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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 73:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

I once spent nearly a year with a Jungian psychotherapist working through some personal and relational issues. At one point in the process he asked, “What does it mean to be an Ogden?” We expanded it to, “What does it mean to be an Ogden/McCarahan?” My mother was a McCarahan.

I am in a unique position to answer that question, since I am the keeper of the family history documents on the McCarahan side, and have most of what is available on the Ogden side. Their psychological significance is another matter, something most of us never quite finish discovering.

Many people are “into” researching, recording, studying, and sharing “family trees.” Advent (the season leading up to Christmas) is an appropriate time to examine the significance of family trees on a larger scale. Christmas, biblically and, for many, in contemporary celebration, is a time that's about family. Matthew opens his Gospel with a genealogy of Jesus, and Luke includes another version of the genealogy early in his Gospel. (Neither is part of the lectionary readings for this week, but you can check them out in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 if you wish.)

Some of the readings for this Sunday can be an occasion for thinking about our “religious” family tree. Isaiah, chapter 11 actually begins with the image of a tree—well, actually a stump. It looks ahead to “a shoot” which “shall come out from the stump of Jesse . . .” (vs. 1) Jesse was the father of King David. Isaiah goes on, in the same verse, to speak of this anticipated descendant as “a branch” growing “out of his roots.” Tree images all over the place—roots, a stump, shoots, branches. In talking about family history we often use such language, speaking of our “roots,” the various “branches” of our family, etc.

In the reading from Romans Paul freely adapts some of Isaiah’s words, speaking again of “the root of Jesse.” (Romans 15:17) In the Gospel lesson from Matthew the image of an ax “lying at the root of the trees,” which are in danger of being cut down, is more troubling, but it comes in the context of a common ancestor, Abraham, being identified.

This one to come from the root of Jesse has come to be seen as the “Messiah,” the “Christ,” Hebrews and Greek words, respectively, for one to be anointed as king. As time went on, it came to refer to a king who would come from above to restore all things to harmony so that peace and justice would reign. Isaiah, chapter 11, contains an ecstatic poetic expression of that dream and hope. “ . . . with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” (vs. 14) Even the predators and prey in the animal kingdom will live in peace.” (vs. 7)

The reading from Psalm 72 prays that the king will “judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice,” defending “the cause of the poor,” giving “deliverance to the needy,” etc. (vss. 1-4)

Unfortunately talk of family trees can lead to division as well as unity, one trying to lay greater claim to this or that ancestor so that brother and sister are alienated and/or separated. “Mom loved me more than you!” Words like those of John the Baptist in Matthew, chapter three, have been interpreted over the years in ways that have led to great division among those who look to Abraham as a common ancestor.

Christians have claimed the vision of Messiah has been realized in Jesus. Some despise Jews who reject that claim, and some Jews see the Christian claim as blasphemous. The followers of Muhammed are descendants of Abraham as well, and revere Jesus as one of God’s prophets, but not as Messiah. Jesus becomes a point of division rather than unity.

John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:9-10, reminds the descendants of Abraham that, if the tree they have become does not bear fruit, it can be cut off. Other scriptures suggest that they can be replaced and other branches grafted into the original trunk. Some, over the years, have interpreted this to mean that Christians have replaced Jews as God’s favored people. Those who make such statements are not likely to build good relationships with the Jewish community, our cousins as descendants of Abraham.

I believe God’s vision of harmony is bigger than our various religious communities. Romans offers a vision of a more inclusive community. It includes Gentiles (see Romans 15:9-11), but not to the exclusion of Jews. It prays that “the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another . . . that together you may with one voice glorify God.” (vss. 5-6)

I grant that it is not that simplistic, that we still have to come to grips with who “Jesus Christ” is for us in our respective traditions, but I do not believe John the Baptist was saying that all the Jews of his day had an ax at their roots. He was addressing those who didn’t bear fruit. I believe his words today can be seen as a message to all who claim Abraham as an ancestor. “Show your claim to this ancestry by bearing the fruit of a faith that is like that of Abraham, an expression of the family tree that has grown from Abraham’s roots.

So, here are the larger family tree questions to be answered. Starting with our own particular tradition (Christian, Jewish, etc.), what does it mean to bear fruit in that tradition? What does it mean to be brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.? Now think of the Abrahamic tradition of which three major religions of the world are expressions. Ask again those questions about bearing fruit, being brothers and sisters, etc.

Finally, we can expand our outlook to the entire human family. We all trace our ancestry back to God, metaphorically if not literally. Ephesians 4:6 speaks of “one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” What does it mean to be a fruit-bearing tree that has emerged from that root? Can we seek a kingdom in which we acknowledge the family tree whose many branches help keep the entire tree growing?

