something akin to farmers’ markets, only with more variety. However, as with every good faithful discernment it begins by us faithfully asking: How is God calling us:  to share the light? to share the Word? And then we ask, Does this facility enable or hinder that ministry?

Yes, it is scary stuff, it pushes the recessed fear of Shiloh almost into the foreground. However, Jeremiah’s threat notwithstanding, there is a light-side to Shiloh’s story. Yes, it is completely destroyed. But the ministry of God is not. The people of Israel, at least some of them, remained faithful to God, continued to believe in the divine promise; they trusted in God. Shiloh is gone, God is not. As it is for many, and perhaps all churches, it’s time to set aside the fear of Shiloh; time to trust in the wisdom of the word to trust in the presence of the Word incarnate such that the light of Christ shines forth in your lives as witness to all around you.

It is going to be a different year, my prayer for us is that we allow it to be full of wisdom of the Word and the light of Christ incarnate. AMEN

 


[i] Quick Verse 10; Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary,  Holman Bible Dictionary, Nave’s Topics, International Bible Dictionary

Remembrances on Stephen’s Day

Image

Our home is full e-minders, smart phones, tablets, and computers. But our refrigerator is the place many reminders get put. It is also the where all our seasonal remembrances go. They are not like the e-minders, they are far more important. The cards etc. remind us of those we have long relationships with, even though we do not see them, or may be even communicate with them often. They are no less important in our lives. In some ways the front of our frig is a bit like scripture, in that one of the things scripture does is to remind us of who we are in relationship with, God in Jesus Christ,  and the long history of that relationship. Those historical remembrances are important.

Today is the feast day for St. Stephen. Personally I think he drew the short straw, what chance is there for a regular remembrance of his feast day, the day after Christmas; but no matter, it is when it is, and that not why I am drawn to his remembrance today.  We all know Stephen’s story from Acts. As a result of the stresses of tremendous growth of the primitive church, the Disciples decided to delegate responsibility for distributing alms to seven worthy men. Stephen was selected, and was perhaps the first, to be what we now call Deacons.  The next piece of the story is the results of Stephen’s grace and power. It seems some in the synagogue were jealous of his abilities as well as his good standing, spirit and wisdom, so they effectively plot to put him to death. We know they succeed. But that’s not what got my attention. 

That is just how much Stephen’s behavior follows Jeremiah’s in his conflict with Jehoikim’s court. They get offended when he passes on to them the word that God will make this house like Shiloh… which was destroyed by the Philistines long ago. Not only do they take offense, they pronounce that You shall die! Surrounded by angry dangerous people, Jeremiah does not defend himself, or try to argue the position. He simply says God said this.  And for me, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. And again mentions that the words are God’s. Stephen acts the same way. He answers the high priest’s questions straight up. When the crowd get enraged, he doesn’t back down, or mitigate his words, he stands in the truth of God in Jesus Christ. And when he is being killed, he does not curse them, he ask Jesus to receive his spirit and to forgive those killing him.

What is so poignant is that both Jeremiah and Stephen trust what Paul will refer to as promises not seen. Even though they cannot see it, that there is not physical proof for it, both trust God, both have faith in God.

We are better off for the trust both Jeremiah and Stephen showed. I’d bet Stephen remembered Jeremiah’s story, and that it inspired him. I know we will be better off if we remember their stories, and allow those remembrances to inspire our lives, our trust in God in Jesus.

Emotional Dissonance

I was at clergy conference Monday through Wednesday this week.  We were inspired by Lisa Kimball, the director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary, we received concise, useful information from our Diocesan staff, we broke bread together, we played together, we laughed together, we prayed together in a surprisingly, unplanned diversity. Regardless of language to the contrary, we enjoyed each other. Without overdoing it, it’s like we were walking past the massive polished blocks of the Temple reveling in its glory. That got me to thinking how we, how I, would respond if our Bishop told us it was all going away.

