Luke 20:27-38

November 10, 2013 by Ken Dale

??????? One of the great privileges we as a church have had during the past year is to participate in the ordination process for Catherine Merrill.? It brought back a lot of memories for me.? I don?t think what she went through was as traumatic for her as it was for me ? and I think those that went through it before my time (Jim O?Brien??) found it even more traumatic than I did.? The Ecclesiastical Council is when the candidate for ordination presents his or her faith statement and then is questioned on it.? It was a most proud moment for this pastor and this church when Catherine had her council.? When I went through it the Association of which I was part had a lot of seminary faculty with ministerial standing in the association ? so one stood behind the pulpit with great fear and trembling with those professors in the congregation ? what would they ask for questions?? Before my time, from what I heard, clergy doing the questioning would come up with these bizarre scenarios that would end with ?what would do/say as the pastor??

??????? That all comes to mind, as we consider this episode in the life of Jesus before us this morning.? The Sadducees were sort of the religious ultra-conservatives of their day.? They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.? Like the Pharisees they were out to get Jesus, to somehow trip him up in his teachings.? In our story today they seek to prove the absurdity of a belief in a life to come by resurrection.? They bring the situation we have just heard to Jesus for his response.? According to Levite law if a man dies while married to a woman, that woman must become the wife of the man?s brother.? Ladies?? How would that sit with you?? Actually, it was the brother?s obligation to marry the widow to keep her from the vulnerability of being single.? As we heard, the case the Sadducees bring to Jesus is just that and she marries the brother but that brother dies so she marries another brother but he dies so she marries another brother and so on until she has been through seven weddings and seven funerals with brothers of the one family.? In verse 32 we read ?finally the woman also died.?? How quickly came the comment in our Bible study: ?no wonder!?? The question posed to Jesus in the very next verse is: ?In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will she be?? For seven had been married to her.?? With that question they are out to trick Jesus ? to stump the master and make their point.

It is actually a question of property.? In that time and culture that was the status of women.? They were literally given away by Dad to the groom ? and it was package deal that often included cattle and land.? The Sadducees question is whose property will she be?

Remember the Sadducees don?t even believe in the resurrection.? There?s no logic for resurrection as seen in the fate of this woman.? In the resurrection she can?t be married to her last husband because she was married to her first ? she can?t be married to one because she?s married to six others.

But those Sadducees don?t know who they?re messin? with.? Jesus responds with a whole new logic because he speaks of a whole new world.? In essence, Jesus is telling them that they are thinking of this world and when he speaks of resurrection he speaks of God?s world.? Jesus speaks of a world very different, even incomprehensible to the one they now live in.? Jesus speaks of a world as God intended it to be.

Christian faith believes that that new world ? God?s world ? has broken into the present in the life of Jesus ? the person we call Christ.? We also affirm its power at work among us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.? That new world is already here ? but not fully ? the phrase I love and remember from seminary is that it is ?already but not yet.?? It is experienced when we are willing, by faith and by hope, to offer ourselves as Jesus did.? It comes a little closer when we are willing and by faith to commit ourselves to it and be open to it.

As church people ? this church called together in Christ ? as God?s people gathered as Second Congregational Church UCC in Newcastle ? we too are called to make an investment in the kingdom or dominion of God.? We too are called to make an offering of who we are and what we have in response to seeing and affirming what God has done.? We too understand ourselves as God?s people ? as a continuation of the people of Moses and Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Jacob ? looking back and seeing what God has done and is doing throughout the history of God?s people.

I had a wonderful experience of being part of that cloud of witnesses in worship last Sunday ? my hope and prayer is that in some way you shared in that as well.? We are part of that story of God?s people!? Like Job, Thomas and the Samaritan woman at the well we have our questions.? Like Moses, Jeremiah and Mary we have our self-doubts.? Like David, Mary Magdalene and Paul we have sadness and sin in our memories.? But like Joshua, Deborah and Stephen we have courage.? Like Abraham, Sarah and John we have vision.? We come, God?s people like so many before us with a part to play in the story of faith ? the story of God?s people.

But we need to come with who we are ? what we have ? what we have been given ? and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst.? Do we trust that?? Are we willing to go there?

Are we open to God?s guidance in our midst?? We as a church have been blessed with a bequest from John Andrews and next Sunday following worship we will have opportunity to speak to and to listen to one another and as we do I hope we will be all be listening for the voice of that still-speaking God that we often proclaim.? It is my hope and prayer that we come open to the leading of that Spirit that has been at work in the church over 2,000 years ? and often despite the church itself.? There are no trick questions but there are important questions as we begin to discern what opportunity is before us as we seek to be God?s faithful people and God?s faithful stewards.

It was interesting ? I was looking for just the right story to close this message with and could not find or come up with one.? Early this morning it came to me that the gospel story before us this morning is that story.? I couldn?t help but think of the Sadducees and the spirit in which they came to ask Jesus that question.? They came both with an agenda and an expected outcome.? But look what happened when God in Christ responded by pointing them to something they really couldn?t comprehend ? something that was open ? that was already but not yet ?? when God in Christ pointed them to God?s world.? With what Spirit shall we gather after worship next Sunday?