Sermon for Sunday – November 10, 2013; Luke 20:27-38

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

As I was reading over this Gospel and considering what I would say about it I found myself struggling with the message…what was God really trying to say to us through these passages?

As Sunday approached, I was still not clear about what I would preach about, and was still struggling with the text; then while on the church’s youth retreat it came to me:

The topic of the retreat was “Communications” and the first night, the pastor asked the kids to think about a time when they found themselves in conflict with someone (any one, parents, siblings, teachers, friends) and how they resolved that conflict, and if they would handle the situation differently in the future…

Then, on Saturday morning, the leader of the retreat continued the pastor’s theme by talking to the kids about how we communicate in the midst of conflict…and it was then that I saw what was going on in this Gospel: Jesus was learning first hand about how to communicate while in the midst of conflict!

It is clear that the Sadducees did not like Jesus!

They disagreed with much of his teachings, and were offended by the suggestion that he may be a prophet…or even worse…the long awaited Messiah!

The Sadducees also did not share his belief in the resurrection of the dead, which makes the question they asked Jesus about the woman with several husbands even more…interesting.

On the surface of it, the question seems silly…or childish, something akin to the time that Bart Simpson asked his Sunday School teacher if a man lost his arm in a car accident, but lived, when he died and went to heaven, would the lost arm be waiting for him?

The question seems akin to the time when Bart Simpson asked his Sunday School teacher, “If a man loses him arm in a car accident, but lives, later when he dies of old age, will the arm be waiting for him in Heaven?”

However, when we dig a little deeper, we see the question for what it really was…a way of pushing Jesus’ buttons…

The Sadducees did not really want to know Jesus’ opinion on this matter, but they did want to see how Jesus would react to the question itself…

Would he dodge the question, get annoyed, or finally admit he was wrong??

But then he does something unexpected by the Sadducees…he gives them a real answer!

And he starts off by referring back to Moses himself, thus reminding the Sadducees that they all came from the same tradition of faith handed down from Abraham through Isaac, Jacob and Moses…

Then he reminded them that they were all part of the same covenant with God…and part of the promise that in the Day of the Lord, we will all be face to face with God, all barriers will be broken, and humanity will know reconciliation with God; and that in the light of this covenant with God, their question really is meaningless…because once we are reconciled with God, death will no longer relevant, as there will be no more death, only life…as we will all be one with God!

Of course the Sadducees do not want to accept Jesus’ attempt at reconciliation…with finding a connection based on the common-ground of God’s love, and being a part of God’s people.

Sometimes reconciliation does not come easily, sometimes it never happens…like in the case of Jesus and the Sadducees, but that does not mean that we should stop trying…

Sometimes a little effort is all that it takes!

My grandmother used to live out on Long Island with Uncle Hank, and I would see her on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then on special occasions when we took a trip out to Hank’s or she was driven out to see us…

This was fine with me as grandma was not ‘warm and fuzzy’; born in the 1880’s she was the product of her generation, and seemed dour, stern and strict, and to me (as a 7 year old) she did not seem to have much of a sense of humor; and did not seems like kids or animals very much!

Then, Uncle Hank decided to move to California, but grandma did not want to go…so she told my parents she was going to move in with us!

This meant uprooting ourselves from our house in West Orange, and moving to East Orange and a bigger house…

It was a neighborhood in transition, only a few miles from the recent Newark riots, the old families were moving further out to the suburbs just as we were moving in…and living in East Orange meant leaving my friends behind, and moving to a town on the decline…

Maybe it was resentment from having to move, or maybe because my grandma was not the nicest person and did not treat my parents or siblings well…

Maybe it was just because I was an obnoxious kid…

Whatever the reason we did not get along, she would yell at me for making too much noise, running around the house, or making a mess; and I would provoke her by doing things that I knew would annoy her…even though I would get into trouble for this.

All this contention was not helping my parents any…

As my grandmother grew older, she needed more assistance and my mom needed more help with her, so she took me aside and told me to “knock it off” and to make an effort to be nicer to my grandmother, and to help out more with what she needed.

I reluctantly agreed to help more and be nicer, and as grandma was getting sicker (which I did not know) and more frail, she was confined to the second floor she was given a bell, which she would ring, and call my name when she needed me to help her.

This did not make me happy…as by this time I was almost 9; but I usually kept my mouth shut and did not complain too much…and things got a little better between us…

However, things were still not good, and one day as I was complaining to my sister about having to be at grandma’s beck and call, instead of commiserating she suggested that I make more of an effort to connect with grandma…maybe by asking her about her life as a young girl in the Bronx.