Beneath Jesus’ apocalyptic warnings, beyond his naming the risk of being associated with his name, even beyond the assurances that God knows every hair on your head, this week’s Gospel is teeming with dissonance. The over whelming joy of being at the Temple in the grandeur of God’s presence is smack up against the abject terror of your trusted leader viscerally tearing it all away.  I lived on the Alabama Gulf Coast just as it was fully recovering from the damage of Hurricane Ivan, some years before, when the Deep Water Horizon blew up in 2010. The emotional dissonance of recovery right next to disaster shaped every conversation, every action, every hope, every prayer; before ~ the tangible effects of the disaster.  It’s different than the terror of the event itself, not like the people of the Philippines mortal struggle after the devastation of Typhoon  Haiyan. What I am drawn to ponder, is the dissonance between glorious anticipation, smack up against, shattered expectations.

What I am drawn to is this raw emotional scrape. I am drawn to the interaction of this scrape and faith in God, trust in God. And for some reason I’m to stay here. As much as I want to, I cannot run off to the promise of a new creation, from Isaiah, nor, the God is our stronghold … our defense,from Canticle 9, not even Paul’s admonition to not be weary of doing what is right. There is something transformative in this moment, and discerning it means living in the scrape-faith juncture.

Perhaps tomorrow will bring insight, wisdom. Then again, tomorrow is perhaps.

Relationship, Resurrection, Trust

A sermon for Proper 27

Haggai 1:15b-2:9, Psalm 145:1-5, 18- 21, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17,  Luke 20:27-38

Bradley’s summer job was in a casting mill. His shift ended at 10:00 pm, and when he got home, he was dirty, really dirty, greasy, sweaty, dusty dirty. It’s what happens when you pull fresh cast metal grates, from their molds. His family had a swimming pool and the back yard that was very private, so he got into the habit of coming home, stripping off his work clothes and swimming for a bit. When he had relaxed, he’d climb out of the pool, wrap a towel around himself, pick up his clothes, and go in the house, and head off the bed. It worked well, until his older brother was home did not know he was in the pool, and locked the back door as he came in the house after a night out with his friends. Knocking on his parents’ window at 11 at night dressed only in a towel, is a story the family loves to tell.

Bradley loves the story,  for the laughter, but also for an older memory. In quitter moments he will tell the story of being at his grandmother’s house. When it came time for lunch, no matter what he has been doing, running all over the huge back yard or sitting quietly in the den, she’d call him, and send him upstairs to take a bath and dress for lunch. He never argued, no one ever argued with grand-maw. But it took a long time for him to glean, this before lunch bath was not about hygiene, it was about cleanliness, about purity, about respect for the lunch table.

In time he saw the connection between this grand-mother’s insistence of a pre-lunch bath and his delight in his late night swims, aspects of both were about purity about respect, which is about relationship.

Relationship with God is at the heart of the Haggai’s prophetic work. We don’t know much about him, all there is, is 38 verses about is role in rebuilding the Temple. The verse that grabbed my attention was:

The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former,

A little vocabulary work reveals, that kābôd , translated ‘splendor’ also means honor. And when we realize the actual appearance of the rebuilt Temple is far less spectacular than the previous, in fact it is rather pathetic, [i] the notion of honor emerges. Moreover, the Temple never was about silver and gold splendor, the Temple, from its prior form as a tent, to the day, was always about being in the presence of God.

It’s important to know the Jews have returned from captivity in Babylon. They have rebuilt their homes. They have restored their fields to prosperity. But all is not well. Haggai knows their neglect of the Temple reflects their relationship with God and he knows it needs to change. [ii] In verse 14, which we did not read, Haggai speaks to the unclean hands of the people. [iii]  The implication is that rebuilding Temple is a process through which the people honor God, and is a purification ritual of sorts. As with all rituals, by itself, it is paltry; however, because of God’s presence, the ritual has the effect of cleaning the people, of rebuilding respect for God, of restoring the relationship between God and God’s people.

