+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 20:36
Theme: Children of the Resurrection
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. And it’s not only a joyous remembrance; it’s a participation in the life and power of the living Jesus. Christ is in our midst through His word and Spirit, and His body and blood. We gather as the baptized people of the heavenly Father and we are strengthened for life and witness in confused and chaotic world. And as we think about the faithful who have gone before us we remember that Jesus says today that He is the God of the living. He has ultimate authority because He has silenced death.
The authority of Jesus was routinely challenged during His earthly ministry. Today the Sadducees refer to a tradition of the Levites in which a man would marry the widow of a deceased brother in order to keep the family name alive. They do so, however, with the intent of trapping Jesus. The circumstances proposed are nearly impossible to imagine. It is theoretically possible that six brothers in the same family die in succession while seeking to extend the family name of the first brother; but it is basically absurd. Jesus doesn’t even address the particularities of the custom because they have the matter all wrong anyway. Earthly marriage is transcended in heaven by the believer’s union with God. All human relationships are perfected and superseded in eternity. Like the angels, we will be beyond the institution of earthly marriage. So, that question is mute. Jesus moves on to other matters.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in a physical resurrection (or in the existence of angels). This is the point Christ will focus on. Here is a remarkable statement from Jesus, “In the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”1 Even now, Jesus says, the faithful of the past generations are alive with God.
Believers do not become angels when they go to heaven. Human beings are not turned into angelic beings. For some time now the idea has been circulating that when so and so dies they float up to heaven, become an angel and watch over people on earth. There is no biblical basis for such sentimentality. Believers will be bodily resurrected on the Last Day and will experience heaven in a perfected physicality. This promise is the basis for our hope and joy.
Dear friends, our great challenge and privilege to live in this world in such a selfless manner that people will take notice. Satan, of course, will do everything he can to prevent it. People mistakenly think that Christians are not prone to temptation. But it's when the Holy Spirit is active in your hearts that the struggle is engaged. A tussle ensues; a spiritual battle. The believer is still vulnerable to sin, but the very thought of it is a burden to the conscience. The flesh vies with the Spirit. The believer is still beset by selfishness, greed, impatience, uncharitableness, and many other temptations. On the one hand, the believer desires to follow God’s will and so wants to actively resist anything that transgresses His commands. On the other hand, selfish desires spring forward and the will of God and the welfare of the neighbour are easily forgotten. Sometimes it seems to be a hopelessly confused situation. Truly we are saints and sinners at the same time.
Still, this is not a cause for fear, but a reason for hope. God knows our shortcomings. He knows exactly when we are vulnerable. The Scripture says, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”2 In this life we will never be free from the temptation to disobey God and please ourselves. It often seems that transgressions go unnoticed by Him. But judgment is certain. Repentance is always in order. There is no perfection this side of heaven. Guilt is either borne by Jesus in His sacrificial work on the cross or it remains with the sinner who chooses to reject God’s divine mercy. The Holy Spirit always seeks out struggling souls in dark corners of humanity.
The world is becoming a dark place. In the West, we still have some semblance of what the Bible refers to as a “form of godliness”, but there’s no evidence that hearts and minds have been changed. St Paul warns against those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power.”3 We are now living under a veneer of ‘godliness’. The cultural elites present themselves as enlightened, humane, and defenders of the rights of the vulnerable. Meanwhile, greed, power, and control dominate the agenda. Public discourse is often carefully choreographed. The parameters of discussion are changing. Our society talks about ethics, but not morality. We are insensitive to evil but hyper-tuned to political correctness. We are zealous for rights but dismissive of responsibilities. We want to be served rather than to serve. God is not revered as Creator or feared as Judge.
In this gathering darkness (a darkness that glitters with artificial twinkle) the guiding light of Christ does not falter. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”4 We can have confidence that evil will not finally prevail. We know that the Bible and all the plans and purposes of God revealed there will fail us. In the midst of turmoil, we have the steady presence of the Spirit so even Jesus’ return will not panic us. Remember Paul’s advice today, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”5
Dear friends, it’s no good having a distant, disconnected, and dis-embodied Jesus. Thankfully, that’s not what we have. He said to His disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”6 The crucified Jesus is risen. We are His baptized. We dine at His table. We are being prepared for greater things to come. Heaven involves the experience of God’s blessing without the need for mediation. The future life will not be lacking a physical dimension any more than the present one is. Sin’s power is already broken, but in the future life all consequences of evil will be completely nonexistent. We will be enthralled with the majesty of the almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are children of the resurrection. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
6 November, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Luke 20:37-38 2 1 Corinthians 10:13 3 2 Timothy 2:4-5
4 Hebrews 13:8 5 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 6 John 14:2-3