Hold On to Faith

Hold On to Faith


            x-wherever-2-gathered-3-opinionsFirst Century Israel was a rich mix of many different forms and practices of Judaism, sort like the old joke wherever there are two Jews there are three different opinions – an observation some folks might apply to United Church. In fact this week at the Sharing Table we shared with the confirmands the important truth that at United Church everyone is allowed to have their own theology, and somehow we all manage to live together in fellowship.

      In First Century Israel there were Sadducees and Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots, followers of John the Baptist, and many others. Each of these groups had an almost infinite variety of adherents. For instance the Pharisees were not a monolithic group. There were liberals and conservatives and Rabbis who were lumped into the movement although they had their own peculiar take on the law. Jesus probably would have been classified as a Pharisee, but a very liberal Pharisee, similar to the great Rabbi Hillel.


        x-eternal-life    On the subject of eternal life, there were a number of different opinions. In general the Sadducees taught there was no life after death – this life was it. What you see is what you get. Many Pharisees and others believed in an afterlife, and these opinions were hotly debated in the First Century. Although Jesus primarily called upon his followers to concentrate on realizing the Commonwealth of God in the here and now by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving and sharing with their neighbors at the Sharing Table as we would like to be treated ourselves, he also appears to have taught that God’s love for us continues after death.


          x-trick-question  In our scripture this morning several Priests in the Temple in a effort to trip Jesus up, posed to him a trick question. Suppose a woman was married one of seven brothers. Now also suppose her first husband died without leaving any children, and so according to the Law of Moses the woman was then married off to the next oldest brother who also died without leaving any children. (This was called Levirate Marriage.) And suppose according to the law the woman was married off to the next oldest brother. In those days you had to take a good look at man’s brothers before agreeing to marry him.

            Now suppose all of the brothers died without leaving any children, as they say all the brothers were shooting blanks, and further suppose the poor woman died before she could marry someone, who could actually produce children. “Now,” asked the Sadducees, “if you believe in the resurrection from the dead, who would the poor woman be married to in the afterlife, since she had been married to all seven brothers?


          x-in-gods-eyes-all-are-alive  Now Jesus recognized that his opponents were resorting to an absurd example in order to trip him up. So Jesus engaged in a creative example of Midrash. He pointed to the passage about Moses and the burning bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as if they were alive, for as Jesus concludes: “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”


        x-resurrection-not-a-reward    This morning on Remembrance Sunday I want to call our attention to Jesus’ creative Midrash. God is not God of the dead, but of the living; for to him all are alive. Now I have heard some people claim that it is somehow more noble to live without believing in the resurrection, because then you do the good you do without any promise of reward. Resurrection according to Jesus, at least, is not a reward. God’s love for us persisting beyond death is simply the way life is. God loves us no matter what. So any comfort we may derive from knowing that God does not abandon us in death is not a reward it is an affirmation of the goodness of God and the eternal nature of God’s love.


           x-death-makes-our-moments-precious As I grow older I recognize the comfort of God’s love is there for a reason. Life is bitter sweet. Without death life would have no meaning no urgency. Life would become one long emptiness. Death makes our moments precious. I now marvel that in my youth I played solitaire to pass the time, not knowing when I was young how priceless were those minutes I was wasting. Do not waste a moment, but know that God stands ready to redeem the time. In the end God takes all of the moments of our days and holds them for us to consecrate them.


x-timeAnd so I am reminded of a poem by Michel Quoist a French priest and poet:

You who are beyond time, Lord, you smile to see us fighting it.

And you know what you are doing.

You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to people.

You give each one time to do what you want him to do.

But we must not lose time, waste time, kill time,

For time is a gift that you give us, but a perishable gift,

A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time, I have plenty of time,

All the time that you give me,

The years of my life, the days of my years, the hours of my days.

They are all mine.

Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,

But to fill completely, up to the brim.

To offer them to you, that of their insipid water you may make a rich

wine as you made once in Galilee.

I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then that,

but your grace to do conscientiously, in the time that you give,

what you want me to do.


x-god-redeems-the-timeGod forgives the hours we waste in our youth. We did not know. We did not realize what a precious resource we allowed to slip through our fingers. One of the promises of resurrection is that God redeems the time, and takes us home, where we cannot be separated from God’s eternal love. In this truth I take comfort.


x-the-power-of-memoryI also take comfort in the increasing realization that loved ones who have gone on before me are not that far away. For one thing their DNA lives on in us. But more than that they live in my memory, and memory is powerful. The central act of worship in our faith is based on the power of memory, do this whenever you remember me. We follow the way of Jesus and in the bread and the wine at the Sharing Table Jesus comes alive in us. We become the eyes the ears, the hands, the feet of Jesus in the world. All based on the power of memory.


x-feelcloser-to-our-parentsAs I grow older I especially find myself feeling closer to my parents. One reason I draw closer to them is I no longer need to separate out from them. One of the tasks we undertake in adolescence is our need to individuate, to become independent, to define ourselves differently from our parents. As we grow older and our parents die, we no longer need to push back to assert our independence. We may even come to a point of compassionate understanding knowing why our parents acted as they did. Sometimes we can even acknowledge that they did the best they could with what they had.


x-youve-got-a-friendSometimes after our parents are gone we speak and surprise ourselves, when we hear our parents coming out of our mouths. People whom we have loved and who have loved us are never very far away. I’m reminded of the Carol King song, “You’ve Got a Friend.”

When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand and nothing, oh, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights. You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.


x-never-far-awayOn this remembrance Sunday allow ME to remind you that we all have friends, who have gone home to be with God before us. Those friends, loved ones, are never very far away. And that is why today we call out their names, we lift up their memories, so we might be comforted by their presence.


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