A Jawbone, a Grave, and a Different Way

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday: Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20, Psalm 8

You know me well enough to know I am not one to think that God micromanages anything. That is not to say God is not active, they God/Jesus/Spirit are active. It is a mystery I cannot explain, and do not feel the need to; I’m just delighted when I receive it and accept it. I was the recipient of such a mystery this past Friday, or perhaps all week. I read three articles from three different sources, one I accidentally saw on Facebook that answered the burning question for all preachers on Trinity Sunday

How do I preach on a topic that took the church 325 years to agree on and fought about for another 1000 or more; that we may not yet truly agree on?

 The answer is, don’t –[pause] well at least not directly. So, follows are three summaries from the three previously mentioned articles and then some thoughts about how they reveal the significance of our belief in God/Jesus/Spirit.

Paleoanthropologists have discovered the oldest fossils of homo-sapiens in Morocco, and those fossils have changed the thinking about our evolution. The evidence from these bones and flint, fond at the same site, have lead scholars to believe humans did not evolve from a single cradle in East Africa. They now believe we developed on the African continent. More importantly, the evidence indicates we evolved as a network of groups spread across that vast continent (Zimmer).

In January, the Smithsonian Magazine published an article about an ancient warrior’s grave in Greece. To refresh our history, the first organized Greek society Mycenaeans (My·ce·nae·an) appeared about 1600 BC and disappeared almost as fast. Then came several centuries of Greek Dark Ages. After that the classical Greek civilization, we are familiar with, emerges. The Mycenaeans sowed the seeds of our art, architecture, language, philosophy, literature, democracy, and religion traditions. If you have not read The Iliad and the Odyssey, you may want to, because Homer’s epic poem turns out to be more fact than fantasy. The recent discovery of a warrior’s grave has changed how archeologist think our civilization came about. Typically, we think in terms of the best warrior/king wins type of model. The evidence of this grave indicates cultures of the Mycenaeans and the Minoans, who preceded them, became intertwined. Jo Marchant writes:

Minoan and Mycenaean Greeks would surely have spoken each other’s languages, may have intermarried and likely adopted and refashioned one another’s customs. And they may not have seen themselves with the rigid identities we moderns have tended to impose on them.

The Minoan and Mycenaean Greek cultures blended, and it is this blended culture that we can trace our cultural heritage to. This blended culture is the foundation of Greek egalitarian authority and representative governance on which our way of government is based (Marchant)

WEB Du Bois, an African-American activist, historian, and sociologist, born in 1868, (NAACP). and James McCune Smith, the first African-American to be awarded a degree in medicine, born in 1813, (Black Past) were the first to document the health consequences of discrimination which is toxic to our cells, our organs, and our minds. Their work has been supported ever since. For example:

before the abolition of Jim Crow laws, the black infant death rate was nearly 20 percent higher in Jim Crow states versus non-Jim Crow states. This disparity declined sharply after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such that the gap had essentially closed a decade later.

It does not matter what characteristic the discrimination is directed against, or if it is directed at an individual, or is the consequences of intended or unintended social or government actions. In the last several years research has revealed harmful inequities along geographic and socioeconomic lines that affect white Americans. Whites living in rural areas, compared with those in metropolitan centers, now contend with many of the same structural challenges that black citizens have faced for centuries (Khullar).

All three stories are about human relationships. Without being overly simplistic, in the two stories where the relationships are collaborative culture and civilization thrive; people thrive. In the last story where the relationships are oppressive culture, and civilization suffer; people suffer. God does not want people or anything in creation to suffer.

In the creation story of Genesis 1 you will notice that everything is created in harmony, in pairs or triads:

  • the heavens and the earth waters that were under the dome and the waters that were above the dome
  • the waters in one place and the dry land in another
  • two great lights—one to rule the day and one to rule the night
  • every living creature … in the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind.
  • cattle and creeping things and wild animals
  • humankind in our image … male and female he created them.

We are made to be in relationship.

