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Anxiety-Sermon on Luke 20:27-38

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We're anxious about a lot of things these days. Lately, anxiety about the election takes precedence over a longer lasting, more deeply ingrained anxiety: that of our own deaths. 

 This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

November 6, 2016 - All Saints Day   

"Anxiety".  Text is from Luke 20:27-38 

Happy All Saints Day to you, brothers and sisters, children of God, people of LCC and beloved guests, sinners and saints. 

Now those of you who have been walking with me this summer and fall, will know that I talk about Luke during this season while uplifting the journey that Jesus is making from Galilee to Bethlehem. This long, meandering journey that never seems to end. And we can imagine the journey taking place over six months to be real, as there was a lot for Jesus to do in such a short distance. But what we don't get the benefit of is Jesus arrival into Jerusalem, no, that reading takes place during Holy Week. Instead today we have Jesus already in Jerusalem, taking a trap by some Sadducees, the elite, aristocratic and priestly class of people an opportunity to educate some Sadducees about the nature of the resurrection.  

These Sadducees have so much anxiety around the end of life. They are not really interested in what Jesus has to say about their little game. They're interested in trapping him. The Sadducees, as we know don't believe in a resurrection, but why is this. Even as far back as our first reading in Job we are reading about how the writers understood that a physical death would still be followed by standing before the Lord. There is hope for the resurrection in Jewish literature of old, but we are always very clear in the gospels that the Sadducees had no concept of it. They only accept the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible. They're much more interested in trapping the newly arrived Jesus than seeking actual answers. 

But Jesus has so much to teach even them. Their absurd little imagination game over-simplifies the nature of the afterlife. Marriage is not a thing that people cling to after death. We are all equal in God's eyes, and what we are in God's kingdom is not governed by the laws of the earth. 

And then he upholds the fact that once one lives in God's kingdom, one cannot die any more, implying that there is possibly a first death that takes place.  He and to further drive the point that the resurrection takes place and there is scriptural proof, Jesus uses a story hat the Sadducees are intimately familiar with, Moses and the burning bush. It is in the words God uses when he speaks to Moses. "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob."  That God speaks with using the present tense, that God is not the God of a litany of dead people as if he is some underworld king, but the God of the living, that all those people are alive. 


The Sadducees betray their own hearts in the conversation, because although their intent is to entrap the Lord with a thought experiment without a solution, they underscore the fact that they, like so many of us, are frightened by death. The thought experiment itself only seeks to create an absurd set of circumstances that nobody can follow and highlight their fear that death is final, an ending without a continuation beyond.

Indeed, the fact that we ourselves avoid conversations about the end of life remind us that we are not so different from the Sadducees. That despite our faith in the coming kingdom, we still don't like to speak about death because we fear to voice the 600 pound elephant skeleton in the room. We fear that by acknowledging death, that we give it power over us. That we will lose yet more friends and family to its finality. That our loved ones will be taken from us and we will never be able to have lunch with them again, watch a movie with them, call them on the telephone, text them, write things on their Facebook wall, attend parties with them. Indeed, for many of us I think that to think of our own deaths is less scary than to think of the loss of people around us. Perhaps that's because we have so much experience with the end of life that the idea is concrete whereas the thought about our own death is an experience that is somewhat more ephemeral. 

It's why it becomes easy to avoid making plans for those eventualities. Life insurance, burial plots. I myself have one of those blank documents that my doctor asked me to fill out that you need to have in case you are on life support... what are those called? Who wants to take care of those things. I have years and years left in my life, right? Of course, it only takes one mistake on my motorcycle at the exact wrong time, not looking just for a moment, one bus clipping me the wrong way on I-80. 

It's why I by more safety gear, why I learn to be more careful, why I quit smoking so many years ago, why I watch my weight, take my cholesterol meds, my other meds, why I watch what I eat, why I try to get back into working out. I would like to extend this life. I would like to think that even though I'll be 50 this year, maybe I still have only lived half of my life. Having only recently lost a grandmother at 92, maybe me, two generations later will succeed in living to three digits. 

But the one certainty in life... well two certainties, to be honest because we must not forget about taxes... but the other certainty in life my sisters and brothers, is death. You will lose friends to it. You will lose family members to it. And not a one of us escapes it. 

But therein lies the good news, my sisters and brothers. What Jesus tells the Sadducees, he tells all of us. That once we have met death, it has no more power over us. Jesus has already claimed victory and won our souls from its icy grips. Jesus has taken the power of the grave and destroyed death that we all find new life in him. 

And I wonder, sisters and brothers, how fortunate we are. It occurs to me that when we honor the loved ones who have died, who have moved on, on All Saints Sunday, being the first week of November we always honor it in advance of an election. Considering how much anxiety we live with about death, I have a feeling that many of us have much more anxiety about what's going to take place next Tuesday because the results are more immediate. And we might even say those who have no more worries in this world are indeed lucky, because whether or not we think they see what's coming, their needs are being met. 

And so, instead of worry and strife we share with them in their faith, knowing that the saints who have left us recently are finally secure in their peace, no fear of making ends meet, no fear or anxiety of political outcomes, job security, their well-being or health. When Jesus calls us home to his kingdom in heaven, all of those anxieties are laid to rest. And today, let us be secure in that knowledge that no matter what ails us, perplexes us, confuses us, bedevils us, and gives us anxiety here on earth, we too can be secure in the promise of God's heavenly kingdom, and we can proclaim the good news of God's kingdom here on earth, today.


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on November 6, 2016 10:32 PM.

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