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    Nov 10, 2019

    The 22nd Sundat after Pentecost

    Passage: Luke 20:27-38

    Preacher: The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin

    Series: Year C: 2019-2020

    Category: Pentecost

    Detail:

    We don’t talk about death enough.

    And I’ve been given the pulpit this morning,

    so I’m going to do my part to change that.

     

    Now, I can’t remember the source of this,

    but I remember reading a commentary about death about 10 or so years ago,

    and the author made the point that one of the biggest cultural shifts since the Victorian age,

    is how we deal with death and sex.

     

    It used to be that during the Victorian age,

    people did death in public and sex in private.

    Now, it seems to be the opposite.

    Our entertainment and conversations are rife with talk and imagery about sex,

    but we deal with the realities of death and dying in private,

    as though we’re the only ones who are going to die.

     

    Which, as best I can tell, isn’t the case.

    We’re going to die.

     

    And that is precisely why I like our readings this morning.

    Because they both talk about death as though it is real.

     

    Job, in our first reading,

    is literally talking about his own death.

    In fact, he’s not only talking about his death,

    but he’s talking about his death

    in the context of the pain he has experienced.

     

    As Ellen Davis writes,

    “The book of Job is about human pain;

    but it is also about theology, the work of speaking about God.

    In the last chapter, God takes the friends to task, saying, ‘You have not spoken accurately about me, as has my servant Job’ (42:7).

    Here God is pointing obliquely to what is so remarkable about this book.

    It shows us a person in the sharpest imaginable pain, yet speaking accurately about God.

    Job gives us immeasurably more than a theology of suffering. 

     

    It gives us the theology of a sufferer. 

     

    In it we hear authoritative speech about God that comes from lips taut with anguish.

     

    From this book above all others in scripture

     

    we learn that the person in pain is a theologian of unique authority.

     

    The sufferer who keeps looking for God has, in the end, privileged knowledge.

    The one who complains to God,

    pleads with God,

    rails at God,

    does not let God off the hook for a minute—

    they are at last admitted to a mystery.

    They pass through a door that only pain will open,

    and is thus qualified to speak of God in a way that others,

    whom we generally call more fortunate,

    cannot speak.[1]

     

    And so through Job’s pain,

    through Job’s unbelievable,

    and seemingly unrelentless experience of pain, and sadness, and suffering,

    we see a man who speaks about hope in death.

     

    “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

    and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God,

    whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another."

     

    That is Job’s theology of death.

    And it’s one we still proclaim in our own Burial Service in the Episcopal Church.

    It’s a theology that points to redemption.

    It’s a theology that highlights the saving work of God,

    which we believe is evident in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

     

    So what I want to do this morning,

    is connect Job’s theology of death,

    and what little bit of it we have this morning,

    with Jesus’ theology of death, and what little bit of it we have this morning.

    Because I love the dance that the two seem to do.

     

    On the one hand,

    you have Job speaking about an experience that is yet to come,

    and on the other,

    you have Jesus speaking about a reality that is BOTH,

    already and not yet.

     

    I’ll say that again, because it sounded so good to me.

    On the one hand,

    you have Job speaking about an experience that is yet to come,

    and on the other, you have Jesus speaking about a reality that is BOTH,

    already and not yet.

     

    Job is speaking about what he believes through faith WILL happen.

    That at the last his redeemer WILL stand upon the earth.

    That he WILL see God,

    and that he will see him not as a stranger, but as a friend.

    Job is speaking about a God of the dead.

     

    Jesus, on the other hand,

    is arguing with a group of Sadducees,

    who don’t believe in resurrection.

     

    I’m embarrassed by this,

    but the way I was taught to remember the difference

    between Pharisses and Sadducees,

    was that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection,

    but the others didn’t, so they were Sad, you see….

    I know… it’s not good.

     

    Anyway, Jesus is arguing with the Sadducees,

    who are trying to trip him up with what they view as a trick question,

    asking which of the woman’s deceased husbands will be her husband in heaven.