Psalm 8 is in awe at the majesty of the night sky, we are fortunate enough to be close enough to really dark to be able to see the true majesty of the night sky, and the psalmist wonders why God would pay attention to him, or to us? It is because that he, that I, that we have work to do; to cultivate the earth, the fish, the birds, and every living thing. (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner). From the very beginning, God/Jesus/Spirit invites us to be in nurturing relationship with creation (Vryhof).

A colleague of mine blogging on Matthew 28:20 shares a definition of authority as followability (Pankey). Followability is a characteristic of relationship. And if nothing else is definitive, the Trinity – God/Jesus/Spirit is divine relationship.

We are created to be the image of the divine relationship. The quality of the divine relationship is the model quality of all our relationships, our relationships with each other as individuals; our relationships with each other as villages, towns, cities, counties, states and nations, and our relationship, individually and collectively, as villages, towns, cities, counties, states and nations, with creation. Pondering the nature of the God/Jesus/Spirit divine relationship is important because it is the model for all our relationships, and as I shared earlier, we know relationships matter. The quality of our relationships affects the evolution of our being. The quality of our relationships affects the manner of our civilizations. The quality of our relationship affects the health of our bodies, our emotions, our friendships, and our souls.

To celebrate this Trinity, I invite you to reflect on how you live in the mystery of God/Jesus/Spirit and reflect it in all your relationships. And then go share, not by telling, but by being the reflection of the love God/Jesus/Spirit share among themselves and with you.

References

Black Past. “smith-james-mccune.” n.d. http://www.blackpast.org. 9 6 2017. <http://www.blackpast.org/aah/smith-james-mccune-1813-1865 >.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 11 6 2017.

Khullar, Dhruv. “How Prejudice Can Harm Your Health.” 8 6 2017. NYTimes.com. <nytimes.com/2017/06/08/upshot/howprejudicecanharmyourhealth.>.

Lewis, Karoline. God Said Yes to Me. 6 9 2015. <workingpreacher.org>.

Marchant, Jo. “golden-warrior-greek-tomb-exposes-roots-western-civilization.” 1 2017. smithsonianmag.com. <smithsonianmag.com /history/golden-warrior-greek-tomb-exposes-roots-western-civilization-180961441/>.

NAACP. “w-e-b-dubois.” n.d. http://www.naacp.org. 9 6 2017. <http://www.naacp.org/oldest-and-boldest/naacp-history-w-e-b-dubois&gt;.

Pankey, Steve. All Authority. 6 6 2017. <https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/333491/posts/1485395986&gt;.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Vryhof, Br. David. Participate. 6 6 2017. Society of St. John the Evangelist. <http://ssje.org/word/&gt;.

Whitley, Katerina K. “The Mystery of the Trinity, Trinity Sunday (A).” 18 8 2017. Sermons that Work.

Zimmer, Carl. “Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering.” 7 6 2017. NYTimes.com. <nytimes.com/2017/06/07/science/humanfossilsmorocco.>.

 

 

Betwixt and Between

A sermon for Easter 7; Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

Today is a bit of a betwixt and between day. Thursday is the prescribed day to celebrate the Ascension, the story we read in Acts this morning when Jesus ascends into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father. It is one High Holy Day that many congregations do not celebrate because it is in the middle of the week; moreover; it floats around from one day to the next because it is 40 days after Easter Sunday and no matter how hard anyone tries when you divide 40 by 7 (the days in a week) you get a remainder, so Ascension Day moves around. The other end of betwixt and between is Pentecost which is next Sunday, when the Holy Spirit arrives (at least for Luke); a celebration many mark by wearing all manner of red clothing and others by commemorating the birthday of thre church. But today we are betwixt and between. But, there are at least three excellent phrases in the reading from Acts we should at least take a closer look at.

The first is Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?

One commentary notes:

They have had three years hearing Jesus teach and witnessing his deeds of power. They witnessed the crucifixion. They saw or were told about the empty tomb. And lastly, they have had 40 days of specific prayer and instruction with Jesus preparing them for their work to come. And still, they have one more religious-political who’s going to be in charge question (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner; Harrelson).

