The 25th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 27C 11/10/2013)

Lessons:Job 19:23–27a Psalm 17:1–9 (8) 2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, 13–17 St. Luke 20:27–38

Semicontinuous Series: Haggai 1:15b—2:9 Psalm 145:1–5, 17–21 (3) or Psalm 98 (9)

Prayer of the Day: O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts. Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment. Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

20.27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “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. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 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. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 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. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

[39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question.]

St. Luke 20:27–38. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Children of God; Children of the Resurrection

The Sadducees are central to this week’s Gospel. I won’t ever think of them again without thinking of Pastor Hank Sickinger, a member of this congregation until his death in 2009. Hank used to say, “The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. That’s why they were sad, you see.”

The Sadducees were a sub-group within Judaism during the time of Jesus. They had various roles in first century society, including the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is said that their name comes from Tzadok, one of their ancestors who served in the first Temple. The name Tzadok is related to the Hebrew word צָדַק (ṣādaq), which means to be right, or to be justified. They may have thought of themselves as right with God, but as Hank would remind us, they were not believers in the resurrection.

Their refusal to believe in the resurrection is what seems to be at the heart of today’s Gospel lesson, but that is because we’re only tending to a small part of the story. It begins at 20:20, where we read that the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, “watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.” This dishonest attempt to discredit Jesus is covered in the verses that follow as they attack him over taxes and heaven, and as he challenges them on their understanding of King David and their responsibility towards the widows in their community. After every exchange, they are aware that their efforts have been unsuccessful, and they retreat in shame.

It is an indication that Jesus’ ministry among them is making a difference. He is proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He is healing bodies, refreshing souls and forgiving sins. He is welcoming his listeners into new life, and restoring them to a right (ַצָדַק — ṣādaq) relationship with God. It is life-changing for those whose hearts are being touched by his message, but it is a deep threat to those who can’t perceive this new work that God is accomplishing in Jesus; including these Sadducees, who join with chief priests, scribes and elders in opposition to what he is doing.

And so they do what religious adherents too often do: they attack. They try to trap him in his words. They try to discredit him with the people. They deal with him dishonestly, hoping that it will lead to an opportunity for them to hand him over to the authorities. (Observers of our own times will recognize these patterns…)

Yet none of their abuse deters Jesus. He continues to proclaim the Kingdom. He continues to heal, refresh, forgive, welcome and restore. He continues to offer the gift of God’s grace in every meeting, every conversation, every afternoon of teaching. To the questioning doubter and the life-long believer; to the religious outsider and the religious official; even to these Sadducees! All are invited to become children of God; to become children of the resurrection. For what we see in Jesus is this: “We are all welcomed into the love of God… just as we are.”

This, ultimately, is the gift Christ calls us to share. Not a sure-fire answer to every theological question that is thrown our way. But a loving invitation to become a child of God; a child of the resurrection. May we be bold and faithful as we seek to join Christ in making this invitation.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are these religious officials so intent on silencing Jesus?
  2. What do they hope to accomplish with their question about resurrection?
  3. How does Jesus turn their assault into an invitation?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I noticed present-day believers attacking, discrediting and dealing dishonestly?
  2. When have I noticed present-day believers inviting others, in love, to experience Christ?
  3. How might I welcome others to experience our life-giving God, so that they might come to know the power of the resurrection?