The intro....

I've created this blog as a simple way of posting my sermons as I write them and possibly speak them. (occasionally I'll have recordings of the preaching of the sermon) I won't have sermons to preach every Sunday because I'm not going to write sermons that I don't have to preach, but I'll post what I do preach. Feel free to post comments/criticisms, I'm no pro and feedback is a great way to get better.


Happy Advent!

This is my first sermon for the New Church Year. I love the season of Advent and so I was excited to get this chance to preach about it.

The Gospel Text for this day was: Matthew 24:36-44 I also referenced the other readings which were Isaiah 2:1-5 and Romans 13:11-14

So… You probably all know this already but today is the beginning of the new church year, which means it is the First Sunday in Advent. The days of Pentecost, and confusing parables are behind us, and now begins the season of preparation, of waiting… of Advent… You all probably know that this is a season of preparation and waiting. We’ve all seen, or maybe used, advent calendars that count down the days until Christmas. When I was a very little kid my grandmother made a really cool fabric Advent Calendar that had big green Christmas tree on it, and each morning in December I would get up and run to the Calendar to put the little ornament on the tree for that day. It was so fun to be able to watch the remaining time until Christmas get smaller and smaller until, finally, on Christmas Eve morning I, or my brother when he came into the picture, got to put that big smiling face of Santa Claus at the very top of the tree. I should mention that it was always a big treat to get to be the first one to put an ornament on the tree but it was an even bigger privilege to be the one of the two of us that got to put the Santa Claus on the tree, and it was really fun to learn a little bit of Math before my brother did so that I could pretend to be very generous and offer him the first ornament and then I would just ‘happen’ to get to put the Santa Claus up exactly 24 days later… every year… I actually got away with that trick a couple of times before my Mom caught on to what I was doing… and then my brother got old enough to learn about even and odd numbers and my little game was over. But then eventually I got old enough to understand about sharing and giving and actually just plain gave the privilege of the Santa Claus to my brother so we’re probably about even now. Of course, really it wasn’t the putting up of the Santa Claus that we were looking forward to… it was what that represented, when that Santa went up on the tree it meant that Christmas had arrived: the presents would be opened, the cookie tin would be unlocked, and my Grandparents would arrive. It was my favorite day of the whole year and I almost couldn’t stand all the days leading up to it as we slowly and anxiously counted down those days of December.
And so here we are… we have officially begun the countdown to Christmas, the preparation and the waiting. So the question that I have for us today is: What are we waiting for? Well… the word Advent, you may know, comes from the Latin word Adventus and Adventus means arrival. So then the Season of Advent is the Season of Arrival and as we prepare for Christmas we prepare for Arrival, but what, exactly are we preparing for the Arrival of? Well…. My advent Calendar would probably have you believe that I was preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus, which is to say that I was preparing for the Christmas holiday with all the traditions and trappings that it would bring. Now some of you may be thinking that I’m going to tell you how terrible all those Christmas traditions are, how distracting from the true meaning of the holiday and all that…. Well… I’m not… so don’t worry. I still think that Christmas is a wonderful holiday. I love Christmas cookies, and the smells of a Christmas tree, and hot apple cider, and cherry pie, and Turkey, and I love spending peaceful and joyful time with my family. And yes I even love Christmas music. But I think that we all know that the Christmas holiday itself is not what we are preparing for in this Advent season. All those Christmas traditions are the celebrations of the Arrival of that which we have been for. So once again what are we waiting for?
Well then if we think about the Nativity Scene that forms the core of our Christmas celebration in the church, then we might think that Advent is the preparation for the arrival of the little baby Jesus. But our Gospel today paints a different picture, doesn’t it? The Advent Gospel today is not about the birth of a cute little baby and shepherd and stars and barnyard animals in quiet repose. Today’s Gospel is about the arrival of a thief in the night, it is about the coming of the Son of Man… an arrival that is related to the days of Noah and the great flood, the whole planet covering, month-long, world ending flood. These are two very different images, the little baby and the Son of Man, so which are we waiting for?
