The following sermon was preached by Emily Ewing, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, November 14, 2013.
Luke 20 : 27-38; Job 19 : 23-27a
A reading from Luke.
27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 3
4Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Job 19 : 23-27a
A reading from Job.
23“O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
24O that with an iron pen
and with lead
they were engraved
on a rock
25For I know
that my Redeemer lives,
and will at the last
stand upon the earth;
26and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh
I shall see God,
27whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold,
and not another.
Word of God, Word of Life. Thanks be to God.
The ironic thing about today’s readings is not just that Job’s words are in fact written down and in a book—though I can’t speak for the rocks. It’s also that for readings about resurrection and eternal life, the people doing the talking and the asking don’t actually believe in it! The text—and whomever you have or had for Jesus and the Gospels—tells us that the Sadducees, who are asking about the resurrection, don’t even believe in it.
As for Job, as Dr. Klein taught us and will soon teach those of you in Pentateuch, his claim to knowing that his Redeemer lives is not actually about eternal life or Resurrection. And yet, as a church, our focus can so easily be eternal life that we neglect this life here and now. And maybe that’s so we don’t have to face the struggle of this life here and now.
In our reading Job is struggling a bit—to put it lightly—at this point. He’s lost just about everything—except his wife and servants and food source—ok, so maybe not everything, but he’s had a rough go of it lately.
And I don’t know about y’all, but at this point in the semester, Job is feeling pretty relatable to me. I have so much class work, I still haven’t been to the mosque like I said I wanted to after the Hyde Park immersion my first year, and while I may be approved, I still have plenty of paperwork to do for first call—or maybe it’s CPE, or internship, or MIC.
Perhaps it’s something else for you. Perhaps the culture of busy-ness at LSTC is wearing you down—all those lunches spent pouring over Greek or Hebrew—or even German—instead of being able to talk about life with those around you.
Perhaps it’s this feeling that you don’t quite fit in—that nobody understands you, that you have to wear a mask just to get by here, because if somebody knew the real you, they might tell your candidacy committee!
Or maybe the news is getting to you—so much destruction in the Philippines last week, violence in our own city, 60,000 head of cattle—so many people’s livelihoods—lost to an awful snow storm in South Dakota last month, more public and unapologetic racism by those who ought to know better, destruction of the environment—of Creation who gives us birth and life—and the injustices are not just on the news, but also in our lives. They keep piling up to the point that just putting one foot in front of another is all that you can handle.
Maybe it’s worry about family—far off—in another country, in another state, nearby, almost here, already gone, or still a dream.
Life is overwhelming. Seminary perhaps more so, and somehow in the midst of all of this we’re also supposed to find time for relationships and sharing stories with others, self-care, a job, stewardship, discernment, time management, volunteering, challenging and overcoming injustice in all its forms, worship!, learning from those who are not like us, oh, and did I mention eating good meals and getting 8 hours of sleep a night?
What hope is there when life feels so crazy and overwhelming right now? When the light at the end of the tunnel is really just the sign announcing the next tunnel?
That’s where I’ve been stuck for a while. But then yesterday something happened—well, a couple somethings.
During lunch with a friend, I was reminded that we are an already and not yet people. We know that the end has already been decided even as it has not yet been fulfilled. And so even when our present reality can be a struggle to get through, we catch glimpses of the already that we long for—glimpses of our Redeemer, standing at the last that is this moment.
We get moments, like yesterday during the American Indian/Alaska Native Symposium as Janelle Adair taught some of us to make baskets, and everything else seemed to just slip away; when the meditative focus of weaving the basket together erases the homework, the papers, and the stress of life and we could just be—in that moment, together.
Or later, when Choogie Kingfisher told us stories and we sat together, we listened, and we learned why dogs sniff each other’s tails when they meet and we learned also of Dr. Vine Deloria, Jr., for whom the symposium will be named tonight, a brilliant person who lifted up Native spiritualities and their connections to life and Creation that we as Christians can so easily forget.
It also happens here. When we come to this place each day—this place of refuge—desperately in need of Good News, dipping our fingers in the cool water that flows from the font, making the sign of the cross, and finding our place. When the bell chimes and we rise to sing. In the silence of words read, heard, proclaimed, and reflected on. In the peace shared, in the weekly feast of bread and wine, and in the waters—always in the waters that keep flowing. God is a God of the living who wants life for us. She invites us into the already, giving us a glimpse of redemption and resurrection in the midst of our not yets.
In this place and in these moments, God invites us to live into the reality that in Christ God triumphs over all the powers that try to overwhelm us.
We are an already-not yet people. God’s redemption has already come in Jesus the Christ, and yet we await that final day, living in our not yet, knowing the end. We know that God wins and that we are not beholden to those things that threaten to overwhelm us, and so we get to live into the already in this not yet time. God invites us to life now, and we get to live into those glimpses of the already—those moments when we know that our Redeemer lives and that God is the God not of the dead, but of the living. We get to choose whether or not to buy into the busy-ness mentality of our culture and our community here.
God invites us into the already—into the already of relationships, of moments of meditative basket-making that erase all papers and projects and stresses from our minds, of stick-ball, music, and more stories today at the Symposium and another Luther Bowl game tonight, of stories shared into the wee hours of the morning, of worship in this place, and of our baptisms. You, beloved child of God, are invited. God, who is God not of the dead, but of the living, invites you, each of you, into the already of your baptisms and the already way of life.