Sunday, November 10, 2019

God of the Living!


We are creatures of habit and it’s not all good. We are also creatures who tend to turn a blind eye or often see what we want to see.

We have ramps we are accessible church…yet becoming an accessible to all church “is as much about becoming attitudinally welcoming to people with disabilities and mental health issues as it is about working to make our buildings physically and programmatically accessible to persons with disability.”[1]

Questions get asked like …” why do we need to be a racial Justice Church?”  Then we hear the news of a group of people being asked to move because a prejudice man is uncomfortable…” I thought we were passed this” and yet it happens

Why do we need to be ONA “They can get married now” well it’s because people still use the word, they… or sit in a City council meeting and proclaim “they got a queer running for president!”

“Why do we need to be a wise congregation I have had an awful experience with someone with mental illness and I do not want to invite that here”  a person who has firsthand been affected by mental health issues writes on the WISE congregation gathering …”Being impacted myself by mental health conditions in my own family, I know these conferences do make a difference. It reduces the stigma about mental illness and increases our understanding of mental health conditions and how our congregations can respond. You will experience personal stories; receive practical steps to engage in a mental health ministry in your congregation; and be introduced to the WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged) Covenant for congregations for mental health.”[2]

It is about making sure how some people and congregations were or are adversely affected by mental health doesn’t happen again…it is about being proactive.

For many people these topics and many others feel dangerous, it is threatening to feel the world shift and move towards more accepting loving stances when somewhere in their heart they feel safe and want things to stay just the way they are.

“the people in the Gospel narrative could smell the danger in Jesus.  They needed only sniff the air around him, or notice the people who traveled with him to sense the threat.  They had life arranged about the best way it could be.”[3]

Life was arranged the best way it could be hmm in whose opinion? We have no need to change or grow.  We will just stay here and be the same way we always were because what we believed in the past is just as relevant today as it was then.

So, here is a group of people. Everyday good people and then along came Jesus, and along comes Jesus…” Everywhere Jesus went, by his words and by his acts he dismissed some of what people most treasured”[4]

This is not about people being evil, or bad, but about people afraid to lift up the new and the sacred which a bright light is being shined upon. They want to keep their well let’s call it what it is was…sacred cows. Refusing to open their hearts to see how love can transform old ways into something new and beautiful.

Throughout his chapter in Luke we are seeing those most threatened by Jesus.  Those who, by shifting to Christ’s way of love and moving in the world would require them to give up…Give up the but we always done it this way…Give up the “it’s my way or the highway” …Give up their ways of surviving by being unjust.  This would be the scribes, priests, elders, and Pharisees.

So, they are trying to trick Jesus with a series of questions to show he is either out of his mind and should not be paid attention too or that he is a danger to the system.  That he will disrupt the status qou and therefore is an enemy not just to the religious system but also to the public systems. So, they first asked him about his authority and then about if its ok to obey roman law.

Then we come to today where he is questioned by the Sadducees.

Walter Brueggemann reminds us that the Sadducees “are the big downtown priests who are cozy with governors and emperors and bankers. They traffic in power. They are the pushers and movers who have learned to compromise, and they know how to get things done. They realistically live in this world, as this is the only world there will be. It is Good as it can ever be, and we must keep it and maintain it. They do not want change, certainly not the kind that Jesus offers, they notice that ‘the people,’ the ones they try to keep in their place, are getting uppity around Jesus.”[5]
But you can’t say that out loud…you cannot proclaim we want to stay stagnant …we want to stay just where we are…we do not want change and more importantly we like our position of Authority and Supremacy for that would expose their own fears and their true intentions and so they hide it with theological questions.  They try to make Jesus an enemy of the Torah…” of the tradition, of the sacred trust of Moses, whereas they are the true conservatives who conserve the old conviction”[6]

Yikes talk about your back to Egypt committee….
So, these men twist an ancient law that is something absurd to even further absurdity…at least in this day and time…

Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10

When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man has no desire to marry his brother’s widow, then his brother’s widow shall go up to the elders at the gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.” Then the elders of his town shall summon him and speak to him. If he persists, saying, “I have no desire to marry her,” then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and declare, “This is what is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.” 10 Throughout Israel his family shall be known as “the house of him whose sandal was pulled off.”

