Oh Luke, what were you hoping to accomplish by including this passage in your gospel? Confusion? Heartache? Polygamy? Just what is it? Since I have been asking this question all along our journey with Luke, we'll keep asking it. What does this show us about God and God's relationship with God's people? Because scripture is really a divine love story about God and God's relationship with us.
How do we even begin with this? The Sadducees pose this question to Jesus, in the resurrection, whose wife is this woman, who has married seven brothers and remained childless. And yet they say there is no resurrection, so what are they doing posing this question in the first place? From the get go we know the Sadducees are really just trying to trip Jesus up, they have no intention of listening to any good news Jesus may have for them. It's not about this woman at all, it's not about marriage at all, it's about something else entirely.
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who is seen and unseen, the God of the Universe, the God who is here in the flesh, is the God not of the dead, but of the living. That is the Good News, the rest is description. The rest gives us glimpses into the reality that God is the God of the living. The rest shows us what it is to live. NT Wright, theologian, writer, and former Bishop of Durham, writes in his book Surprised by Hope, that Resurrection is life after life after death. The work that God does in Jesus is to defeat death, not by resisting it, but by absorbing it and redeeming it. Resurrection is living that truth today. Resurrection is life after life after death. Resurrection is living presently without fear of death, because God has transformed death and therefore life. Resurrection is the promise of a future self animated by God's breath of new life. Resurrection is both at the same time. All history is equally present in the moment, this is the way God sees things.
Last week we baptized Kiara Wolber, and I poured oil on her head, and marked her as Christ's own forever. Kiara smelled of that oil for some time. Her towel will smell of it for some time. The scent of heaven permeates all of life, the scent of heaven changes us today and for all time. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches again and again that the good news is about a death that leads to life. It's a pattern, a truth, a reality that comes from losing your life and finding it. Dieing the death that must be, so as to be raised, changed, transformed.
And how do we know what that looks like? It has something to do with that scent of heaven that permeates all of life. It has something to do with love that embraces the terribly difficult life that we are so fortunate to live. Dorothy Day, an avid preacher of a social justice gospel, said "'Every time I'm tempted to give up on my messy self or a messy person or a messy group of people - I say this to myself: "Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us but it is the only answer.'" And in response to this, a very favorite blogger of mine, writes, " Love is NOT fluffy or perfect or easy or pretty or common. Real love is jagged and lurching and heavy and unattractive and HARD. If it wasn't so much harder than war- more people would choose it. The good news is - You can do hard things." (Glennon Melton)
Resurrection is what this love looks like. Resurrection is this harsh and dreadful love that God has for God's people. Resurrection demands that we let go of our preoccupations, our idols, our obsessions and our compulsions, our addictions, so that the love that gave up everything on the cross, can embrace us and make us new, and equip us to love ourselves and others.
Each one of you knows about death. You know that your heart breaks at the death of your spouse, or your parent, or your friend. You know that your heart breaks when someone you love and care for leaves you. There are all sorts of other kinds of deaths as well. When your health dies, and you must live with disease. When your self dies a little each day with harsh words that are spoken. When your dreams die and you must live with a reality you never even imagined. When your livelihood dies, and your life is not the the same. Deaths that are out of our hands, out of our control. And sometimes, even though it breaks our heart, death is necessary, because it is only then that new life, resurrection, can begin to take hold. But it is in all of these moments where God's love seeps into us and makes us new, heals us, changes us, transforms us.
And it is this hard kind of love that God calls us to in our lives, and our families, and our neighborhoods, and our church and our world. It is this hard kind of love that speaks the truth of life, in all it's messiness and chaos.
The Sadducees could not imagine resurrection, maybe because they could not imagine a love that would give itself away for the life of the other. But Jesus would not have it. Jesus proclaims the God of resurrection, the God of life, the God of love, the God whose scent permeates all of life.
Love is hard, and you can do hard things.