It is easy to go ahead and say that it is the baby we are waiting for, to keep things simple and focus on the peacefulness of that little manger, but when we do that what happens to the Power of the savior and the messiah?… what happens to the power that will break into our world of sin and sadness, of pain and sickness? If advent is time to prepare only for the baby then we had better cover up the cross… Because the cross is the image of a powerful God who, in the darkest of moments conquered sin and the grave, not of a beautiful tiny baby.
In this Advent season we are preparing for our savior and we share in that preparation with all the centuries of God’s people who waited for the same. Just like Isaiah does in our Old Testament text for the day. But if we are to share in that preparation with Isaiah it is important to remember what Isaiah is preparing for… is it the baby or is it the King, the chosen one, the Christ? Well… it is the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem, and when Isaiah says that this Word will beat the swords into plowshares he’s saying that he will break into the world of violence and war and bring peace. The coming Son of God, says Isaiah, will have the power to end all the violence and the war and the persecution. That is a strong and fearsome power…
And in Paul’s letter to Romans, the same letter from which we read today, he writes “If God is with us, who is against us?” That’s a rallying cry if I’ve ever heard one. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” This is the Jesus, the Christ, that has conquered, and continues to conquer all. This is the Messiah… the one who has power over all of creation, the successor to the lineage of the King of Israel, the King that defeated the Giant and ruled over the people of God. This is a figure of power and might.
Look again at our Gospel text… who is it that is coming at the unexpected hour? It is the Son of Man, and if we the people that are awaiting his coming are compared to the people in the time of Noah, then it is only natural to assume that the Gospel writer is trying to tell us to be prepared for something just as powerful and immense as the Great Flood. That is a strong and fearsome power.
So it seems that, truly, our Advent is a preparation for a figure of great power, and if we read the Gospel today and feel some fear and trepidation… well it seems only right that we should do so. But as much as we fear may we also have hope and may we remember who it is that holds this power….
There is a very brilliant and talented Christian writer that some of you may have heard of named C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read any of his works than let me tell you that he is an artistic genius… and perhaps more importantly he is one of the more influential Christian writers of the 20th century. In addition to writing a whole heap of great non-fiction about living the Christian Life, C.S. Lewis also wrote a book series that you may have heard of called the Chronicles of Narnia. He wrote the series as way to explain, within the context of a allegorical fantasy, the Christian world. In the first book of series the land of Narnia is in despair, locked in an endless winter, awaiting the return of hope and power in the form of the character that represents Christ in the books whose name is Aslan. Now the reason I am telling you all of this is that Aslan is a lion. And there is perhaps no better metaphor for the power and might of this savior for whom we wait during this season of Advent than the ‘king of the beasts.’ And just as we await the coming of a messiah who is a powerful and mighty figure, so too do the residents of Narnia await the coming of a Lion. There are many times in our lives when we feel the need for this powerful figure, when we are in the midst of despair, when we are overcome with grief, when we are lost in sadness, when we are afraid… the image of the powerful king brings us comfort and relief…
But this image of power and might isn’t always so pleasant. On days like today when our thoughts our cast toward our own weaknesses and we are called to take note that this powerful king is due to arrive, it might be easier to imagine the peaceful child. The Lord of power and might headed toward us in an expected hour, like a thief in the night, without warning is frightening. In the same way we read of the human children visiting Narnia learning of Aslan from the residents of Narnia and learning that he is, indeed a lion. They are afraid, and with good reason, a Lion is a powerful figure:
“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And there you have it… today we are beginning our preparation for the all-powerful… and the almighty… and the all Good-God.
So then when we look to the manger this Advent season… may we see the peacefully sleeping, beautiful little one and may we know that in that baby is all the power in all of creation, may our knees tremble from the thought of that power and may we be afraid because all that power is coming like a thief in the night… but may we also remember, that our God is Good. And may we trust in that goodness and the promise that is spoken to Noah: As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Of Course God isn’t safe, but he’s good… He’s the King, I tell you.

