All Live to HimPosted: November 3, 2013
All Live to Him
VIGOUROUS DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
The Sadducees and the Pharisees were in vigorous competition with one another for the spiritual leadership of Judaism. The Sadducees ran the temple. The Pharisees ran the synagogues, and the two groups interpreted Jewish law very differently. Among their theological disputes the Sadducees claimed there was no life after death, while the Pharisees vigorously asserted there was an afterlife. Paul used this division between the two groups to his advantage, when he was brought before the Sanhedrin for trial.
Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that one part of the council were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
In 70 A.D. the base of power of the Sadducees disappeared, when the Temple was destroyed and the High Priesthood was sent into exile. As Jews were scattered through the Roman Empire, the dominant form of Judaism became the faith of the Pharisees.
“I ALREADY SERVED MY TIME”
But when Jesus was confronted in the Temple by a delegation of Sadducees they asked him a trick question. In ancient Israel if a man died childless, his brother under Levite Law was required to marry his widow, and then name the first male child born to the widow after his brother. So the Sadducees asked Jesus, if a man dies childless and his brother marries his widow, and the brother dies childless, and the next brother in line marries the widow, and if that brother dies childless, and so and so forth; you can begin to have sympathy for this woman, who in the words of Helen Hurley, “had already served her time.” But the Sadducees weren’t concerned about the poor woman, so they asked Jesus, if all the brothers died still leaving the poor woman childless, whose wife would she be in the resurrection?
INTERESTING QUESTIONS ABOUT RESURRECTION
Granted the Sadducees were asking a trick question, but it does raise some interesting questions about resurrection. Are our relationships preserved in a life after death? Will we recognize one another in a life after death? What will we look like? Will we be allowed to choose what age we will be, when we are resurrected?
ALL LIVE TO HIM
Jesus’ answer was not intended to be definitive or interpreted literally. In a nice way Jesus was trying to say look we don’t know. We can’t answer any of those kinds of questions, because life after death is a whole different category of existence. We are no longer subject to the same constraints, for we become like angels children of God. But make no mistake about it Jesus said, “God is not God of the dead but of the living, for all live to him.
EXCHANGING A WHITE CARNATION FOR A RED CARNATION
And that is the important piece of good news this morning, even as we come here to remember the lives of loved ones who have died in the past twelve months. We place the white carnation of grief on the altar and receive the red carnation of life, because in God’s eyes all live to him.
MEMORY HAS POWER
We remember because memory has power. When we gather at the sharing table to remember the Lord’s Supper the life giving self-sacrificing love of Jesus comes alive in us. As we remember the life giving love of Jesus we become his hands and feet in the world reaching out to the needs of others. We embody the love of God because Jesus lives in us just as God’s love lived in Jesus, a love so powerful it even conquered death.
THE GOOD WE DO LIVES ON
Now I know it is popular to be cynical about goodness and love. Shakespeare’s words from his play Julius Caesar are often cited out of context: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” But I would like to assert this morning exactly the opposite. The good that we do lives on far after our mortal bodies have gone into the ground. And I experienced this truth again at Beth’s 50th high school reunion in Perkasie, Pennsylvania.
JERRY KRIEBEL REMEMBERS COACH WHITTLE
After the dinner, people were visiting one another, and I met one of Beth’s classmates Jerry Kriebel. As we were talking he mentioned he had attended Davidson College. And when I said, “oh Davidson!” Jerry asked me if I had a connection to Davidson.
“Not really,” I replied, “but Peggy Vaughan, a member of my congregation, her father was the track coach at Davidson for 40 years.”
“Coach Whittle,” he exclaimed with enthusiasm. And then Jerry went on to talk about how important Peggy’s father had been, inviting students over to his house, not just coaching them in track but really listening to them as human beings with problems and aspirations. All these many years later Peggy’s father’s goodness was still remembered as an inspiration. The good that we do in life lives on and on and on. And that is one of the reasons we gather on Remembrance Sunday and remember.
REMEMBERING AND MENDING THE PAST
And memory has other powers than to just call up the goodness of those we have known in the past. Another incident at Beth’s reunion suggests to me that remembering has the power to mend the past.
One of the women in Beth’s class, we’ll call Elsie Stolzfuss, came up to Beth and said, “Do you remember when I sat behind you in social studies in seventh grade?”
Beth replied, “Sure in Mr. Swartley’s Class.”
Then Elsie said, “I want you to take this.” She held out a tightly rolled twenty dollar bill.
And Beth asked, “Why?”
“Because I took quarters out of your pocket book .”
Now we’re talking 56 years ago.
“Oh Elsie,” Beth said, “it doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, I really want you to take it. Please take it.”
“O.K.,” Beth finally gave in, “but you know the quarters weren’t really mine. My mother gave them to me for lunch. I will give this to one of my mother’s favorite charities – the St. Labre Indian School, in Montana.”
So this act of Elsie’s was healing for her restorative for Beth and is an extension of Beth’s mother’s contributions during her life time.
EYES REMADE FOR WONDER
Healing of the past is an important function of remembering. Lawrence Kushner, author of the next book we will pick up on Monday afternoons and at the Sharing Table, addresses the power of redeeming the past in his book, Eyes Remade for Wonder.
THE HOLY SPARK WITHIN IT
We go down into ourselves with a flashlight – looking for the evil we have intended or done — not to excise it as some alien growth, but rather to discover the holy spark within it. We begin not by rejecting the evil but by acknowledging it as something we meant to do. This is the only way we can truly raise and redeem it.
. . . And during times of holiness, communion and light our personal and collective perversions creep out of the cellar, begging to be healed, freed and redeemed. . . .
RETURNING TO OUR SOURCE
Returning to our Source in Heaven, is not self-rejection or remorse but the healing that comes in telling ourselves the truth about our real intentions and, finally, self-acceptance. Not satisfaction or complacency; it does not mean that we are now proud of who we were or what we did, but it does mean that we have taken what we did back into ourselves, acknowledged it as part of ourselves. We have found its original motive, realized how it became disfigured, perhaps beyond recognition, made real apologies, done our best to repair the injury, but we no longer try to reject who we have been and therefore who we are, for even that is an expression of the Holy One of Being.
BANISHED CHILDREN TAKEN HOME AGAIN
We do not simply repudiate the evil we have done and sincerely mean never to do again, that is easy (we do it all the time). We receive whatever evils we have intended and done back into ourselves as our own deliberate creations. We cherish them as long banished children finally taken home again. And thereby transform them and ourselves.
Like a labyrinth, a 50th reunion is a liminal space, where we reach across time and space and make connection that is Holy. Elsie found redemption and healing, she became a little more whole by remembering and healing the past.
WALKING THE LABYRINTH THIS AFTERNOON
This afternoon, when we dedicate the ground for the labyrinth we will have an opportunity to walk the labyrinth. I plan to take a picture of my father with me as a way of using that liminal space to reach across time for healing and peace. The power of the past can be brought into the present by remembering.
ALL LIVE TO GOD
My prayer this morning as we read the roll of remembrance is that the goodness of the lives we remember will go on and on and on embodied in us and the people of faith who come after us. I also pray that in this remembering we can reach across space and time to help heal and redeem the past. Knowing that our God is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.