The sermon text is Luke 20:38, “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Pastor Jim Kniseley presented that sermon at Resurrection Lutheran on November 11, 2007, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Somewhere in our history as a congregation, someone chose the marvelous name “Resurrection.” I suspect it was Pastor Jeff Ruby, our founding pastor. Our name certainly reflects a key understanding of Christian faith. Today let’s remember again what we teach and believe about Resurrection from the Holy Scriptures.
In the gospel reading we hear of the confrontation between the Sadducees and Jesus. The Sadducees were a group of Jewish religious leaders that did not believe in a resurrection to the next life; they said that life here was all there was. They didn’t like Jesus for many reasons, not accepting him as God’s Messiah, and believing he was wrong in his teaching about Resurrection. So again they confront him, try to make him look foolish, by asking an insincere question. The question has to do with a woman who had been married 7 times to 7 brothers. In the resurrection, who wife will she be?”
Jesus’ answer to them that day is really a teaching for all Christians. Here is what Jesus said that was marvelously recorded for us in Luke’s gospel account:
· Marriage is for this life only
· We will be a new creation
· There is life after death (the patriarchs are just as alive as we are now)
The second lesson comes from a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica. That congregation was getting impatient about the timing of the Lord’s return. They wanted it to happen now, not in the distant future. Paul takes the opportunity to encourage long-term endurance. He encourages them to “stand firm and hold fast.”
Paul’s words should be especially meaningful to us today. We live in an age of “instant society.” We’re accustomed to getting our restaurant food “fast”, to getting our oil changes while we while, to getting drive up flu shots. In this congregation, many of us want our building construction to be completed “now.” In our Christian, some of us want a “point and click” method for Christian living.
I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s words during World War II. In 1940 Britain was in a precarious situation. Belgium, Holland and France had fallen. The British had removed their troops from Dunkirk, but were still fighting on. In 1941, standing in front of students at Harrow School, Churchill said, “Never give in, never give in. Never, never, never.”
That’s the sense we have today from Paul. You and I are in it for the long haul, the rest of our lives. We are called to lives of discipleship and relationship. We are disciples of Jesus and we live now in the expectation that we will be in heaven with him fully in the next life.
There is a story in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post about a man who decided to try living according the Bible literally for one year. He is a Jewish agnostic. He limited himself to the First Testament. He tried to observe as many of the commandments and ordinances as he could. He did not shave, so his beard was 12 inches long by the end of the year. He is married, takes a train to work, and works in a downtown office building. He said his greatest challenges came in relationships at the office – he would not engage in gossiping or trying to take advantage of others in business. He tried to be orthodox and refrain from interacting with women, especially at their time of the month. He said he found praying especially difficult, since that was foreign to his upbringing. The outcome of all this, of course, is that now he has written a book, in order to make some money…
This man serves as an example of what Jesus and Paul do not want to see in Christians. Faith is not about rules, it is about a relationship. This relationship is one of love between God and us, demonstrated on the cross by Jesus. We live and work and love and speak in this world in the joyful knowledge that we are loved eternally by God.
You know, God can do all things without us. God does not need us to carry out his will. Yet, God has chosen to partner with us to carry out some important assignments in this life: to build up the Church, to feed the hungry, to lift up the downtrodden, to console the despairing, and especially to spread the good news of new life in Christ.
Always remember: we are Resurrection People. Thanks be to God!