Thanksgiving Sermonette

This is the mini-sermon I preached at the three Thanksgiving services.  I was the first of three to preach at each of the services and each one of us took a different thing to be thankful for and preached on a text that spoke to that theme.  My text was all of Psalm 121.

When I hear this Psalm I picture a man; I picture a worried man; a man that is consumed and overburdened by the weights of the world. I picture a man that is bent over, his head hanging, staring at the ground lost in doubt and concern. I picture a hopeless man. And then I picture this same man raise his head, he casts his eyes up, he looks to the mountain and to the endless sky beyond.
Why does he look to the mountain?.... Why does he look to the sky?... Why do we stare in awe at the endless and deep starry sky? Why do we sit on the rock and reflect on the valley below us, breathing a world full of breath?, why do we listen to the wind whispering through the tops of the trees? Why do we feel, deep in our chests, the swell of every wave rolling gently and then powerfully to the shore? Why does the glow of the sun that rests on our faces, warm us deeply to the core? Why do we smell the flowers and dance in the images of singing birds, and laughing children, and so many fresh spring days?
This is our world and it is our home. It is the house that comforts and protects the fragile infant, the jungle gym for the playing children, the fields of grass to run and run, the bath to bathe in, the living room where we find our family, and the bed and pillow on which we rest and the blanket that wraps us tightly.
This is the home that was built for us by the very hands of God. And its foundation, its walls and its roof… all the elements of our creation, reveal God’s power, God’s grace, and God’s love. When we are sad and the sun brings us hope, or the rain cries with us, when we are afraid and the dawn breaks the day, or the moon and stars shine through the darkness, when we are worried and the mountain does not move, when we are happy and the mountain does not move, when the mountain does not move, and the ocean lives and breathes, and the wind speaks to all the earth… the Spirit of God speaks to us.
When the wind rushes down the mountainside and across the valley the Spirit of God speaks to us, when the wind pushes across thousands of miles of ocean and breaks in waves on the beach the Spirit of God speaks to us, when the wind rolls and dances through the trees in whispers and shouts the Spirit of God speaks to us.
We look to the mountain in times of trouble because it is where the lives that we have built up for ourselves cannot cover over the voice of God, where the streets and buildings and signs and lights do not block the image of God. We look to the mountain because it breathes the breath of God and… on that mountain we can see it, in the ocean we can feel it, in the wind we can breathe it.
God has made you… and God protects you… God is near you… and God loves you…. And all of creation is waiting to tell you the story.
May our Thanks be to God....


Another Recording... YAY!!

Here's another medium for that same sermon I just posted.  This one allows you to close your eyes and nap,  if you'd like to.

Once again the text is: Luke 21:5-19

25th Sunday After Pentecost

I preached this Sermon on November 14 at the East Mesa (the big one) Campus.  I preached this one with a pretty nasty cold which you'll probably be able to hear in the recording from it.

The text for the day is: Luke 21:5-19

We have some pretty intense imagery in today’s Gospel. This isn’t really the kind of thing we’d expect from the Gospel.... no... this is the kind of thing that we would expect from Hollywood, like Deep Impact, Armageddon, or Independence Day where meteorites are raining down on some poor city, or the earth is splitting open, I haven’t seen the movie: 2012 but I’ve seen enough of the previews from it to know that today’s Gospel might seem like a bit of a plot description. How many of you have seen Ghostbusters? You all might remember the scene about a “A disaster of Biblical Proportions,”.... “This is Old Testament, Mr Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff, Fire and Brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the Dead Rising from the Grave, Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats living together.... MASS HYSTERIA.” (I might have a future in this doom and gloom/revivalist preaching... what do you think?) Mass Hysteria, that’s what today’s Gospel is about, right? Mass Hysteria, chaos, apocalypse, the “Day of the Lord” and the imminent end of the world.

I can promise you that some people would hear this Gospel and their fear might be kindled. They would think about earthquakes, about famines and plagues and they would fear the day, in not-so-distant future, when we, ourselves will face them. They would hear about nations rising against nation about wars and insurrections, and they would start to tremble, slightly. They might even consider building a bomb shelter, or preemptively moving out into the woods. They would hear about “great signs from heaven” and they would cast a wary eye skyward.... waiting for the first drop of fire to fall at any time. These same people will also listen as they hear Jesus foretelling their own persecution, predicting that they will be arrested and brought to trial, and even worse betrayed by their very own loved ones.... and these people will look at each other, and at you, suspiciously and doubtfully....

