My Sermon of Nov 6 2022, All Saints Sunday at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and 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. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage, but 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. Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And 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. Now he is God not of the dead but of the living, for to him all of them are alive.” Luke 20:27-38
It’s our Sunday to celebrate All Saints! And we do all have saints in our lives don’t we? We have the capital S Saints who in generations past left legacies, teaching and examples for us to follow. And we all the lowercase s saints, too! They’re the folks in our own lives who may never have a feast day on the church calendar, but who made us who we are. Those saints often raised us as children and grandchildren, they taught us to pray, they sat with us through the hard storms of life, and they are ones who always had a helping hand and open heart to us in all things.
Thinking about saints…
Take a few minutes to think about those saints of your life, especially those who have passed on. Think of a time in life like going to college, being newly wed, welcoming a child into the world or your life, losing a job, making a major move in life… who was there to be a blessing to you in that time? Do you remember someone teaching you to pray, or someone in whose life you could see that faith just made sense and inspired you? Taking time to think about those saints can help us overcome problems in life today by reminding us of what they taught and showed us, and by reminding us that life is much, much bigger than just this moment.
And, here’s something fun to try, Google “Saints on <your birthday>” and see who comes up. You could have several, recognized by different church traditions. See what they are known for and if there’s anything in their stories to inspire you. See if there’s a spiritual friend out there you didn’t even know you had, but who has a gift to offer in your life!
That poor woman!
Our readings today point us to our connectedness, with one another and God, and the hope and strength of that connectedness. Our Gospel reading takes us to a day when Jesus is confronted by a group of religious leaders who denied the immortality of the soul and the idea of resurrection, and therefore denied our connection with one another after death. Life for them is only here and now, and then ended. Now scripturally, they held this belief because they only relied only on the Torah and concepts therein, but when they challenged Jesus, they did so with a puzzle, a hypothetical gotcha question. We read it, and it went like this… a childless woman by a weird quirk of fate is married in succession to seven brothers in hopes of a child. If there’s life after death, what a mess! So, there must not be a life after this one, right?
Now, hypothetical situations are usually extreme and have little to do with everyday life, or experience, but the premise of this question does have at least a basis in Jewish scripture. In Deuteronomy 25, there is a time when a brother of a deceased man is told to bear at least one child by his brother’s widow to keep that man’s name alive among the people. There’s no mention of an ever-cascading chain of obligation and there’s only two examples of this idea in scripture, three if you count an instance in the apocryphal writings (which could even be the basis of this gotcha question). In Genesis 38 Judah tells his son Onan to do this for his brother Er’s widow, and he refuses. In Ruth 4 Boaz explains that his marriage to Ruth will include this type of thing for her past husband, though not from a brotherly duty. This doesn’t seem to be super common, but who’s willing to let real life get in the way of a good gotcha question, right? And I bet I can answer their question for that poor woman about whose wife she’ll be! I bet she would say “Nobody’s wife! For Pete’s sake! No more, please!”
The answer from Jesus is to the point, and to paraphrase it: “The question has nothing to do with the reality of the living God or our faith.” Jesus fully asserts the immortality of the soul and reality of the resurrection while denying that we’re going to be at all subject to the needs and traditions of this life after it. It is another existence all together, in which there is no death and we are with one another and the living God.
And that is something which St. Paul wants to make sure that the church in Thessalonica knows and doesn’t forget… as rough as things seem in this life, even when we are separated for a bit, our time of being gathered back together is coming. In worship today we read verses along this idea from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 and 13-17, but you may be even more familiar with similar words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
All Saints Day is not only a day in which we recall those who have been so meaningful to us and such a blessing for us, but are also reminded that we’re not done with each other! Our connectedness and life together in God goes on, and we will be gathered together again.
We close this time together remembering the saints of our lives with a prayer slightly adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, pg. 838
“We give thanks to you, O Lord our God, for all your servants and witnesses of time past: for Abraham, the father of believers, and Sarah his wife; for Moses, the lawgiver, and Aaron, the priest; for Miriam and Joshua, Deborah and Gideon, and Samuel with Hannah his mother; for Isaiah and all the prophets; for Mary, the mother of our Lord; for Peter and Paul and all the apostles; for Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene; for Stephen, the first martyr, and all the martyrs and saints in every age and in every land. And for those saints who have passed the faith to us, supported us, taught us to pray and loved us, we thank you; especially for those we wait to see again, we thank you. In your mercy, O Lord our God, give us, as you gave to them, the hope of salvation and the promise of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the first-born of many from the dead.
Amen. Amen and Amen.
Be blessed, Rev. Todd