Now it is not like I wanted to spend MORE time with grandma, but I decided to follow my sister’s advice and the next time I took my grandmother some orange juice and cookies, I made myself sit down and ask her what her life was like when she was my age…and when I did, her eyes lit up!!!

I do not think anyone had asked her about her childhood for years…and years…

And my sister was right, she did have great stories, about growing up in The Bronx:

She told me how she had to wear a black dress and black stockings every day…how the boys wore black knickers…

About following the ice man around during the hot summers begging for chips of ice, and how the horses were so afraid of the first few cars that arrived in her neighborhood…

She also went on to talk about her beloved brother Jimmy, who fought in WWI, but came back with ‘shell-shock’…

And about what my mother and Uncle Hank were like as kids, and about my grandfather, who died when my mother was only 11…

We connected over these stories…and found common ground in our love of storytelling.

By the time my grandmother died, we had become closer…not quite warm and fuzzy, but we had formed a bond…as I was probably the only one who wanted to hear her stories, who still had an interest in her past…

Because of these stories I came to understand her life better, and I came to a place where I did not quite hate having to help her with her orange juice, tea and crackers any more…

Through the sharing of stories my grandmother and I formed a bond, which allowed us to find reconciliation with each other; this does not mean we always agreed, and never fought again, but it did mean that we learned to accept one another as we were…and to love on another as members of the same family!

Often the first step in reconciliation is finding common ground, a way to connect, in spite of the differences that could keep us apart….

Once we can find common ground, we can form connections that will allow us to begin to accept each other as we are.

This call to reconciliation is important to Jesus’ ministry, as it is only by coming together in faith that we can truly know the promise of Christ, the promise of the covenant: that death will lose its sting because we will become one with God!

Although Jesus’ call to reconciliation did not exactly resonate with the Sadducees, this call does still reach out to each of us, as followers of Christ!

As Christians we are called to make Christ known in the world, by continuing his ministry  of reconciliation right here, where we are, by reaching  out to others with his simple commands that we are to love one another, and love God above all else…

Commands which are related, as our relationship with God is tied to our relationship with one another…therefore we cannot be fully reconciled with God until we can be reconciled with each other!

And our world is in need of reconciliation…as we find ourselves often divided along lines of religion, ideology, politics, and race…

In some cases, people have even seemed proud of the fact that they are opposed to the opinions of others…refusing to be kind or friendly to another person because they support the wrong cause, or back the wrong party or leader…

These divisions have broken relationships and have hurt us as we have tried to move forward to address the problems of the world, spending more time fighting amongst ourselves that working together…

As followers of Christ, we are called to share the gospel, the healing message of God’s love to these divisions that keep us far apart…the message that can bring us together as one people of God…

I know that this may be easier said that done, some people simple will not want to find reconciliation, as they like being contrary, and there are times when we too fall short, because we are human…and don’t always want to reach out to those with who we disagree…but that is okay because we are all forgiven, and all immersed in God’s grace….and remember this can help us to reach out to others…

And it also helps to note that while Jesus calls upon us to love one another he did not tell us we had to always agree with one another…

These are two different things, as Jesus calls us out of ourselves, and to look beyond our differences in order to see our common ground: that we are all forgiven, all saved through grace, and that we are all well-loved children of God!

Once we can accept each other as we are: fellow members of the body of Christ, part of the family of God…we can take the next step and begin to learn from our differences, as no one has all the answers, and we can all contribute towards making our world a better place….

Taking our different experiences, skills and talents and putting them to use in our mission to make Christ known in our broken world…!

As we share Christ’s healing message of love and reconciliation, we are shining the light of the resurrection into the dark corners of our world, bringing people together in faith…

We share this light by treating others with kindness and consideration…

By forgiving and asking to be forgiven when needed…

Through reaching out in friendship and compassion to those who feel lost and alone, those who are struggling, or just need a little support as they face the challenges of everyday life…

And we share the light of Christ when we speak words of reconciliation to our polarized and divided world…when we accept those we disagree with, and respect their opinions and passions…without being too negative…

When we understand that we do not have all the answers in life, and that we need each other to help us all to move forward…we are making Christ known in the world, and fostering reconciliation…

Reconciliation that brings people together…

For when we bring people together in the light of the risen Christ we are moving together towards making the Kingdom of God, a reality in our world, where there is no more death, only new life, for God is God of the living!

Amen

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