This is what fear does to people... it makes them.... unpleasant, and untrusting. People that are living in fear will constantly be looking for signs of the very thing of which they fear. This is a very simply concept, imagine the 6 year old who fears the monster in the closet and how every shadow is a clawed arm or a toothy grin. When I was far too young to be doing such things, I read the book: Jurassic Park,which is the one about the reincarnated dinosaurs that run around this island, in the rain, basically eating the tourists, and for months after that whenever it would rain I would have to have my Dad come into my room to open up the blinds in order to make sure that those flashes of lighting were not, in fact, reflecting off the eye of that gigantic Tyrannosaurus that was peering,hungrily, in my second story window. This is what fear does... it makes us expect the completely unreasonable, and feel absolutely certain that the End is Near.

This, perhaps, does not seem like an unreasonable thing to be certain of after reading a Gospel like the one for today, because we’ve seen movies like Armageddon and 2012, and yes even Ghostbusters, and we’re pretty sure that this is all going to happen. There’s websites, and books and support groups dedicated to waiting for this kind of event. In particular this latest trend of believing that the Mayan Calender predicts the end of the world for December 21, 2012... There is literally an entire website devoted to the belief that the world will end on December 21, 2012.... Oh and they have a specific time nailed down now as well. 11:11. 11:11 on December 21, 2012, watch out for it, right? I couldn’t find any mention of whether that’s 11:11 in the morning or 11:11 at night. (I guess this way they’ve got two chances to get it right)

You may have met people that believe that the world is going to end on 2012, maybe they talked about it, maybe they don’t want to mention the fact that they buy into it, (there’s an “I believe” guestbook on the website so you can go and search it for all your neighbors if you want to find out) Maybe even some of you have had your doubts, maybe you’ve gotten wrapped up in the hype, believing that on that day everything will end. Certainly an initial reading of Today’s Gospel can contribute to that sort of belief. But what would happen if that is the case, if we go ahead with that initial reading, let the fear take us, and believe that this Gospel foretells the end of the world. What would happen then?

Well on the one hand I’d want to buy some stock in “Hardened Structures LLC” (That’s a company I found advertised on the 2012 website that specializes in building shelters for 2012. Though actually I probably shouldn’t buy stock should I, cause there probably won’t be a stock market after the end of the world....)
On the more serious side of this.... if we do go ahead and interpret this Gospel as this kind of Doom and Gloom message, then what do we make of that last verse.... go ahead you can look at your bulletin if you forgot what it was..... “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” That sounds like a calling to me, perhaps it is Jesus telling us how we can get through the Apocalypse, like a sort of survival guide.... So... it sounds like our message today is something along the lines of: “Prepare yourselves, prepare to suffer, this is going to be really hard, but IF we can manage to make it through, if we can out last the madness.... then it’ll be all good...

Well okay then... that’s a HELPful message right, certainly not HOPEful but that’s okay.... So now we know we need to get ready... right?.... we should start being more careful? more cautious? more afraid?... right?
I mean because Jesus says that there’s going to be earthquakes and we’ve already seen some just regular earthquakes that were pretty bad, so these end-of-the-world earthquakes and going to be some serious business, like superhero cartoon movie style crazy.... and Jesus says there’s going to be famine and plagues and we already see things like that in the world, so these other ones are going to really bad.... and well I’ve already felt the sting of a friends betrayal, and ridicule for my beliefs, and I know people that have experiences those same things much worse than I have, so when the bad stuff really starts... whew!?! that’s going to be tough.....

But wait.... did you see what I just did there? we’re already living in a world where all of this stuff already happens.... OH NO!!! Is the apocalypse already here???? ......