I believe that Advent is a time to dream about and realize such a family tree.

A footnote: I have been greatly influenced by a family systems book (addressed specifically to religious leaders) entitled Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, by Edwin Friedman, a Jewish rabbi and family therapist. He looks at the dynamics of the families who are members, the dynamics of clergy families, the dynamics of congregations as families, and how the three interact. He poses a question to clergy: “Who in your family ordained you?” He’s asking who in your family most influenced you to become a clergyperson. In this week’s reflecting on our family trees, I think that question can be expanded to, “Who in your family has been most decisive in shaping the branch you have become?”

What kind of fruit is our family tree, personal, congregational, religious, and beyond, bearing?
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122:1-9, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, that season of anticipation that looks ahead to Christmas. I’m writing this on Thanksgiving morning. The Oregonian newspaper that was delivered to our door this morning weighed four pounds! It included three large packets of advertising, many of them announcing sales starting at 3 or 4 or 5 A.M.

I guess that’s the way the world begins Advent. It makes me wonder how many people would be drawn to a 3 A.M. sale on “Peace.”

Many in the Old Testament lived in anticipation, and peace was very much a part of that anticipation. They looked here, there, and everywhere for a king who would right the wrongs of this world and bring peace, justice, righteousness, harmony, prosperity, and general well-being.

Some of that longing is evident in the reading from Isaiah, chapter two, which includes those familiar words about nations beating “their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4) Psalm 122 includes prayers for peace. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem . . . Peace be within your walls . . . Peace be within you.” It talks about seeking your good, i.e, the good of the city.

Some within Judaism saw the birth of Jesus as a sign of such peace and well-being. Part of the message of the angels in the Christmas story is that peace and good will have come to the earth. Christians through the ages have struggled to understand what that peace means, when, at times, there seems to be no peace. The expectation of a peaceful kingdom has been sometimes reinterpreted so that it refers to a spiritual kingdom, a reign in the hearts to men and women.

It’s so easy to give up on the dream of peace. Last night Margie and I watched a documentary about John Lennon, of Beatles fame. It paid a lot of attention to his peace activism. He acknowledged that there had been a lot of disappointment, that “flower power” hadn’t brought in the peaceable kingdom. He urged people to never give up. Here we are thirty some years later, and it still hasn’t arrived. Imagine how discouraged those people throughout biblical history must have become as they awaited the fulfilment of the dreams God had implanted in them!

For Christmas one year, John Lennon and Yoko Ono posted Christmas greetings on bulletin boards all over the world, in many languages. The most prominent feature of the posters was huge print declaring, “War Is Over.” In slightly smaller print underneath, it said, “If You Want It.” At the bottom were the words, “Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.”

“If You Want It.” Sounds kind of idealistic doesn’t it? In the light of the other two scripture readings for this Sunday, I’d be inclined to say instead, “If We Live It.” Notice, I didn’t say, “If We Work For It.” That’s important also, but it starts with each one of us living it.

The Epistle and Gospel readings both address a darker aspect of the long-awaited arrival of God’s justice. It included a day of fearful judgment. People sometimes dreaded its coming. They wanted to know exactly when it was going to happen—like some people in our day. Jesus put an end to that by saying, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) Not even Jesus knew, so I guess I don’t have to spend a lot of time working out schemes and calendars so that I know the exact time.

Instead, Jesus says, after acknowledging that there are indeed some scary times ahead, live in readiness all the time, be wide awake in your living all the time. (vss. 42-44) Paul, in Romans, talks about living “honorably” as the day nears. (Romans 13:13)

So, what does all this have to do with getting ready for Christmas? Some have decried the fact that we seem, at times, to focus all our benevolence on limited times of the year—most notably Christmas and Thanksgiving. The Christmas Spirit, they say, should prevail year round. The dream of peace is not just a Christmas dream; it is a something we hope will be realized every day of the year.

We might move closer to making it a reality if we lived it every day. Being ready in the Epistle and Gospel lessons in not unlike John Lennon’s declaration, “War Is Over: If You Want It.” Being ready is not so much living in either fear or anticipation. It is looking to the dream embodied in Christmas and beginning to live it now, and each day of the year, in all that we do and say. If we do that we will be ready, for whatever comes, whenever it comes. And who knows? Maybe what comes will be peace!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures:
Reign of Christ Sunday: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Luke 1:68-79, Psalm 46:1-11, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
Thanksgiving Day: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 100:1-5, Philippians 4:4-9, John 6:25-35

I’ve included two sets of readings this week. Many churches focus on Thanksgiving this coming Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day.