To which Jesus says It is not for you to know; ~ its none of your business. His answer and the unexpected time since then ought to make it very clear, that God’s plan for restoring Israel is not what anyone expects, that it will not “erupt from the heavens in the twinkling of an eye” nor is it not for a select few to know (Wall). God knows what God is doing, that’s enough for us to know. Jesus goes on to say

 You have work to do here and now, go be my witness to the end of the earth, and I will send the Holy Spirit to help. (My paraphrase.)

To borrow a phrase from John’s Gospel story now is the time to work the works God has given us to work (Osvaldo).

After this the disciples witness Jesus ascend into the heavens. Now comes one of my favorite bibles verses: They stood there, staring into the empty sky. (Acts 1:10, The Message). How many times do we get caught up in some sort of speculation about what’s going on in the life of the church or about what God/Jesus/ Spirit is up to and just stare into empty space rather than get about working the work (Bratt)? There are good reasons, well at least there are good excuses. We might not have a clue what to do. We might be overwhelmed by the size of the task, after all the ends of the earth is a long way away no matter where you start. And there is plenty to be afraid of, threats abound; then and now. In places, Christians are physically threatened and or face death. In the United States, there is enough political instability to make us uneasy. In many places, including the Arkansas Delta, there is enough economic uncertainty, to distract us. And we should face the truth that we may be facing our personal fears. Staring into empty space may be just that, or it may be what pondering how to undertake what the unknowable is. Either way, we are not alone.

We are not alone because Jesus does not send disciples or us as individuals out to be witnesses. The ministry of continuing Jesus’ ministry is a task of the community of disciples that share a unity that mirrors the image of the unity between Jesus and the Father that John captures in Jesus’ prayer so that they may be one as we are one (John 17:11). The fact that there has always been intuitional factions does not mean there is not Christian unity. In Acts 1:7 Jesus lets us know that God’s plan is not about political or earthly structures. In John 17:11 Jesus lets us know that unity is relational. And if you go all the way back to the beginning, Genesis teaches us that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Remember we are Christians, and as Christians, we understand stand God as Trinity ~ 1 in 3 and 3 in 1, a divine model of community; therefore, we are made to be a community that reflects the divine community.

The final, and by chance 3rd, phrase to pay attention to today is in the final verse they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer. If you ever been stumped, and if you ever wonder what Jesus would do ~ the answer is pray (Logue). It is a lesson the disciples learned because prayer, constant prayer, is a foundational piece of their community life. As Episcopalians, we have an abundance of prayer resources. The oldest is in The Book of Common Prayer. If you look in the table of contents, on page 5, you will see 5 forms of daily prayer, 2 of which have 2 forms and also Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families which offers short forms of prayer for morning, midday, early evening, and at the close of day. Beginning on Page 809 you will find 70 prayers for all manner and occasions. If you ever need to pray for something go there, there is something you can use to help get you started; it is a wonderful powerful resource (The Episcopal Church). There is Forward Day by Day that offers a scripture verse and short reflection for every day (Forward Movement). There is The Society of St. John the Evangelist’s Brother give us a word that offers a daily email with a short reflection, and the occasional seasonal online reflections and forms of prayer (SSJE). From now till Pentecost they are offering Thy Kingdom Come in response to and in collaboration with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call to prayer (COE). We are often dismissively referred to as those people with the book. We are ~ those people with the book; a book of prayer, that is one of many ways we as a community can constantly devote ourselves to prayer where ever we are. Our prayer life is important, not because it lets God know what in our hearts, God already knows that. Our prayer life is important because it is how as individuals and as a community we do not let the current concerns of the world, or our passionate commitment to mission, replace our abiding relationship with Jesus. The oneness of the Father and Jesus is their abiding relationship. Our oneness with Jesus and the Father is our abiding relationship with them and each other (Wall). It only makes sense that the abiding place (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) the Father has prepared for us is the same place the work God has given us to work is ~ right here, right now.

Jesus has ascended. The work we are to work is right here. And the promise of the Spirit is right around the corner.

 

References

Bratt, Doug. Easter 7 A: Acts 1:6-14. 28 5 2017. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 28 5 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Forward Movement. “prayer.” n.d. forwardmovement.org. <http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/forward_day_by_day.php?d=26&m=5&y=2017&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 28 5 2017.