No... no my friends it isn’t, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

The first part of what Jesus says about these events is what? “not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down” If you know much about 1st century history you might now that the very temple that Jesus was standing in was destroyed, completely, in 70 AD and you also might know that this Gospel that we read today wasn’t written until 85 AD... and why is that important? Because it means that the people who were hearing that message from Jesus had already experienced the destruction of that temple, even the Jews that were there listening to Jesus that day had lived their lives under the yolk of Roman control.... these people had already experienced all that Jesus “foretold” that day. Just like you all have experienced your own personal catastrophes. Some of you may have been through Earthquakes, famines and plagues, some of you may not have been.... but I would be almost certain that everyone has been through some time in your life that felt just as scary, just as threatening,... just as hopeless.

So then every single person that hears this message of Jesus has already experienced that same suffering that he is identifying here. So then maybe this isn’t a message of warning after all. What’s the point of warning somebody about something they already know intimately? So then maybe this is a message of comfort... maybe Jesus recognizes the hopelessness and is trying to bring you some hope.

I think it’s pretty easy to see how this difference could be heard: either Jesus is saying: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” or maybe he’s saying it more like this “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” It’s the difference between how you would speak to a crowd of strangers that you cared little about and how you would speak to your own child when they were scared and sad.

Jesus knows that you are sometimes sad and sometimes scared. Jesus has seen all that has caused you pain and sadness and all that threatens you and makes you feel like your world is ending, but into that dark place Jesus speaks these words and tells you that he knows it’s not going to be easy.

What now do we make of that last verse? Do you remember what it says now? Look at it again.... by your endurance.... This isn’t a call to fight or to hold a fortress, it is not the call to deftly maneuver through the earthquakes, the volcanoes, the famines, the floods, or to stay unabashedly optimistic in the face of betrayal, or ridicule, or hurt, or pain, or loss.... and really this isn’t even a call is it? This isn’t an if statement(if you do this then you’ll get that) and it’s not a command.... it’s just an identification.... By your endurance.... you will gain your souls.... It is simply telling you that when this is over.... you will all be okay... it will be all good.

Go ahead and look back down to that last verse, and now let your eyes wander to the verse before it.... maybe they already did when I asked you to look the first time, maybe you saw what’s there and were expecting everything I’ve said since then... but if not... look there now.... “Not a hair on your head will perish....” Now I think we already know that’s not a promise that we will never be hurt or injured or never experience physical pain but it’s not an empty promise either. This a promise that you will endure.... that at the very last you will not have perished from all existence, that all that makes you who you are, your being, as a child of God, will survive the torment and the strife.
Now I don’t think Luke is referencing Samson here but we can at least use the symbolism... “No hair on your head will perish....” Your strength will not fail. Your strength will not fail because it is in the Spirit of God, and as God endures so shall you.
So then... take heart, my friends... because today’s Gospel tells us that all this pain and suffering and sadness in the world is not the end of all things... it is merely a step along the way... and it is not even the biggest of all the steps....

The archibishop Desmond Tutu says it better than I ever could:

Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death
Victory is ours through him who loved us

So... with this hope in mind... I tell you to endure, my friends... and you will....
“....and the sun will rise with righteousness in its wings”

All Saints Sunday/Texts from the 24th Sunday After Pentecost

This is the sermon I preached for All Saint's Sunday at the Apache Junction/Epiphany Campus.  I chose to use the 'other' texts because I felt they were more appropriate to the themes that would be in the minds of this congregation on All Saint's Sunday.
Gospel Text:  Luke 20:27-38