In the year of worship around which the lectionary readings is organized, Nov. 21 is the Reign of God Sunday (often called Christ, the King, Sunday). It’s not only the last day of the season following Pentecost; it’s the last day of the church year. Nov. 28 starts a new church year with the First Sunday of Advent. The church year culminates with a celebration of the Spirit of Jesus permeating and informing (reigning in) all of life.

Christ, the King, (or Reign of Christ) Sunday reminds us that the political powers of this world are not the final authority for believers. In my theology, Christ does not exercise power and authority exercised as dictatorial monarch, but as an inner personal guide persuading the heart. I think of Reign of Christ Sunday as a celebration of God’s vision, shown in Jesus, of a new community in which the ideals for which we all long reign.

Most of the readings for Reign of God Sunday refer, in one way or another, to God, or Jesus, as king. Jeremiah looks ahead to days when the Lord “will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:1-6) In one of the Gospel lessons, Zechariah, a priest, speaks at the circumcision of his son, John (known to us as John the Baptist). “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go to prepare his ways . . .” (Luke 1:76) Those hearing the words would probably have thought of the hoped-for messiah. Zechariah goes on to speak of a “dawn from on high” breaking “upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide out feet into the way of peace.” (vs. 78) The other Gospel lesson, also from Luke, takes us to the crucifixion, where the sign of Jesus’ cross says, “This is the King of the Jews.”

The Psalm speaks of God being “in the midst of” Jerusalem,” “the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High,” where his power over the nations which “are in uproar” is apparent. (Psalm 46:4-6) “He makes wars cease to the end of the earth,” saying “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (vss. 9-10)

The reading from Colossians paints a picture of what some call “The Cosmic Christ.” It uses a string of striking images to picture the Spirit of Christ as the glue which holds everything together. A key phrase is “in him all things hold together,” followed by the declaration that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was please to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20) Taking all the imagery seriously, but not literally, I picture the Spirit of Christ as the beating heart of the Cosmos. The Love he represents is what keeps things going, what informs history at its best, what moves us on toward the fulfillment of the highest visions and dreams of God.

The readings for Thanksgiving Day, not surprisingly, focus more on a spirit of joy and thankfulness. The passage from Deuteronomy gives instruction for a harvest festival when “first of all the fruit of the ground” is offered in thanks to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 26:2) The occasion is their entry into the Promised Land. They give thanks for “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (vs. 9) “Then you . . . shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.” (vs. 11) We could dwell on this history of conquest behind their possession of the land. We could wonder if too much emphasis is put upon the abundance they have enjoyed, rather than upon the deeper values which have also been God’s gift to them. Still, when we give thanks, we need always to remember that food and shelter, basic sustenance, strength which carries us through hardship, are things to be remembered with deep appreciation.

Psalm 100, a favorite of many, is filled with exuberance. Consider the words and phrases: “a joyful noise (vs. 1), “gladness” and “singing” (vs. 2) “thanksgiving” and “praise” (vs. 3). Are such things at the core of our celebration of Thanksgiving? Undergirding them is the declaration, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (vs. 5)

Philippians, too, calls for rejoicing, indeed, repeats the instruction to “rejoice.” “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) It instructs to “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (vs. 6) The context is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” the passage concluding by exhorting the reader to focus upon “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable,” i.e., “anything worthy of praise.” (vs. 8)

Both sets of readings seem to call us to focus not on surface things, whether they be earthly power or material wealth. Pay attention to, give authority to, be thankful, for the things that matter.

The Gospel lesson from John, which follows the story of the feeding on the five thousand makes it very graphic. Don’t focus on “food that perishes.” Instead work for “food that endures for eternal life.” (John 6:27) Eternal life here is not just some future reality. It is the result of bread “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs. 33) We find at the end of the reading that Jesus (or Jesus’ living Spirit) is that bread—“the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never by thirsty.” (vs. 35)

Among the many ways in which people have understood and comprehended and experience “Jesus,” one is as a Spirit of eternal love, enlivening the entire cosmos, undergirding human interaction and relationships, bringing salvation (wholeness, healthy functioning) to all that is. What could matter more?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 65:17-25 and Isaiah 12:106, Malachi 4:1-2a and Psalm 98:1-9, II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

What do you think is coming our way? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do grand pictures of future possibilities make any difference? What happens to our ideals in the rough and tumble of everyday existence, or political realities? Is there any place for compromise so that those holding competing visions can come to some kind of compromise? Are we doomed to gridlock forever?

