Sermon: Sunday, 10 November 2013

Sermon for 10 November 2013, Proper 27, Year C

The Rev. Sandy Obarski

A printable PDF file of this sermon is available here: 20131110 - Proper 27, Year C - The Rev. Sandy Obarski

The Gospel we heard this morning on All Soul’s Sunday is a Gospel describing the questioning of Jesus by some of the Sadducees who believe there is no resurrection. The Sadducees denied the Pharisaic teaching of resurrection and angels and were closely linked with the leadership of the temple.

Everyday when Jesus was teaching in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept searching for a way to kill him. But they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard. The Sadducees said to Jesus, “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. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

This was considered to be something of a trick question to Jesus. The case cited by the Sadducees was absurd but referred to the law of levirate (brother-in-law) marriage that kept a deceased husband’s name alive. Members of the religious and political establishment in Jerusalem were conservative in both areas. Using the Mosaic rule of levirate marriage to make their point, they were questioning the sense in which life after death can be meaningful. Jesus tells them it is not simply the continuation of what now is life on earth. This is no longer necessary for those who inherit eternal life in the age to come. Luke’s reporting of Jesus’ answer is a deeper dimension than that found in the other gospels as Jesus struggles to express what he sees as its meaning.

Jesus answered them saying, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 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. Marriage is for companionship and that is no longer necessary for those who inherit eternal life in the age to come. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 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. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

The Sadducees recognized only the authority of the books of Moses, the written Torah, which they felt contained no explicit references to the resurrection. Jesus found an implicit reference in Exodus 3: 6 when Moses speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living: for to him all of them are alive.” Moses is speaking of the living, the resurrected, because the dead could not have a God at all. The Sadducees decided to conclude their questioning and said, “Teacher you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask Jesus another question.

In the book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg describes the pre-Easter Jesus as someone who consistently pointed things away from himself toward God. His message was not about believing in himself. He was a movement founder who brought into being a Jewish renewal or revitalization movement that challenged and shattered the social boundaries of his day, a movement that eventually became the early Christian church.

Jesus read Moses and the Old Testament scriptures quite differently than the leaders in Jerusalem. The Resurrection would not mean a return to the status quo; rather, it would mean a new order of life. Jesus’ own resurrection would mark the beginning of that new order.

The mystery of the resurrection revealed by Jesus is that heaven is a place where those who have been dehumanized will be restored; those who have been oppressed will be set free; and those who have been treated as inferior will be raised up and beloved. Women will no longer be the property of men as we heard about in today’s Gospel. We as Christians today need to watch for those whom we see being treated as inferior and who need to be reminded that they are God’s beloved.

Oppression on earth does not dictate the rewards of heaven. Persons suffering under oppression and those who are victims of the dehumanizing systems of racism, gender bias, classism, homophobia, bias of age and other forms often struggle to look beyond the day-to-day reality that keep their heads and backs bent downward and their minds unable to see an alternative, unable to see even the promise of freedom. Suffering keeps people from imagining new possibilities, but faith provides hope.

Who do you know who is suffering from oppression today? How will you be able to help him or her see possibilities and hope for her or him in their life?

For many of us we see people struggling with these oppressions in our families, places of work, in our congregation and in some of the ministries in which we participate, such as The Shelf of Hope, Pastoral care and other ministries in our congregation. In all these areas we need to seek the help necessary to assist in relieving the oppression happening in the lives of others.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that God is the God of the oppressed, and the children of God will not be forsaken even in death. We have this wisdom from Jesus, we have examples of this faith and belief in our tradition, and we are strengthened for our lives here on earth as we walk our Christian journey together. We ask the Holy Spirit to move deeply into our lives and open our eyes to see the least, the lost, and the left out in our daily lives so we can help those in need of our love and care. AMEN.

This sermon was created by The Rev. Sandy Obarski for The Episcopal Church of Gethsemane, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sources are credited where applicable.

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