This was about keeping lineage and making sure families didn’t die out technically this is a few pages before Moses’ final speech.

But we can hear how these traditionalists twist the writing and the law to make it into something it was never intended to be to try to trap Jesus. These men are the main group that do not believe in the resurrection.  Resurrection was a new concept sweeping the area and these men do not want change they do not believe that it is possible for the spirit of God to be stirring up something new and beautiful.   They believe the old ways and the old interpretations of the sacred scriptures are the best ways and well, all others are simply wrong.

In order to prove the concept of this newness in God is wrong they twist the scripture and ask if these seven brothers all have had the same wife and they are all raised from the dead (which they do not believe) who is married to her when they rise.

I am sure they are thinking ha-ha now we got him because this resurrection concept makes this law unworkable. It is very clever you see tradition makes doing new things unworkable.  Tradition says surely God would never allow something new and beautiful to violate our religious assumptions about how God works in this world or how we are called to work in this world.

“they sense, as Jesus surely knew, that resurrection is dangerous business. It is not just about the dead person being resuscitated. It is about God’s power for life that moves into all our arrangements, shatters all our categories by which we manage, control, and administer. It speaks about God’s will for new life”

New life and new things and new ways of being children of God.  This is scary stuff even to people today. Too some I am scary for just being a happily queer married Pastor.  To some being a person of color. Any color with an education is threatening because it threatens their white supremacy world. I mean I can go on but you hear it …right???

So, what does Jesus offer what does Jesus answer in this midst of fear and stagnation. Jesus tosses in a reference they understand Moses…wait a minute what is the book of Deuteronomy?  It is a speech of Moses reiterating the law and so Jesus throws Moses back at them at the very beginning of Moses ministry at a burning bush when Moses asks God who are you God says I Am, present tense Living moving God…ok…I am the God of The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, the and the God of Jacob…

Not I was the God of I am the God of present tense though these great figures of the past are gone from our sight they are not Gone from God the fact that the dead are raised is why Moses referred to these people this way so Jesus is actually saying…

The resurrected Life really isn’t a new concept at all but because our God is a living God and we are children of the resurrection we are seeing with new and renewing vision.

Our God doesn’t stop being this new thing.  God doesn’t stop offering new life…God is with us among us and enlightening us day by day. Helping us Grow and see a broader vision challenging us. each of us in different ways.  It is really kind of exciting.

We are a resurrection people and because we believe in a living God …we proclaim death is conquered “Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God being Children of the resurrection.”   So that even touches on our all saints celebration…

Brueggemann puts it this way Jesus is saying; “Of course there is a resurrection. Of course, there is a coming of a new age. Of course, the power for life will prevail. Of course, the world will not fit into our little categories. And this is true, not because of magic or tradition or Torah. It is true because of the character and purpose and faithfulness of God will make all things new.  And then he delivers his central message: Now he is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”[7]

So, you see this is the main crux of it God wills life.  God wants us to be a life-giving people and so we are constantly seeking new ways God is calling us to live.  How do reach out, out do we better serv?  How do we shift for the work is never done?  If we believe we have conquered our own traditions, moved past our all the margins and divisions that we have create then look further, for when one division falls…when one thing has been conquered, something new will come into our vision.

This is the challenge of living into a resurrected life.  This is the challenge of a lving God. A Living spirit. God walking with us , moving with us and moving us up into something bigger brighter and different. 
Some has said the church is dying …some has said that Churches all over will be shutting hteir doors…This is partly true.  The Church we once knew is dying.  The church that was always right no matter what is dying.

But there is new life in the church as it is discovering …that this place…our buildings..our becoming places of refuge and life for the communities beyond our walls.  We are unique in the fact that our community hall is a separate building from the sacnturary but it is how we build community.  It is how weare connected to the far flung edges of our community.  The community house is our face of the living God reaching beyond our walls and challengeing us to seek new ways to be the church to the community around us.

Simply by offering that space we are living the resurrected life and we will continue to grow and be challenged in many ways.

Let us breathe into our challenges.. .whatever they may be…and allow life to flow into us

That sacred life that is the living God
The God of the living!

[3] Brueggemann, Walter, Samuel Wells, and Thomas G. Long. The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. Pg. 159

[4] Ditto
[5] Ditto
[6] ditto
[7] Ditto 361

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