The reading from Isaiah 65 is a vision of an ideal society, sometimes called “The Peaceable Kingdom,” an expression of Israel’s hoped-for future ruled over by a divine Messiah. All the stuff that has been dragging us down in the past will be gone and something new will come into being. (vs. 17-19) Infants will make it beyond those critical first days after birth and old people will live out a long and full life, “for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth.” (vs. 20) (Frankly, I’m not sure that living to 100 is high on my “bucket list,” but fully enjoying my old age is fine with me. On good days, I’m doing that now.)

People will reap the benefits of their labor. (vss. 21-23)

The vision ends with the famous picture of the animals, prey and predator, living in peace with one another. “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But will it ever be? That’s part of the debate in American politics today. Some of our politicians speak eloquently of a society in which peace and justice, compassion, abundance, and security prevail. There often seems to be a great gap between the vision and their ability to deliver. So, why bother with visions?

There’s a saying I’ve heard attributed to a variety of people, most frequently “anonymous.” "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." If we have a vision, a plan, we may not achieve it, but part of it is likely to come into being. Without a vision, there is “nothing” to hope for.

I need a vision to fill me with hope, to give me something to aim for. What is your vision of the ideal society? What is mine? We need more conversations about that. Maybe the reading from Isaiah 65 can be a beginning point.

Unfortunately, too often we are unable to engage in civil conversations about conflicting visions. One person’s vision is viewed by another as a descent into hell. We see it in politics—even in some churches—every day.

Even in the Bible, we can find visions of doom and destruction to lay alongside that of “The Peaceable Kingdom.” We can work on reconciling them by saying that they apply to different situations in different times, but I wonder whether some of it is just the difference in temperament between the optimist and the pessimist. One is always hopeful that things will get better. The other sees threat on every side.

Malachi certainly paints a scary picture, although it’s one of those where the “good guys” come out okay. There is destruction “burning like an oven” for “evildoers,” but those who “revere” God’s “name the sun or righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:1-2a) I don’t like images of anyone being destroyed. I once said something strange like, “If God sends anyone to hell, then I want to go there to continue to love them because that is what Jesus had modeled for all of us.” Talk about youthful idealism, but is it an idealism we need to hang onto?

Malachi paints a picture of how bad things have gotten, as do other prophets. Most of them offer a way out. Repent, turn around and fix things, so that this seemingly inevitable destruction is avoided. God wants things to get better, but God can’t do it unless we join in the work that needs to be done. It’s not unlike what many are saying about the environmental crisis of our day. If things keep on the way they have been going, the future is not very hopeful, but we can change and, in so doing, change the future in a positive direction.

Remember last week’s message from II Thessalonians when people were sitting around waiting for the end to come. Paul told them to get back to work. This week, he reminds them of his own example. When he was with them, he always joined in the work that needed to be done. (II Thessalonians 3:7-9) He exhorts them to work “quietly” (without making a big deal out it), to “not be weary in doing what is right.” (vss. 12-13)

Vision cannot remain “pie in the sky.” We have to roll up our sleeves and go to work if we want the world to be a better place.

In Luke, Jesus also paints a pretty scary picture—the destruction of the temple, wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues (Luke 21:5-6, 9-11), even personal persecution so that you will be “betrayed” and “hated.” (vss. 12, 16-17)

Many have tried to make specific predictions based on the references to wars, earthquakes, etc., but those things have been with humanity throughout history, continuing down today’s headlines. Whatever the future, I see Jesus looking around and seeing society collapsing. It’s easy in our day to look around and see the same. Jesus’ focus seems to be less on the destruction and more on the fact that we will survive. He will give us words and wisdom (that offer peace, healing, and hope, I want to believe) that build strength and endurance in all our relationships (even with our “opponents”). (vss. 14-15, 18-19)

Jesus is often seen as an idealist, but he is also a realist who is ready to equip us to live in a real world. We live in a day when we need to be equipped. The future of the American and world political, economic, and social scene is not very clear, but we cannot give up. We need to continue to stay tuned to visions that are infused with the Spirit of God, reaching out even to those who seem to be our “opponents,” moving toward “The Peaceable Kingdom” one step at a time.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Haggai 1:15b-2:9 and Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 or Psalm 98:1-9 OR Job 19:23-27a and Psalm 117:1-9, II Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38

We are creatures of time. We can look back on many experiences, as well as the longer history of family, nation, and the human race. We live in anticipation that there is much yet to come. Most of life is experienced, however, day by day in the now.