     

    And instead of answering the question they’re asking,

    Jesus, as he is want to do,

    flips the paradigm.

    He says,

    woah woah woah, you’ve got the whole model wrong.

    Resurrection isn’t about continuing what is,

    resurrection is about something altogether new.

    Resurrection is about being alive in God.

    AND, Jesus goes on to say that because of that reality,

    because resurrection is about being alive in God,

    God is no longer the God of the dead,

    but the God of the living.

     

    That’s powerful stuff.

    And it’s powerful,

    because it’s a reminder that I don’t need to wait for the Jobian “last day,”

    to experience resurrection.

    Jesus begins with their question about a theology of death,

    and turns it into a theology of life.

     

    He invites us into a shift of consciousness,

    where instead of thinking about resurrection solely in terms of death and dying,

    we are invited to think of it in terms of life. Here. And now.

     

    Resurrection is something that is happening already,

    Resurrection, is happening all around us.

    And through resurrection,

    we are invited into a new way of being in relationship.

     

    With one another,

    with ourselves,

    and with God.

     

    The problem is that most of the time, we can’t access it.

    Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    But we often can’t experience it because of the things we have blocking the way.

    Sometimes, like the Sadducees, it’s because we come to God already telling him what we aren’t willing to believe.

    None of you know anything about that, right?

    None of us ever approach Jesus leading with the things we aren’t going to do, right?

    None of us ever approach God already sure of the things we aren’t going to believe, right?

    None of us come to church, certain about what we aren’t going to give up, right?

    I think that’s what happens when we begin to experience resurrection.

    We start bargaining.

    Not because we do not want it.

    Not because it isn’t good.

    But because resurrection is so overwhelming and powerful.

    Because resurrection asks us to completely change our perception of ourselves,

    Because resurrection asks us to completely change our perception of the world.

     

    Not just for the followers of Jesus then, but now.

    And that’s hard work.

    But if that’s work you want to do, here’s how you do it.

    Stop thinking of resurrection as “not yet,”

    and start thinking of it as “already.”

     

    Start exploring the places in your life that are shut off and need spaciousness.

    Start exploring the places in your life that are dark and need light.

    Start exploring the places in your life where you have experienced death and need life.

    Start exploring the places in your life where you have experienced loss and need abundance.

    Start exploring the places in your life where you have felt shame, and guilt,

    and sadness and frustration, and need forgiveness and freedom.

    Because that is where God dwells.

     

    And a lot of you here this morning need to hear this.

    Guys, if you’re looking for someone to tell you that it’s safe to believe in resurrection,

    listen to me when I say that it is.

    God knows you, and loves you, and created you in his image,

    and is with you, closer than you can imagine,

    waiting with eager anticipation for you to experience resurrection.

    Waiting for you to experience new life,

    and in turn, serve as a witness of new life to others.

     

    This is what Jesus, the Christ, points us toward.

    As Cynthia Bourgeault puts it,

    Jesus’ mission was to show us how to grow beyond our animal instincts of survival,

    and our egoic operating systems,

    into the joy and generosity of full human personhood.[2]

    Resurrection is about liberation.

    And liberation means freedom.

     

    The invitation to new life is ours!

    The invitation to live freely, is ours!

    And we don’t have to wait until we die.

     

    The Christian promise isn’t just that resurrection is real,

    but the things that stand in our way of experiencing resurrection,

    the things that that keep us separated from one another,

    the things that keep us separated from our true selves,

    the things that keep us separated from God,

    the pain and struggles that Job and we experience

    do not have the last word.

     

    THAT is the good news of the Gospel.

    Not just that Jesus lives,

    but that we can too.

    We are the ones who carry into the world the powerful truth of the resurrection.

    We are the proof of the resurrection.

    Amen

     

     

    Additional source:

    (https://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2010/11/gift-he-brings)

     

     

     

     

    [1] Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament p.122

    [2] The Wisdom Jesus, p. 106