The tiff between the Jesus and the Sadducees is about the relationship between God and God’s people. Note, today’s reading is from the end of chapter 20, and there are only 4 chapters left. Tensions are high. So that Luke tells us the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection, and then tells the story of their push it to the edge of logic question about resurrection lets us know, that they are not interested in Jesus’ answer, save that it gives them an excuse to act against him. Good plan, except that Jesus blithely side steps the trap, and shares a teaching about God’s relationship to God’s people.

To glean the fullness of the story, we should know the Sadducees see the world through the lens of God’s Covenant Promise. Following the tradition of the Pharisees Jesus extends the boundaries within which God works. Luke writing, which is not only after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, but also after the Romans crush a Jewish rebellion, and burn both Jerusalem and the Temple to the ground, holds out Jesus as proof that neither the Romans nor death will have the last word. [iv]  There will be life after the Romans, there is life after death.

Every week, as we recite the creed, we proclaim our belief in: the resurrection of the body. And we need to be careful that we do not make similar mistakes to the Sadducees, who presume life after the Resurrection will be a grander form of our current life. Nothing in the Old Testament says that. Nothing in the New Testament says that. [v] Scott Hoezee writes:

that the mysteries yet to be revealed remind us that precisely what our bodies and existences will be like in the life to come is  not clear.

The truth is the Sadducees are right. The Resurrection is hard to make sense of. We who build our lives around the hope of our heritage in Jesus’ resurrection, simply cannot explain it. David Loose notes:

The resurrection is not the same as immortality of the soul, scripture is clear we die, period.

Secondly, Jesus does not say we will not know our beloved ones, neither does he say what our relationship with them will be like.

And finally, scripture at best, vaguely describes resurrection life.  [vi]

The truth is scriptures calls us to depend on our relationship with God through Jesus, to respect the promises made enough to trust, without evidence, that God will do, what God has promised.

And it is that trust, that has the Thessalonians all stirred up. They are afraid they have, or are about to miss out on the apocalypse, the end of time, Jesus return! We really don’t think about it very often, when we do it tends to be brought up by a news story of a cultic group taking extreme actions, and more folks than not snicker. But the apocalypse is all the Thessalonians can think about.  [vii]Paul is telling them:

Clam down, don’t be fooled by any of these dooms day profiteers.
You, by Jesus, are, will be, clean in the presence of God, your divine relationship is strong;
you respect what God through Jesus is doing;
trust God!

We live right next to Missouri, the Show Me state. We live in a Show Me world, we are coached to seek empirical evidence before we make any decision, in short we are coached to Show Me. God does not work with in any boundaries, God is not bound to the limits of the Covenant, God chose to go beyond them to secure our salvation. If God chooses  to act beyond the promise of the Resurrection  to accomplish God’s purposes, God will.  What God  always does, is to keep God’s gracious promises. God promised to cleans away human sinfulness, done. God promised a path to life in the divine relationship for eternity, done, and in process. God doesn’t expect “Show Me” God expects respect, God expects trust.

The answer to that is your story in The Story, It is yours to share with all who seek God or a deeper knowledge of him.  [viii]


[i] Scott Hozee, Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next Sunday is November 10, 2013, Haggai 1:5b-2:9, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php

[ii] Steed Davidson, Working Preacher, November 10, 2013 Haggai, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1844

[iii] New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Haggai, 2:10-19

[iv] Richard Swanson, Working Preacher, , November 10, 2013 Luke, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1844

[v] Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next sunday is November 10, 2013, Luke, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php

[vi] David Loose, Questions about the Resurrection, Working Preacher, November 10, 2013 Haggai, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1844

[vii] Stan Mast, Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next sunday is November 10, 2013, 2 Thessalonians, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php

[viii] Book of Common Prayer, Prayers of the People II, 386