Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of End Times: Saints Triumphant (November 13, 2016)

LUKE 20:27-38

WE LOOK FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD AND THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME.

In the name + of Jesus.

      We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  Out of love, he made this world and all that is in it for mankind to care for and to enjoy.  Out of love for you, he put you in this world at the specific time and place he wanted you to be.  God owed none of this to anyone.  It is all by his grace.  It is all because God is love.
     God put you in this world, and he has not designed you to be disposable.  To God, no person's life is disposable.  While it is true that every person has a day when he will die, no one is disposable.  God created Adam and Eve to be people whom he would love forever.  So it is with you.  When you die, you do not evaporate.  No soul is annihilated.  The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)  The body returns to dust, but that is not how God designed it to be.  Death is the result of sin's curse, not God's design.  God loves what he has created.  You are not disposable.  Therefore, God redeemed what he has created so that death is not the end for you.  Though the body goes to the grave, the grave must give up its dead.  On the Last Day, we will see what we believe: We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. (Nicene Creed)
     Not everyone believes in the resurrection of the body.  The Sadducees didn't.  They were the temple priests.  They did not believe in angels, spirits, or any resurrection.  They limited their concerns to the here and now.  So when they came to Jesus to ask about the resurrection from the dead, it was not out of curiosity.  It was mockery.  The Sadducees presented Jesus with a hypothetical case which was supposed to prove that the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting are a farce.  They assumed that, if there were an afterlife, it would be the same as life is now—with multiple marriage partners, broken homes, and dysfunctional families.  If such things are common even in Christian homes, the Sadducees wondered how messed up things would be in eternal dwellings.
     Jesus responded bluntly.  “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.” (Luke 20:34-36)  The fact is, there will not be broken families, strained relationships, or shattered lives in the world to come.  That is one of the reasons we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
     God's design for a family—established by the marriage of a husband and wife—is a blessing in this world.  Through the marriage of a man and a woman, the Lord provides love, discipline, care, and stability for the children who are born into each family.  Marriage and the children that come from it are necessary for this world since generations continue to die.  Each generation repopulates the world with its offspring, and then it passes away.  Each subsequent generation has to grieve as they bury their parents and  grandparents.  And while it is heart-rending for the children who must do it, it is not unusual.  Death comes into the world because of sin.  And since all are sinners, all die.
     The Sadducees dealt with this reality by dismissing thoughts of an afterlife.  Like the Sadducees, many care only for what they can get out of this life.  But this hope is nothing more than a denial that we are accountable to God for our lives.  If we don't have to face a sentence at our judgment, then we don't have to answer to God.  It is a horrible way to contend with guilt because it rejects what your conscience plainly tells you—you ARE accountable for your actions.  Why else would you feel badly about them?  Still others prefer reincarnation—being born back into a sinful world with its pains and sorrows again and again and again.  This does not elude death; it repeats the cycle again and again and again.  Neither of these is true, nor actually deals with one's sin or overcomes death.
     We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Christians rightly look forward to a joyful reunion with all the saints in heaven.  Still, the relationships that we know now will not be the same in heaven.  The Lord does not need us to have marriages to repopulate heaven.  There is no need for birth announcements because there shall be no obituaries.  All of God's people, like the angels, shall live forever in God's presence, and with perfected personalities.  For that reason, you will not have a strained relationship with anyone who is there.  Nor will you feel distant from any of the saints there.  Here, families can be shattered by divorce, and people can be unfriended because of which for filling in the wrong oval on November 8.  Even Christians know what factions are like—whether because of denominational differences or because you don't feel like you belong to your own congregation.  That's because we are still sinners and we don't love perfectly.  But in the life of the world to come, you will not feel unwelcome, lonely, or awkward.  You will know that you are just as wanted and welcomed as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as apostles and prophets, and as bold confessors and humble, unknown servants of Christ.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)  Therefore, you are all shall be brothers and sisters who are beloved of God, and you will be perfectly beloved by one another.
     For Jesus Christ, who has suffered and died to take away our sins, will raise us up in absolute perfection.  Here on earth, we strive to serve the Lord with holy lives.  But we continue to give evidence that we do not live up to the righteousness God credits us with.  You may feel slighted because you don't think others are making enough of a fuss over you and your ego is not being fed enough.  Or you may be so self-absorbed that you don't even realize that you fail to give attention to others or put forth effort to make them feel welcome.  You know that it is not always easy to live with sinners.  Repent; for you are not always easy to live with either.  But that is why we continue to come to our Savior.  He forgives our sins.  He feeds our faith.  He heals our wounds.  He transforms our hearts so that we forgive others, amend our own lives, and demonstrate true compassion for others.  And he will finally deliver us from lives which are often weak on love to glorious, eternal lives where we are perfected in love.  That is another reason why we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
     “But that the dead are raised,” Jesus said, “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...” (Luke 20:37-38)  The Lord had declared to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6, paraphrased)  The verb tense matters.  He did not say, “I was their God,” but “I am their God.”  In other words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive and well with the Lord.  For, God did not make people to be disposable.  God created us to live.  And God loves what he has created.  So he sent Jesus to redeem us from death so that we could live forever with him.  Even the damned will not be disposed of.  Their existence will go on forever, but in hell.  But not so with you who believe in Jesus.  You have been rescued from death and hell.  And like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you will live with the Lord forever.
     Finally, on the Last Day, we will receive our perfect and permanent victory over death once and for all.  Jesus, who rose from his grave with his perfect, glorified, and immortal flesh, will raise up our flesh to be perfect, glorified, and immortal.  Never again will we get sick or frail, diseased or disabled, or bitter, suspicious, or mean.  We will be perfected in body and soul, heart and mind.  And while we will be like the angels, you will not become angels.  God created you to be you.  Not even your humanity is disposable, just as Jesus is and remains true man forever.  He redeemed you as you.  And he will raise up you to be the perfect you he always intended you to be.  For God loves what he has created in you.  He has redeemed you, and he will raise you up to live with him and all the saints in holy bliss forever.  This is what we pray for and confess: We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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