11/10/13, Living Eternity Now

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

So what is going to happen to you after you die?

Life after death is a big part of the Christian conversation.  For many people, it has become the reason for living what we call “the Christian life.”  Christians give mental assent to the saving work of Jesus on the cross so that by believing in his sacrificial death and resurrection, they will someday join Jesus and God and all the angels and saints in heaven.  Along the way Christians try to be morally good people so that they can avoid whatever alternative there might be to heaven. 

The  Christian story affirms this: Jesus was God in human flesh.  His perfect life allowed him to overcome the power of death so completely that he shook off the chains of the grave and once and for all came back to life.  This resurrection was a different kind of being raised from the dead than the gospel stories where Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb or took the hand of Jairus’ daughter and bid her wake up from death.  These human people died again at some point.  Christian teaching however, says that Jesus not only walked out of the tomb and ate fish with his friends and showed them his mortal wounds.  He ascended into heaven where “he sits at the right hand of the father; he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  So for 2000 years we have been taught to think of this life as a preparation for the next life.

Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings call us to consider “resurrection.”   People have long been concerned about what happens after we die.  What is life all about if we are here for a short span of time and then-  poof!  We are not here.  Where are we?  Where have the zillions of people gone after they die?  And what about all the human emotions of love and hate that have so shaped our earthly lives?  Do they not matter at all in the end?

In today’s Gospel reading, the Sadducees who pose the question about marriage in the afterlife represent a sect of ancient Judaism that did not believe in an afterlife.  They were strict Torah adherents. Since no concept of life after death is mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament, for the Sadducees there was no such thing as resurrection.  But they knew about the law that stated a brother was responsible to marry another brother’s widow, so as to assure a heritage of children to care for her. If there was such a thing as a resurrection, they asked, how would God resolve this problem in heaven of many husbands for one wife? Jesus pointed out that in the life to come, there is no need for such human laws.  In this way he does away with the Sadducees attempt to make him look foolish.

The real point of Jesus’ answer in this story is that the concept of death as humans think of it is erroneous.  He gives the example of Moses calling out the names of earlier Hebrew figures in his burning bush prayer to God.  Those who have been known and loved by us in the past are with God today just as surely as we are.  Jesus says simply, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.   All are alive to God.”  If we get stuck on thinking that the importance of this life is to resolve the question of where we will end up in eternity, we miss out on the living of this present moment.  Jesus wanted to teach people that life is all about living the eternal NOW.  He invites us to be part of the ongoing experience of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Kingdom of Heaven, he said, is among you.

I’d like to invite you into a modern day perspective of a scientist who engages with some classic poetry in considering this question. (Auguries of Innocence, William Blake)

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

 And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

 Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

 And Eternity in an hour.

Connect to http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/03/27/174647716/how-to-see-the-world-in-a-grain-of-sand

The disciples wanted instruction from Jesus about how to increase their faith.  We’ve been noticing that Jesus gives the disciples the answers to these questions as they go along their life journey with him.  Jesus’ teaching is always about investing what little faith one has in specific actions like gratitude, perseverance, humility and repentance.  Today we learn that the faith life is really all about investing ourselves in living the eternal NOW.  Resurrection is about an ongoing experience of discarding the things that hold us back from experiencing God’s life in this present moment.  We don’t have to wait until death takes us to some other world. We are immersed in the reality of God right now.  The point of a life of faith is simply to live it, moment to moment, with repentance, with humility, with perseverance and with gratitude. 

 by Sandi DeMaster