The Life to Come
Proper 27, Year C, RCL, Track 1
Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38
God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites I AM has sent me to you. I AM “the Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham
, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” (1)
This phrase “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” has been repeated between God and Moses at least four times in the first five chapters of the book of Exodus. We often read this as God establishing the longevity of his covenant with the Hebrew people. God is the same God in the past, in the present, and God will be with you into the future as you depart from Egypt. Yet Jesus says there is more. Since God speaks in the present tense, I am the God of Isaac. I am the God of Jacob, Jesus tells us that these patriarchs are still alive. They are raised from the dead, like angels and they are children of God.
Our Gospel opens today with the Sadducees offer a question in an attempt to trap Jesus. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. Whatever answer Jesus gave about the woman in the afterlife didn’t matter. Whether she is married in the afterlife or not, if his answer spoke about resurrection they would know that Jesus was against their view. What Jesus does with his answer is twofold. First, Jesus doesn’t deny that there is a resurrection. Actually, he seems to embrace the idea. Jesus uses the words of God in exodus to demonstrate that the people of the past, who have long since died, are still in relationship with God and that these relationships are still important to God.
God forms relationships with all people which is strengthened by our responses to God’s love for us. Through the waters of baptism and our faith in Christ, this bond is indelible. It is also though our faith and experiences of God that we pass this love on to our spouse or children and in one way or another to all the people we meet. We build relationships. With some effort, these relationships are strengthened through trust and love. Over time, these relationships feel so permanent that we cannot imagine not having the other person in our life. What parent could give up on their child no matter what they have done? And when we lose someone we love, we tend to project these feelings into the afterlife as well.
Throughout my life, I have often thought of my father who died when I was very young. I look forward to the time when I will meet him and be held in his loving arms. I imagine that many of you may have similar feelings about the people you have lost in your life; whether a parent, spouse, or anyone else. We know the love we had for each other, the hole that is left in our heart and we look forward to the day when we are reunited. We see ourselves picking up the relationship where we left off. But here is where the second part of Jesus’ answer comes in.
In our resurrection, we are not the same person we are here on earth. We are made anew, recreated like angels. Our relationship with God will be complete in every way and the constraints of this world, the constructs of our society will be meaningless; like marriage for example. Jesus says we will not be married in the next life. As we experience the full love of God and for each other, marriage will be meaningless as I’d imagine will our familial ties. This doesn’t mean that your spouse or parents will love you any less. It simply means that we will now love one another in such a complete way that the things we hold onto here on earth; the hooks we need to establish and maintain our relationships; the things that link us together become much less important. The desires we have, the needs that we want fulfilled, will be made complete through the fullness of God's love and the love of one another. We will not have the need to desire the way we do in our earthly life.
Think of the unity of God in the Trinity. Three persons in constant motion; a mutually loving relationship; diversity between each person yet they come together as one. This will be the understanding we will have with each other in the next life. Each of us remains uniquely individual while at the same time we have unity in our love for one another. We will have a fulfilled relationship with God and everyone else.
God’s love is the equalizing force that brings all things together. In the kingdom to come, we will not have the haves and have-nots. People divided by nationality or race. Who we are married to or related to doesn’t matter; for God’s justice will prevail. This is the kingdom that we pray will come. Our bodies will die and on the last day, we will be resurrected. This is as true today as it was in ages past. God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is the “God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." And we are alive now and into the future.
1) Exodus 13:15