Message Manuscript for “Children of the Resurrection” Luke 20:27-38
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Audio of sermon is here
One of the worst nightmares a parent can have is to find out their child has been kidnapped. Imagine having this happen at the hospital, just after your baby is born. According to a New York Daily News article, hat’s what happened to the parents of Paul Joseph Fronczak in 1964, who was abducted by a woman posing as a nurse. It wasn’t until 2 years later that police were able to close the case and bring what they believed to be their baby back home. He was found, abandoned in a stroller in New Jersey. The police were able to identify him as their son, based on the age and the likeness of his ears. Fronczak had been returned, safe and sound, back where he belonged. Imagine the feeling of knowing who you are and whose you are.
All of this changed, though, as the case was recently reopened. For whatever reason, Fronczak decided to have a DNA test done, discovering after half a century that he was not the couple’s baby who had been abducted. He was not who he thought he was. He was not whose he thought he was. Now, he must learn from his DNA whose child he truly is.
What a tragedy to live in confusion about your identity. Yet, what a blessing to have an opportunity to discover, based on the characteristics of the most basic building blocks of your existence, who you really are. In our text today, Jesus, in the a conversation with a religious group in his own religion, provided them with characteristics of who they really were, or really could be, as children of God. In an episode where this group is trying to stump and ridicule him for his beliefs, he provides them and the crowd around them with an understanding about who they are as children by pointing to their ancestors and to the ultimate source, to God. He wanted them not only to understand the reality of resurrection, but to comprehend what it meant to be children of resurrection.
The first characteristic we have as children of the resurrection is that we have a God of life, not of death. That’s what Jesus said to the Sadducees, after successfully walking around the trap they had set for him. They, unlike the Pharisees we encounter more of in the Gospels, did not believe in resurrection. They were fundamentalists in their view, unable to tolerate other people’s views and known for mocking the beliefs of others. They believed that this life was all there was. For them, God was more a god of the dead than of the living. They set out to mock Jesus for believing in resurrection by using the current religious laws about marriage and remarriage. Their scenario about who would whom in heaven was not intended to be answered as much as it was to show how ridiculous resurrection was. Jesus has no problem handling the trap, sidestepping it and getting to the foundational truth of resurrection. He concludes his comments with them, saying, Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
As a child of resurrection, you have a God of life, not death. Jesus reveals to us a God who lives forever, one not bound by the confines of time, age or death. With God, there is no beginning and no end. There is no real death, just real life. Jesus would have us know that wants us to live forever, a god whose creative powers and abilities are not restricted by death. What a great truth to know when you are confronted with the challenges of life, when all you see around you is death, when things happen in our world and in our own individual lives that cause to wonder at times if there is indeed a god of any kind. God invites us to lean in this morning, to hear the affirmation of Jesus that God is God of the living, not the dead.
Another characteristic you have as a child of resurrection is that your life cannot be defined or confined by death. Jesus challenged the Sadducees way of life based on their ignorance about the resurrection. They measured themselves by this world only and not the next. The question about marriage they posed to Jesus to consider provides a great example of their thinking and displayed their ignorance of resurrection in the scripture, especially in the Pentateuch, the books they claimed to adhere to for life. Their rejection of resurrection defined them as a group, but it also confined them. They were not able to live in the realization of the bliss and joy ahead of them; not able to enjoy the fullness of being children of God, of resurrection.
Jesus made it clear to them that life endures forever. that God does not view death with finality. I like the way People’s New Testament puts it, “To God, no human being is dead, or ever will be; but all sustain an abiding conscious relation to Him.” (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/jamieson/jfb.xi.iii.xxi.html) There is no stopping it. It is not restricted to a number of years, social constructs, religious laws, diseases, wars, or any other hindrance. Not even a cross or a tomb could stop it. For God, and for us now through Jesus, death has no sting but has been conquered by life.
With this kind of teaching from Jesus, it is really not accurate for us to have obituaries and to speak of people being dead, is it? We should call obituaries, “Transition Points,” “mile markers,” or “chapters.” We should refer to our loved ones who have passed on as those who are living, not dead. Now, I realize we are restricted by our language in many ways and people may think you are a bit nuts or in deep denial for doing so, but wouldn’t it be more correct to speak of them as alive and not dead? In what ways would your grief for the loss of a loved one be nurtured by the realization that she or he is not dead, but alive? And what about for you, for how you see yourself? Do you define your life by your death? Are you living as though this world is all there is? What great strength and help we can find in understanding our eternal nature.
What enables us to define ourselves by life and not death is the power we have as children of resurrection. It is the power found in being children of the resurrection. It is in the act of living out our true identity and eternal life even now. It is in living with the realization of how we become “worthy of that place, “ “children of the resurrection” by entering into the new life of by recognizing that God has already made us worthy through our Savior, Jesus. It is as Andrew Murray stated it, ““A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/resurrection) Through him, the firstborn of resurrection, we become children by adoption into God’s family. We are not just children, but children of resurrection. Have you allowed yourself to become a child of the resurrection?
This second characteristic of being children of resurrection leads us right into the third, that we have no reason to be sad-u-cee. The Sadducees were sad because they didn’t belief there was life beyond death. The Pharisees, whom Jesus is usually at odds with in these kinds of conversations, are the group in Jesus’ time who believe in resurrection. I think the reason he has so much to say to them is because, though they believe in resurrection, they aren’t living in its reality for them in this world. Many of them were just as sad as the Sadducees. Jesus would tell them that he was the resurrection and the life, the one in whom God had sent into the world so that all could truly live. The Sadducees were not to that point, though, not even believing in resurrection. Whatever they did know about it was incorrect, as Jesus would point out to them about the issue of marriage in heaven. They had missed the point about resurrected life. It was not bound by the same rules and patterns of this world, but would be one that transcends them.
Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black. Martin Luther said, “Who died?” She said, “God has.” He said, “God hasn’t died.” And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.”
The words of Jesus here today say the same thing to us, “Well live like it and act like it.” When you realize the reality of being a child of resurrection, you see that you have no real reason to be sad. When the troubles of this life increase around you, when your order turns to chaos, when death comes knocking at your door, when the frustrations of your life are causing you to stumble, when sin is having its way with you, when it seems that injustice is winning out over justice, when your income doesn’t meet your outcome, when the tears outnumber the laughs, when the darkness of death seems to smother out the light of life, remember the resurrection.
The story I mentioned earlier about Paul Joseph Fronczak is a sad one, as we think of what a struggle he has had to discover who he really is. I wonder if we aren’t too different than him, though. Don’t we, like him and the Sadducees, struggle throughout our with a misunderstanding of who–and whose–we are? It was, however, good to read that he is optimistic about answering those questions, as he stated, “I believe that we will solve these 2 tragic mysteries. I feel we are one step closer to solving this, and one step closer to a happy ending!”
What Jesus provides us with here today is the good news that we don’t have to search any longer for who we are. Our happy ending has already come. Or, we should really call it a happy beginning, for we are children of the resurrection.