18 January 2020
The power of the good news of Jesus Christ is that he gives life. Every living being clings to life and wants to flourish. This passion for life that causes us anxiety in the face of death.
Today Nooroa and Kesaia have said that they want life for wee Troy.Sheppard. and to seek that life,they have come to the church as a people and place which has formed them.
They claim for Troy God's promise of life in Christ for him, and to give him an identity which is more than just naming him, that of knowing he belongs to God's family and to the one who loves and made him. We all want Troy to be able to make life giving choices as he grows and learns.. There are a lot of life and death choices out there for our children,.. but unless they know who they are and that they belong to the living God they can be claimed by anyone or anything which makes an alluring offer.
They also need to know that there is a bigger picture, more than we can know and more than we can tell. Identity in Christ gives freedom to live in God's creative love even in the face of endings and death - for life in Christ is resurrection life. And that transcends cultures, customs, tribes, iwi's and nationalities and enables people to connect. to work together, to love,one another and to forgive old enemies.
But what is resurrection life, life after death.? It was a point of debate in Jesus' time.
Jesus was questioned by a group of Sadducees on his way to his death in Jerusalem. The ancient Hebrew beliefs about life after death were reinterpreted by Jesus and resurrection, lasting life was placed in a new light.
Its unfortunate that all the information we have about the Sadducees is negative and written by their opponents. Sadducees The Sadducees were a Jewish denomination, who unlike the Pharisees , did not believe in a resurrection, their story was set, Moses was their man.. They only accepted the first five books of the scriptures as valid for the law, this rigidity gave them their identity.
Those old stories were what they went with and they claimed that resurrection or life after death was not there. They interpreted the scriptures differently from the Pharisees who allowed insights from the Prophets to reinterpret the old law. They were frozen in their ways . and when they came to Jesus they didn't want an answer to their question.
They were trying to prove a point, that life ended in death, there was nothing more, because if life went on then the law of Moses became unworkable. . But they got more than they bargained for.
The Sadducees first use an ancient marriage practice from law of Moses to ridicule belief about life after death. - Jesus
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.”
Jesus says its not relevant because everything is different and he shifts the focus from marriage to God. He says that in resurrection life neither marriage nor death are primary concerns . This woman would belong to God as would the seven brothers and our whole being and living is turned to God, we florish as participants in God's love.
And Jesus asks then to remember the old stories that they hold true as part of their identity . In Exodus Moses is standing in the desert before a burning bush and on holy ground asking why, what to do , how, and what name do you have God. He isn't given answers to his questions or solutions to his problems. He finds instead he stands in the presence of the living God of his ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A God who is not God of the dead but of the living.
There is a difference between the way Jesus proclaims God as God of the living and not the dead and the way it was understood by the ancient Israelites. Originally, the reference was to those who were actually alive. With this new concept of resurrection, those who have died and been raised from the dead are considered living in a new way. In other words, “all are alive”—both the living and the dead who are with God..
The only thing that holds this life together with the next is the continuing presence of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life...will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8:38-39).
The Early church saw the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection life but we know that caterpillars are only the beginning of the story -
There is more, there is life that is free and it is continuous , yet different from the life that the caterpillar knows. And if you know that caterpillars must let go of being caterpillars to be butterflies your life as a caterpillar has a different perspective.
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the creator calls a butterfly."
Following in the footsteps of our religious ancestors, we can trust in God's love.. Since it was God who invited us into this relationship, which we again affirmed in Troy's baptism today, we can be confident that God will see that this bond endures through this life and death and beyond, whatever that beyond might hold.
God who is a God of the living is the same God who generously invites us, in Jesus, the crucified and risen Son , to share in the divine love of God.
You are invited to respond to that love in our offering and affirmation.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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