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God of the Living ~ Luke 20: 27-38

The Sadducees and Jesus get into a discussion about the after life. The Sadducees, you see, didn’t believe in it.

During the time of Jesus the Sadducees were one of three religious parties (Pharisees and Essenes were the other two) who also held political power. Sadducees tended to be wealthy and conservative. They held the majority of 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin.

Religiously, the Sadducees were Biblical “strict constructionists.” To them, one didn’t “interpret” scripture; you followed its “original intent.” To the Sadducees way of thinking, there were no direct and literal passages about resurrection in Hebrew scripture; therefore there was no resurrection. In order to “prove” their point they ask Jesus this absurd scenario about the afterlife.

It sounds like a joke, but Jesus takes them seriously. He doesn’t mock, or dismiss. In the end, they approach respect for one of them says to Jesus: “Teacher, you have spoken well.”

The give and take of it all is rather obscure and patriarchal – which of the seven men will this woman “belong to” in the afterlife?. Essentially it’s about property rights!
Jesus’ answer is very progressive. Marriage in the afterlife? Heaven is a lot more fun for women (and for all folks of whatever gender) than that. It is not a continuation of the status quo: we are talking about a whole new quality of existence that is beyond our ability to even talk about it.

And in a way, Jesus kind of agrees with the Sadducees – the focus of faith is not about the afterlife, it is about THIS life. Resurrection is about new life: coming to life again, being born again, not being stuck in the deathly hallows of the status quo.
Being a child of the resurrection, Jesus says, is about living as a child of God—death
isn’t all that important. Or as St. Paul writes later: “Death no longer has dominion!”

And after all, Jesus says, “Now God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” I don’t know exactly what that means – but it definitely draws my attention away from the by-and-by to the here-and-now.

As Christians we trust God with our lives – on this side and that side of the “Pale.”
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It is the center of my faith: those disciples did not lie and I shall continue to build my worldview and shape my life around the wonderful notion that Jesus rose and Jesus lives and life goes on beyond our limited imaginations. It is so much bigger.

The Sadducees and Jesus agree, in a way, to let the dead bury the dead and to figure out how to live.

This brings me to the question that has been on the minds of Americans for over a year now. It is not about life after death, it’s about life after Tuesday. Maybe it IS about life and death. Just talk to supporters of both candidates.

If Hillary wins there will be revolution. If Donald wins well, that is the scary part for both Republicans and Democrats because nobody knows.

But before you take up your gun or move to Canada – and I am not being glib about this – we have to figure out how to live in the post-election world together.

I am reminded of the lyrics of an old Young Life song that I used to sing, it is by Chris Williamson:
What do you do for a living? Are you forgiving, giving shelter?
Follow your heart, love will find you, truth will unbind you.
Seek out a song of the soul.

As followers of Jesus we have to get deeper than superficial “gotcha” questions, and shallow partisan rants about gun control or abortion or climate change … and get to the “song of the soul” and the heart of the matter: about God being a God of the living; so how do we take care of the world our home, and how do we put others first, and how do we speak to the fear that pulls us apart, and how do we respect women and their bodies and also care for embryos, infants and children; the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant without polarization?

As followers of Jesus we are not all going to agree. But our mission is not only about stands and stances, but a quality of life which sets us apart. The absolute worst thing is for us to worship in a bubble of like-mindedness or cling with Sadducean certainty to our opinions – both left and right.

After the election you and I will be held accountable to the quality of life we live, the welcome we extend, the ability to share our truth with others and to listen to truths that we do not agree with.

How do we reach out to the “angry” white middle class male, have fellowship with those who don’t believe in climate change, include the African American teen, the Muslim and the Mexican immigrant, transgendered people, women? Our job is to ratchet down the language and raise up a vision of resurrection, of life, of hope, of community.

Frankly it is the church’s job and I am excited about it! We are in the resurrection business.

Just last Sunday I was talking to the kids in the Descant Choir. I was saying “Go Indians! Let’s win the World Series!!” And one little boy spoke up and said: “I am for the Cubs!”

And you could see all the other children turn and look – and there was a pause….

And I claim that the Holy Spirit came over me and led me to say:
“That is great! The Cubs are a good team! AND we welcome everybody, right kids!” and all the kids said “Yes!” (Thank you Jesus!)

And this child, this solitary voice surrounded by hometown fans, looked at me and said: “Who are you for?” And I said: “I am for the Indians BUT like you, I wasn’t born here. I grew up outside of Washington DC and I LOVED my Senators. And if the Washington team were in the World Series I might be cheering for them.”

I have a feeling that Trump supporters in this congregation feel like that little boy. I know that Republicans in our midst are in the minority.

Well, we are a community that believes in the resurrection.
We are a community that believes that God’s love wins.
We are a community where all are welcome to share their story and walk the walk.
We are a community that, like Jesus, wants to move beyond the superficial and get deep.

We pursue justice – not because we are political but because we are faithful.
We pursue welcome – not because we are partisan but because we are a people of hope.
We pursue truth – knowing that we won’t grasp it perfectly and that no one has it completely – but because we know that truth is worth pursuing, together.
We pursue community – not because we like each other, but darn it because we LOVE each other and want to hold one another accountable.

On Wednesday, we will wake up. Many across this country will be unsettled, fearful, disappointed; perhaps to the boiling point.

And I will speak out and we will act up when we hear hate spewed, and racism institutionalized, and xenophobia promoted, and anti-Muslim rhetoric repeated – oh, those voices will still be there on Wednesday no matter the results.

But today we proclaim that God is the God of the living.
Today we come to the table – and see the goodness of the Lord!
We have to be nourished for the work ahead.

AMEN

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