Sunday, November 11, 2007

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, November 11, 2007, Luke 20:27-40

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question. (Luke 20:27-40, ESV)

(from a Sermon by Rev. Douglas Irmer, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 17, part 4, series C.)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, this is one of those texts that we don’t necessarily like what Jesus has to say. Jesus says in the age to come after the resurrection of the dead, there won’t be marriage. Now I don’t know about you but I kinda like being married, and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll be able to be happy in eternity happy without being married to my spouse. There are lots of people, including quite a few pastors who will tell you that it’s ok to not believe what Jesus says here. You can pick an choose what you want to believe about the bible. In a way just cut out what I don’t like about scripture. Well, after all, that’s exactly what the Sadducees did. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead at all. They were educated people. Dead people coming back to life was a bit beyond reasonable thinking. Have you ever seen a really dead person come back to life? Neither had they, so, they simply set aside that part of God’s Word and didn’t believe it. They thought they had it all figured out. They thought that they could embarrass Jesus by hitting him with impeccable logic. In reality they are guilty of a significant sin. They don’t want God’s kingdom to come the way that God has defined it, they want it to come the way that they want it to come. Their problem isn’t simply trying to understand God’s Word from a different perspective, their problem is unbelief.

The question they are asking here is “How does God’s kingdom come?” Or maybe we could think of the question this way. “How do we make God’s Kingdom what we want it to be?” They don’t believe what God, the Father says about the resurrection, so they don’t believe anything God, the Father, tells them. You see they don’t really want a god to tell them what they have to believe, they want a god who will agree with what they believe. The god that will do that is the god of self. They have actually made themselves into god.

Now that’s us too. We want there to be marriage after the resurrection. We want to be with our spouse the same way we are now, except forever. We want God to do things the way we want God to do things. That’s making ourselves god instead of letting God be God. You and I are guilty of this sin, and not just about marriage. We want God to let us worship however we want to worship, with whoever we want to worship, and for worship to mean what we want it to mean instead of what God says it is. We want God to stay in the church on Sunday morning and stay out of my Saturday night, but especially out of my check book. We want to leave ‘spiritual’ things to the preacher and old women. We want to pick up God when we need him.

Jesus has something to say about this. Perhaps that’s why when he teaches us to pray he tells us to pray “Our Father.” A father has a specific job to do with his children. A father is a specific person. A father has a specific relationship to his children. When we call God, Our Father, we are saying specific things about him. One of those things is that He is God and the kingdom is His. “Thy kingdom come.” It’s God’s kingdom. He is the one who set it up to be the way he wants it to be. Eternity with God will be great because of God. It won’t be great because we get what we want there, but because God will give us everything we need. Right now our eyes are so corrupted by sin, and selfishness that we don’t understand the difference between what we need and what we want.

Martin Luther understood the question “How does God’s Kingdom come” this question very well. He asks it in the Catechism. In confirmation class you may have memorized it. It’s in the hymnal on p 302. You might want to turn there and read it with me.

Thy Kingdom come.
What does this mean?
The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God's kingdom come?
God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

Look at what Jesus is saying as explained by Luther. God’s kingdom comes through the work of God in the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of faith. We can’t make it. We can’ control it. We can’t make it to be what we want it to be. In fact, what God says it is sometimes seems silly to us, or just plain wrong. Why can’t I be married in the Kingdom? How can people actually come back from the dead? Why aren’t all people saved?

The Old Testament reading today talks about God sending Moses to retrieve his people from slavery in Egypt. Even in their bondage they continued to grow in numbers. These people tried to bring about God’s kingdom there in Egypt in their own way, but it couldn’t be done. God did it in his own way through Moses and the ten plagues, and the crossing of the Red Sea. He delivered his people from their slavery. God delivers us from our slavery to sin in His own way too. It’s just that God’s ways are sometimes difficult for us to understand.

Every day God gives us wonderful gifts, all that we need to support this body and life. He gives us all we need for His kingdom to grow. We think that we have to make it grow. We look for changed lives. We look for numbers. We look at church budgets. We want God’s kingdom to show in a way that we can see. We want the visible evidence. When we do this we are falling into the same sin that the Sadducees were guilty of. We want God’s kingdom to be what we want it to be, instead of what God has actually made it to be.

Look at what the Sadducees were doing. They were pretending to care about the Law of God, but they didn’t believe what God was saying. They thought their example of seven brothers proved their point about the resurrection because it made a situation comedy marriage in eternal life. “A woman can hardly live with one husband, how can she live with seven!” We do the same. We think that numbers make the kingdom. We shouldn’t measure God’s presence among us according to attendance, or budget, church activity. That’s our work, and our work can’t make God’s kingdom come. God’s kingdom comes in spite of our efforts, solely because God gives it, and makes it grow.

And there is only one way that God’s kingdom comes and grows. That is through our Lord Jesus Christ. When he was born he was visited by wise men. They were looking for the King of the Jews. When Jesus was on trial, Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. Jesus said yes. Pilate didn’t believe him. The men who shouted to have him killed didn’t believe him. Centuries of people have looked at a bloody bleeding, dying man on the cross only in sympathy, missing the most important thing about him. Hanging on the cross bleeding and dying didn’t change the truth of what Jesus said. The sign that was placed above him was meant to mock him, yet it told the truth. “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”

Jesus blood flowed from the holes that were made in his hands and feet by the nails that held him on the cross. That blood is the blood of the Son of God, the true King of the Jews. That blood is the precious blood of God himself and yet he was not recognized for who he really was. The Sadducees refused to believe God. The people who mocked Jesus on the cross refused to believe God. But that unbelief didn’t make the truth any less true. Jesus blood was shed for you and for me. Jesus blood was shed for the sins of the whole world. That’s the coming of God’s kingdom. God brought it in his own way, in his own time.

God still does the same. His kingdom comes his way and in his time. He makes his kingdom grow, not through church budgets, or even special fund raising events, but through His Word and Sacraments. Many people don’t believe that to be true. We here in this place even, tend to forget or doubt it. People think that God’s Kingdom must come in noble social activity. They think that it must come in making the world a better place, solving all the evils of the world. Eating bread and drinking wine, pouring water over the head of a humble infant, sitting listening to God’s Word preached, aren’t important enough ways for God’s kingdom to come. But that is God’s way. Through these simple things he works through the Holy Spirit. He brings faith to people. He causes faith to grow. That faith clings to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And that’s how God’s Kingdom comes. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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