Logue, Frank. “Learning from Proverbs – Proper 18(B).” 28 5 2015. Sermons that Work.

Osvaldo, Vena. “Commentary on John 91:-41.” 20 3 2017. Working Preacher. <workingpreacher.org>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

SSJE. Brother, Give Us A Word. Cambridge, 23 10 2015. <http://ssje.org/word/&gt;.

The Church of England. n.d. http://www.thykingdomcome.global. <https://www.thykingdomcome.global/&gt;.

The Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing, 1979.

Wall, Robert. New interpreter’s Bible The Acts of the Apostles. Vol. IX. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X vols.

 

 

 

A commitment, a challenge, and an invitation

A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany 

Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. Matthew 4:12-23, Psalm 27:1, 5-13

 No two weeks are ever the same. This week came to an abrupt diversion when my lap top came to an abrupt slow down. So Thursday afternoon till deep in the night and all day Friday were given over to: the evaluation of the problem, the determination of the best solution, the necessary purchases, the journey home, the process of moving 3 computers to different tasks. And I am not so up to date as I was 23 years ago and the road less traveled is not the path to follow in this particular case. However, as dark fell Friday  I was functionally done with the task, as well as functionally done with all things e-stuff, and took advantage of Friday Families, where we (I think there were 19 folks present at some point in the evening) enjoyed pizza, each other’s company and Earnest Goes to Camp. As the night came to a close someone quipped Earnest Goes to Camp doesn’t have the same theological depth as The Rise of the Guardians. They are right, Earnest isn’t a preaching point. Still it is Sunday; it is the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany; we still need to make sense of today’s scripture readings; just how does Isaiah relate to Matthew, and Matthew to Paul, especially when it all begins in Judges with Gideon if not in Genesis with light. After all it is Epiphany the season of light; but on the first day it isn’t the sun and moon and stars, in Genesis 1:3 it’s just light, light that comes into the formless void, and darkness, light that comes with the wind, or spirit, from God. It’s in verse 14, on the 4th day, that the sun, moon, and stars show up. [i] It’s enlightening to recall it all begins with the presence of God.

Matthew has been telling the tale of a new, a different presence of God, by referring to back to God’s presence, as revealed by Isaiah, who refers back to a previous revelation of God’s presence in Judges        and Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites. [ii]  Two verses later, which we did not hear this morning, Isaiah’s prophecy notes this light will be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace … words that are similar to Egyptian coronation rites indicating Pharaoh’s divine nature, [iii] implying the servant’s divine nature.

As soon as Jesus gets to Galilee he begins to preach the same message John the Baptist did The Kingdom of heaven has come near. As did John’s this notes the Kingdom’s presence in Jerusalem and Judah, to the Jews; but ~ Jesus’ presence in Galilee reveals the Kingdom’s presence to people beyond Jerusalem and Judah beyond Jews. [iv] The very next thing he does is to start calling disciples. He says: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (KJV) trying to be gender inclusive the NSRV translates it Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

I agree with my colleague, who doesn’t like the NSRV; it just doesn’t ring the same. I agree more with David Lose whose interest isn’t gender inclusion (although he isn’t adverse to inclusiveness) but the implications of prepositions. The phrase: fish for people puts the emphasis on the task – fishing. The phrase: fishers of men puts the emphasis on their identity thus Jesus is calling the disciples into relationship. [v] And this relationship with Jesus … completely disrupts the priorities and social and economic obligations of two households… [vi]  with more to come. The disruption comes from the disciples immediately following Jesus; Peter and Andrew abandon the tools of their trade, James and John abandon their boat and their father and family. [vii] It sounds similar to Joseph, a willingness to set aside tradition, to set aside the law, in order to follow the divine presence, in order to be in the presence of the Kingdom.