“To be, or not to be– that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep
No more – and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...”
I trust that you have heard these words before, certainly the first line anyway. This just might be the most famous single line of any of Shakespeare’s plays (excepting maybe Romeo and Juliet), it might even be the most famous single line in all of the history of Theater. It ranks right up there with some of those famous lines of literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....,” “Call me Ishmael,” and of film: “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore...,” “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate...,” “If you build it, they will come...,” “Here’s looking at you, kid.” There are hundreds of other lines that I could quote here that at least some, if not all, of you would recognize. Even if you couldn’t tell me where they were from, you’d at least have heard them before, they would sound familiar to you. And this one line of Shakespeare’s, “To be or not to be,” is at least as famous as all of these. Aside from the Bible, what other written words have so well withstood the passage of time? I certainly can’t think of any. And why does this one remain so clearly? Well it might be because it is part of a literary masterpiece, but while that certainly may help it pop up in discussion with frequency it doesn’t explain why any other line of that entire play is not so well remembered. It might be that it is such a simple phrase, an entire quote that is made without any words longer than 3 letters, but I think that while this line’s simplicity adds to its allure and power, it doesn’t necessarily define it. Well... what is it then? Why do we continue to recite this line and its fellows so long after its creation? Well we’ve already covered its context and its format... what about it’s subject? Ok, so what is this “To be or not to be” all about? Okay now I think we might be on to something... and now we start to get into the meat of what today is all about.

Some of you, maybe all of you, probably know that today is All Saint’s Day in the church. Today we celebrate and honor the memory of all our blessed saints, our friends and family, our companions on the journey that have gone before us, especially those that have departed since the last time we recognized this day. We are grateful today for the lives of those saints who have made this journey of ours that much more joyous, and fulfilling, and peaceful. But also today our minds wander to that ever present and ever elusive theme of death. We certainly are mindful of the gift that these saints have been in our lives but we cannot remember their lives without remembering that they are no longer here with us and that it is death that has come between them and us. Certainly we do not need the memory of those close to us to make us think about Death. We may think about it when we watch the news, or read the paper, and we may fear it in fleeting glimpses from close calls out on the highway, or just in our daily lives. Death is a very common theme in our lives, and as such it is a very common theme in or art, how often do we read a book where death is at the very least a bit player?, or watch a play?, or a movie?, or listen to a song about Death?, or dying?, or loss?, or grieving?... and we here today, in this age, are not alone in our fascination and our preoccupation with death. Generations of people have lived out their lives under the ever-presence of death, and many of them much more so than we do. Think of those who lived in this country during the civil war, or the revolutionary war, or who came out west before the railroad who faced so much more uncertainty about how soon it would be that they faced the precipice of death . But even we, in our relative safety and insulation from the daily threat of death must face the fact that it is a very real fact of life. We will all die and we will all experience, as we already have, the loss of those we love.
And so we think of death... and we remember “To be or not to be” because it is about death. We think about death and we fear death... we fear the deaths of those we love. and we fear our own deaths. We hear that loneliness and loss that we feel when someone is gone. And we struggle, just as Prince Hamlet does, as we fear the end of what we know and the beginning of what lies beyond the end of our ‘baptismal journey.’ Later in that same speech Hamlet speaks of death as:
“The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”
This is the point isn’t it? That death is that place that we’ve never been, the “undiscovered country” and we fear that unknown because we don’t know what it will bring, and we certainly don’t know anyone that has gone to death and returned... do we? Do we...?
[Look to the cross]
If you’ve been wondering when Jesus was going to come up today, here is your answer.... He’s been there all along. He’s right here with us in our obsession and our fear because you can’t talk about Death without at least indirectly talking about the one who’s been there, and come back. The one who conquered death so that we might live. It’s the story that we’ve been hearing since we were little kids, or since you first started coming to church if you joined the party later in life, Jesus Christ died on the cross for us and for our salvation, so that sin and death would have no power over us and then he was resurrected, “on the third day he rose again”... and we are told that we too will participate in the resurrection, we too will be given eternal life. We don’t need to fear death because Christ has conquered death...right?

Well... yes that’s true... but does it really make you feel any better? Well it doesn’t really help me to feel much better, at least not initially. Yes “I know that my redeemer lives” but what does that mean for me exactly....