We sometimes look back to “the good old days,” like the people Haggai is addressing. They have returned from captivity to view the ruins of what is left of Jerusalem. They look at the ruins and are overwhelmed. How can it ever be like the good old days? The Lord recognizes this when he says to them, through Haggai, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?”

Most of us have some good old days to which we look back. In recent weeks, the old days many people long for are the days when politics was more civil. The good old days for some may now become the days of Obama’s first term.

And then there’s the future. I’m convinced that a lot of what has fueled political debate in recent years is belief that one or the other party is going to destroy everything we have believed in and worked for. Instead of finding ways to work toward the common good, we feel we’ve become engaged in a battle to save the future. The result is gridlock. We’re stuck.

Maybe the returning exiles were stuck. Some felt that God had abandoned them—first by letting them be held captive in Babylon. Now they could see that the house where God lived no longer stood, so maybe they just gave up on God. Some had come to realize that God was not limited by geography or the walls of a building, but to have a powerful symbol destroyed was devastating and affected everyone’s psyche. Think the Trade Towers in New York or Pearl Harbor in an earlier era.

The word of the Lord through Haggai is that things will get better. First the most important promise: “My spirit abides among you; do not fear.” (Haggai 2:5) I have not abandoned you. That should be enough. We shouldn’t need bigger and better symbols, temples, but Haggai says even that will happen: “The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:9)

The future isn’t always what we hoped for or expect, but there will always be possibilities for us and God will be in it with us. Most of us, like the people in Haggai’s day, want something a little more concrete. We want to see what the future is like, especially when we face our mortality.

Most of the Hebrew people during much of Old Testament history believed that their children was their immortality. We see a hint of that in Psalm 145:4—“One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Gradually, a belief that God’s people would experience physical resurrection grew up—not just the resurrection of one person, but of all. (That debate is behind some of Jesus’ conversations in the New Testament, including today’s story from Luke—which we’ll get to soon.) The writer of Job may have been one of the first to catch of glimpse of this possibility. In this drama about a man, Job, who suffered undeserved loss beyond imagination, he argues with God and his “friends,” maintaining his innocence. He is struggling to find a way through all this into the future. He cries out: “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.” (Job 19:25-27a) (This verse was inspiration for words in Handel’s Messiah as well as a common hymn of worship.)

Whether Job’s talking about something akin to what we call eternal life or simply declaring that all will be well again in his relationship with God is not clear. Like the people to whom Haggai is speaking, he wants the good old days restored. He declares his faith that better times are coming and that God will be with him.

Like many who try to find a detailed calendar for end times, the people to whom Paul is writing in II Thessalonians, thought they had it all worked out. Jesus was coming again soon so they might as well just sit back and wait. Paul writes to them saying, “ . . . we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.” (II Thessalonians 3:11) Don’t let your anticipation of the future keep you from living in the present. In fact, past, present, and future come together in this reading from II Thessalonians. Remember the past and “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions” (II Thessalonians 2:15), but take to heart this benediction: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.” (vss. 16-17)

No matter what the past has been or the future brings, we live in the present, where we are to continue doing the good work, coming together to make this world a better place. God has left some of the building of the future in our hands. Are we up to the task or are we going to spend all our time longing for the good old days or waiting to be swept up in some miraculous future.?

This week’s Gospel lesson is an amusing encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees, the Sadducees being among those who rejected any belief that believers look forward to some kind of resurrection. It was Jewish law that if a man’s brother died he was to take the widow as his wife. If there is such a thing as resurrection, these Sadducees want to know, what if there are seven brothers who die one by one, each taking the original widow as a wife? (Luke 20:27-31) Finally she dies. (vs. 32) “In the resurrection,” they want to know, seeking to trap Jesus with they sly question, “whose wife will the woman be?” (vs. 33)

There’s much to puzzle over in Jesus’ answer, but some things are clear. Jesus resists their attempt to tie down the details of the future. You don’t get it, he says. Life will be lived on such a different order that old ways of thinking about it won’t work any more. Everyone will be like family, as if all are married to one another. (vss. 34-36) More importantly, what you should be focused upon is “living,” whether it is now or in that time after life as we know it, for God “is God not of the dead but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” (vs. 39) Those whom we think of as “dead” and those whom we know as “living” are all connected in a great “Communion of Saints.” Paul puts it this way in Romans 14:7-8: “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

Let’s not worry so much about past, present, and future. Let’s be about our living right now. Let’s worry less about what destruction this political party or that political party may bring. Let’s move beyond such divisions and work together on the things that build up life—even today, for it is out of today that the future is built.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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