November 10, 2013: Resurrection: Later and Now


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sadducees and Pharisees generally won’t play well together. Sadducees reject resurrection. Pharisees believe it. They are more progressive and well read. Sadducees reject resurrection because it’s not in the Torah – the first five books of the Bible which is all they read. So they pretend to want Jesus’s take on resurrection.

Here’s how it sets up – a Jewish law say if a married man dies without a son, the next brother is to marry her. They hope to have a son, who is counted as the first brother’s child – and not the actual father’s. The dead brother needs an heir for his property. That could make for some interesting family holiday gatherings: “Mom, who do you say my dad is – really?” Seven brothers die trying to stay married to this gal. After a few tragic deaths, you’d figure that last brother would run if he sees her coming after him in a wedding dress. “In the resurrection whose wife will she be?

Assuming resurrection, what will arrangements in the afterlife be like? They ask an interesting question with no good answer – like, if God can do anything, can he make a rock he can’t move? Years ago, a distraught, grieving widow who was highly demanding and inflexible, asked me if she and her husband would be together in heaven. What I silently wondered, Honey, knowing you, I wonder if he’d want that?”

Jesus answers, “Marriage is for this age, not the next.” Now that may or may not be good news for you. Jesus is saying don’t project this world onto the next. God’s in charge and has it all figured out. Then Jesus cites Moses at the burning bush – from Exodus, the Torah, no less: “God is Lord of some dead guys? No – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive, for all are alive to God. Now how did you scholarly Sadducees miss that one?” Jesus just trumps them to later rub it in their faces when he dies and doesn’t stay dead.

Some people are so wedded to laws, rules and life in this world, they can’t imagine any other. A college student was upset with me after a sermon, which upset me because I like to be liked. She heard me say our ideas about God need to change sometimes, because we tend to make idols of them. She asks: “But I thought God doesn’t change.” I replied: “God’s nature doesn’t – but God can do new things we’d never imagine – like Jesus. If you draw your God too small, and keep him there, you’ll worship your ideas about God, and miss the new things God is doing.”

Resurrection is a case in point. For years I thought resurrection simple means God gets us to heaven when we die. Yes – but that’s not all, I’ve learned. Resurrection is life now. In baptism we have been raised to a new life – not just for the future, but now. The risen Lord is raised in us. We become a new creation. We now are God’s people in whom resurrection has already begun. We embody and give witness to the new thing God is doing. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, says: “The call to be what we say we believe becomes a measure of authenticity.” That means live who you are – people in whom God is doing new things.

Today we begin our Stewardship campaign focus. You knew I’d get here eventually. As God’s new creation, we live in a different reality on earth than what the world believes and lives. We know God has intruded and keeps intruding into this world and our lives. Giving to God is different than other giving we do. Often people decide what they’ll give like they do for a good cause, or how they decide to pay bills. Each Sunday we say: “All things come of you, O Lord, and of YOUR own have we given you.” Really? Does that change how we think – how you determine your support for St. Paul’s? Some may have chosen an amount years ago and stick with it. Some pledge what they think they can afford. Do we calculate gifts to God like we figure how and if we can afford a new TV or smartphone? “All things come of you, O Lord. So after the bills are paid, I’ll see how much I can spare for you.” Whatever we decide we can do for God – God never stops loving us.

Calculate the percentage your pledge represents of your income or your time. Can you increase that – at least a small amount? Some realize what they receive is God’s gift. For them it’s a witness: “In God we really do trust.” They begin to experience everything as God’s gifts, not just money, but family, creation, friends, all of life itself. We grow when we pledge to pray daily; when we give the first part of our week in worship; the first part of our income to God; when we give our time in service and fellowship with one another. St. Paul’s is God’s gift to us – to help us order our lives, to enter God’s peace, to love and be loved. Risk growing even more into God. At least, pledge: “I’ll pray daily for St. Paul’s,” as a sign of your participation in our ministry together. I will guarantee that you will experience something positive. For one thing, we’ll see more clearly all we have, rather than what we lack.

Who will be married to whom in heaven? Don’t worry about the future. Jesus says be alert to what God is doing now – here – like raising us up to new life, long before we die. We give back to God – not out of obligation or guilt. We do so because we live what we say we believe – that God does new things through us. We are a resurrected people – and a generous people. I thank you for that. Are we able to grow a bit more this next year?


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