So then when I look at the Sadducees’ question for Jesus today, I think: “Yeah... what about that, Jesus?”. What do you have to say about that? A lot of people when talking about today’s text will talk about how the Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus, they’re trying to ask him a question that he can’t answer, so that he’ll have to either refute the Torah or amend his ideas about resurrection, and while that may be true it doesn’t really change what this question is about. The sadducees are asking Jesus about the particularities of the resurrected life and in some ways I can kind of relate to that question. I want to know that this life is going to look like. I’m afraid of the unknown and I’m afraid of death so I want to know little things like who I”m going to be married to in heaven. So then, even though there might be malice in the Saduccees motivations for asking this question, we might imagine ourselves sitting nearby, thinking: “ooh good question” and leaning in closer for the answer. And what do we hear Jesus say? He says: (and this is a bit of a paraphrase) Uh uh uh.... not so fast... it doesn’t work like that... The resurrection isn’t going to look like what you’re used to... You’re not going to be able to understand it in the way that you understand this world. So don’t even try... Man, that guy can be frustrating....

But I think this picture is beginning to make sense... you see, it is very important that Jesus answers this way because it tells us something very important about this promise of resurrection, it tells us that it’s going to be much different than any way that we can possibly imagine our life being. And more important than this is what Jesus says last:
“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Breathe deeply now my friends because our relief has come, the promise is here, Jesus’ message of hope is alive in these words: God is God of the Living. This is not a phrase of exclusion, saying that God only cares for those who still walk the earth... no, no... This is a phrase of complete and total inclusion, God does not need to care for the dead, it says, because there are no dead. All of them are alive.
Now, I’m sure you know that this doesn’t mean that everyone still lives and breathes, we’ve been over that already this morning, so what does it mean? Well the word for alive in this case is ZAO which is one of a multitude of words that could be translated as life or living... and what is important about Zao is how else it is used by Luke in the Gospel... it is not used as the waking and rising, This is not the ‘live’ that is the daily in and out of breath.... This is “man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word of God” This is... “Your brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and now is found” This is “Why do you seek the living among the dead...?” This is... “Your son lives...” This is... “I am the resurrection, and the life.” This verse: “All of them are alive”, is the promise that death is not the end. And this is a promise from God so you know you can trust it, it’s the same kind of promise that we will very soon experience in God’s presence in breaking of bread and the sharing of wine, these are promises that will be fulfilled according to God’s grace.
So.... do you feel comforted yet? Maybe... a little bit? Perhaps the sting is starting to wear off? The fear is loosening it’s grip. Well God has promised us eternal life... God has promised us the resurrection and here is what I can say about that. The fear will never leave completely. No matter how at peace we become with our own mortality, the fear of the unknown will always be close by. But... even though we don’t know what exactly will become of us, we know we will remain just as we know that our loved ones are in the loving arms of God.
A man I know, who had just lost a very close friend of his, said, as he grieved, that: “Death is for the Living.” And what he meant was something like this: We fear death because it is the end. To us here on earth, every experience of death that we have had has meant the end. Death is a precipice that waits and the end of this road from which we cannot exit, and we have watched our friends and our companions disappear over it’s edge, we cannot look down to what is waiting below because we are not yet close enough to do so. And so of course we are afraid of that, everybody hates the feeling of falling.... but Jesus promises that there will be a soft, safe landing and paradise waiting for us, and sure that’s a vague and abstract term: paradise.... but we get the idea right? Paradise... Jesus has promised us paradise. And so death is not the end of all things, it is just the end of THIS thing. So, Death is for the living... because the living person who witnesses death, who knows someone who dies is the only one that experiences it as death... Jesus’ promise today is that our own death will not feel like death but more like rebirth, more like a caterpillar being transformed into a scared would you be if you were heading into that cocoon? and yet how glorious is the exit from it?
Remember where Hamlet’s soliloquy takes him.... He refers to death as sleep... This is a metaphor that you may have seen before. It is a common one, possibly because the outward appearance of the two is so similar.
Well, if death is like falling asleep, then resurrection, Jesus’ promise of resurrection, is like a dream, but not just any dream, a dream that is more real than any waking moment you’ve known.
Those that have gone before us, have experienced what we will experience.... the end of this, yes... but not just an end, they are not gone as though it may feel to us like they are.... their end was the beginning of something different entirely. It was not death to them, but transformation..... it was birth....
To them it was like falling asleep.... and waking up into the most incredible dream....