This is a chronological mess, however, if we snap the fabric of Matthew’s story and all its implications, we see: the beginning is in the presence of God, it breaks with the threat of the Midianites which God through Gideon restores; it breaks with a dispute between Ephraim and Judah allowing the Assyrians to conquer the land; [viii] which Isaiah’s prophecy reveals God will restore; it breaks with Roman occupation, and much more before and since, and Matthew is telling a story of God’s redeeming work through the nearness, of the Kingdom in the presence of Jesus.  At every point in the story God’s presence is redemptive. And when people get away from God’s presence it breaks. That’s Paul’s point to the Corinthians; it doesn’t matter what gifts are greater, it’s all about unity in Christ [ix]  his way of pointing to the presence of the Kingdom.

Beyond the interlocking redemptive relationship references in Matthew, there is also a process gleaning. Jesus calls the disciples into relationship with him, with each other, so later they can call others into relationship with them. [x] Today it works the other way around, we are here, in church, in Christ’s community with each other, ~ so we can invite others into relationship with us, so they can come into relationship with Jesus.

I believe we have the beginnings of all that. So here’s a commitment, a challenge, and an invitation: I am committing to take communion to anyone who otherwise will not know that presence of God in Jesus. I know of four, if you know someone, call me. Here’s the challenge, actually two: if you know someone who used to be a part of St. Stephen’s welcome them home with an invitation to tryout our new worship time; and second – if you don’t participate in Friday Families you’re invited to come and see, and invite a neighbor, yours, or one from around the church. And the invitation: all of you are invited to Angie’s house for a Super Bowl party next Sunday at 5:00 pm, invitations are on the way, bring your favorite finger food, beverage of your choice, and yes invite a friend.

And all of it, from Guardians to Earnest, from computer to communion from invitations to community of all sorts all of it is about being in the presence of the Kingdom that’s coming nearer and nearer to thee; is about sharing the presence of the Kingdom that’s coming nearer and nearer.

 

[i] ‘Light’ INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA
James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp., the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
[ii] Walter Harrelson, New Interpreters’’ Study Bible, Isaiah 9:1ff 
[iii] ibid
[iv] Scott Hoezee, cep.calvinseminary.edu, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next Sunday is January 26, 2014 (Ordinary Time) The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Matthew 4:12-23 
[v]David Lose WorkingPreacher.org,  Craft of Preaching, Fishers of People,Monday, January 20, 2014
[vi] Harrleson, Matthew 4:12ff
[vii] Judith Jones, WorkingPreacher.org, Commentary on Matthew 4:12-23
[viii] Christopher R. Seit ,Interpretation – Isaiah A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING, James Luther Mays, Editor, Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Old Testament Editor,  Paul J. Achtemeier, New Testament Editor David Petersen and Beverly Gave Gaventa, New Interrupters Bible One Volume Commentary,
ix Stan Mast cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching Next Sunday is January 26, 2014 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
[x] Lose

Time, two times and half a time

There is a lot about time in this week’s Lectionary readings. Isaiah is speaking about a time to come. Paul writes you know what time it is. And Jesus says no one knows what time it will be!  We might as well include Chicago’s Does anybody really know what time it is, just for good measure. (And no its meter isn’t half time; least wise I don’t think so.)

With all this talk about time, it’s a good time to remember there are two times in scripture: chronos, the time our watches, phones, tablets and time-cards keep,  the time by which we order our days, our lives. There is also kairos; likely best described by example: It was their time. or It was the right time.  We know the difference by the context of ‘time’ use.  

Robert Lamm’s lyrical dance, while phrased with questions of time, actually ponders human relationship subsumed by everything else; we are driven by what time it is, we’ve all got time enough to cry, we are pushed and shoved trying to beat the clock, we’ve all got time enough to die, everybody’s working, does anybody know what time it is, does anybody really care? [i] It seems Lamm explores the danger of valuing humanity by measured time rather than experience of time; of valuing humanity as commodity rather than relationship. In the vocabulary of this week’s readings, Lamm explores the danger of confusing chronos and kairos.

Sunday is the first day of Advent when we prepare to look at the time that was, and to experience the time that will be; Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ return. I wonder what Advent would be like if we prepared to explore our relationship with our incarnate Lord as it has been, and how it can be.

 

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