Tuesday, November 1, 2016

PENTECOST XXV (Proper 27) 2016

Kandinsky -- All Saints

For many people, both those who are religious and those who aren't, belief in God and the hope for life after death are closely connected. Indeed, for some people the belief in God seems pointless unless it is connected with surviving death. So it is instructive to hear about the Sadducees in this week's Gospel passage.  The Sadducees are less familiar than the Pharisees, but they too were a sect of devout Jews at the time of Jesus. Passionately committed to the worship of God, they nevertheless denied the existence of life after death. They subscribed to a long held Jewish view that God's blessing and our enjoyment of it are confined to this life, and that the real hope of life after death must reside in the generations who succeed us -- 'Abraham and his seed for ever'.

In the passage from Luke the Sadducees pose a riddle to Jesus that they could just as easily have posed to the Pharisees. Their aim is to show that the idea of life after death speedily reduces to paradox. Jesus' response to them does not try to resolve the puzzle. Rather, he casts a different perspective on the belief in immortality. It is wrong to think of the life to come as just like this one, only better and longer. It is altogether a different kind of existence. People are changed, and, like angels, dwell in the presence of the eternal God. The God in whose presence they dwell -- then and now -- is the God of Abraham and the God of Moses who spoke out of the burning bush. So life after death is not a restoration of what has been, and thus a return to  normality. It is a continuation into perfection of the eternal life that we begin when we believe in Christ.

Job  - Jacob Jordaens (1620)

St Paul, addressing the Thessalonians, connects life after death with the Second Coming of Jesus and the judgement of the world. He warns them, however, against the temptation to anticipate it and make it their principal hope. He reminds them of what they have and are now -- chosen 'as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit' and called to proclaim the good news, so that they may 'obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ'. The lesson is not to become all otherworldly, but to 'stand firm and hold fast' in this world, enjoying the grace of God 'in every good work and word'. It is from this standpoint that Christians can repeat the words of Job: 'I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. . . . then in my flesh I shall see God'

No comments:

Post a Comment