November 6, 2016
In which we consider the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. Preached at St. Peter’s Comox.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
The Sadducees did not. They found the idea laughable. A joke not supported by the Torah. And so to try and show how right they were, and how laughable Jesus was in his teaching, they asked a rather facetious question.
In undergrad, after class one day, I was walking to the library. Some classmates were walking with me and one of them-Ginny-asked: “So since Jesus rose from the dead, does that mean you Christians worship a zombie? Like a zombie king?”
My classmates laughed.
“No I don’t think that’s it Ginny. I think we believe that Jesus rose from the dead-conquering death for us. In the end we share in the hope of the resurrection as Christians”
Ginny pushed again: “Right, so the Christian hope is to be a zombie like Jesus your zombie king!”
My classmates laughed.
To this world the resurrection of the dead is beyond imagination. It is something laughable. It is something worthy of ridicule. But for us as Christians the resurrection is our hope. To the world the resurrection is perturbed and disturbed. It is like a wife with seven husbands in the mind of the Sadducees. It is like the zombie apocalypse in the mind of Ginny. Yet we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
To Job’s friends his suffering was the whole story. They knew all they needed to know. It all made perfect sense. Job had sinned and God was punishing him. End of story. So when Job cried out to reason with God about what was happening his friends stepped in to explain God to Job, to defend God. But in the depth of his pain and confusion Job proclaims “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end I will see God with my own eyes.” To Job, God lives. To Job God is the God of the living. Of course Job does see God with his own eyes in the Old Testament narrative and Job’s confidence in God is fulfilled. It turns out God does not need Bildad and Eliphaz and Zophar’s defense.
We hear these words not only as the original narrative but as one fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. We hear also the resonance of our resurrection hope. In that intense pain we hear Job proclaim “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, with my own eyes, I and not another!” What would it mean if in the depth of our pain, our anxiety, our insecurity and our sense of being overwhelmed…what would it mean in THAT place to confidently look to the resurrection? Like Job what might it be like to have our hearts yearn within us to see God in our flesh?
We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
The Thessalonians were so preoccupied with their expectation of the resurrection that they let false prophecies cause them trouble more than once. In THIS particular instance someone has told them that Jesus has already come back and that they missed it. How do you think they reacted? They panicked! So Paul reminds them not to be anxious or tossed about by false prophecies. The world to come and the resurrection of the dead will come according to God’s will and in his time.
Paul then gives this list of all these things that are going to happen before the resurrection, we see one of them in the reading. Now some of you have commented on my being young. I am not so young that I have not heard this text applied as zealously and anxiously to Obama as well as to Bush. I spent a lot of time parsing this text and looking to the words of minds far greater than mine who have poured over it and attempted to interpret it. Let me just say that there is a lack of consistency in interpretation. And so I caution you in receiving this text: do not be anxious or let any teaching around this unsettle you. Hold fast to these words as you hold on to your hope in the resurrection: trusting that God purposes all good things for his elect.
Remember what it means to trust in the resurrection. We are being made God’s children, born of the new life. We will no longer die for we are being made like the angels. The things of this world no longer have hold over us for we are being set free from attachments to the world on its terms. We are being lifted up to new life where God shall shine in us like the dawn. Let the world laugh. For ours is the God of the living and to him we are made alive.
For we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.