Veterans and the Lessons
2007-11-08 by Tom Steagald
I wonder if there might be some way to relate all of that to the texts for Sunday--the Haggai text seems especially apt at least as a word of comfort for those for whom the promise is a "past glory," and not just the returning veterans but all of those who remember a time (after WW II, say?) when it was different that this. There is challenge woven into that text, too, as the rebuilding begins.
And the Gospel text speaks to what, in the hypothetical case proposed by the Sadduccees, was the failed promise of levirate marriage. This "institution," which left the care for and hope of the woman to immediate family, did not produce what was intended. She was left, in a manner of speaking, homeless.
Clearly, the aim of the story and its telling is different, but I have never thought to think through the parable from the woman's point of view. And just as clearly, Jesus' response is aimed past the "earthly," but the greater scope of his hospitality and regard could help us here.
What is the church but refuge for those for whom all other resource is lost? Whose only hope is in God and God's people? And what does that mean in terms of our daily work? Pretty powerful questions.
2007-11-08 by Rick Brand
As we preachers discuss the traps put in front of Jesus and responses to it, the newspaper article made me wonder if I was trapped inside this story and Jesus would push me to look at the events outside.
This weekend is Veterans' Day. I have mainly tried to avoid the patriotism and glorification of military that comes with that holiday, but the newspaper article pointed in a different direction.
Maybe Veterans' Day needs to be back in our worship this Sunday. The story said that one out of every four homeless person was a veteran. Maybe Jesus would be interested in these people. Veterans have gone and volunteered to defend our principles, our values, our dreams, but when they have come home they have been betrayed and deceived. The promised medical care has not been there for them. These people who have gone to defend the promises of the government have been deceived by the promises that they would get to stay home for a rest only to be redeployed almost immediately. The National Guard has been used as our regular army. Their stays have been extended.
Vietnam Veternams, First Gulf War Veterans and the veterans of these battles against terrorist went because they loved this country, but they have been among the must abused, mistreated, and deceived people in the country. We have created a paramilitary organization like Blackwater who pays their employees much more than our soldiers receive.
The studies of domestic abuse, divorce and family problems in the military, the conditions of many of the military homes, the lack of good social services for the Veterans all point to the reality that we have not provided for our Veterans what the government, what we, has promised to those who serve.
Maybe since the church is the place where the lost, lonely and broken come to be greeted by the Christ who knows our brokenness and offers us forgiveness and healing, maybe we need, now, to have Veterans recognized and prayed for in our worship.
Upon Further Review
2007-11-07 by Tom Steagald
The easy observation is, of course, that the Sadduccees have come to bait and trap Jesus... certainly the earlier attempts by others to ask questions of authority and taxes were attempts to tangle Jesus with his own words. But in this text there is no mention of duplicity or a hidden agenda. The Sadduccees just ask a question.
The question feels "stock," but let us not be too hasty to conclude they are merely rendering the issue absurd. This is precisely the kind of case study that some minds are so fond of exploring. Besides, is it mere rhetoric when Pilate asks, "What is truth?" Perhaps he is trying to trap Jesus, or dismiss what Pilate might have seen as idealism...Or does he, as Buechner so famously reflected, really want to know? Is there truth? Given the cynicism that surely infects life-long government officials, Pilate may in fact want to know.
Is there resurrection? Could that be a real question even for those who are on record as not believing in such? Were the Sadduccees familiar enough with the reports of Jesus' ministry, impressed enough with Jesus' person, to ask that in legitimate terms? Jesus, you say there is a resurrection but our own tradition of levirate marriage would seem to say otherwise. How can you reconcile the two? How do you answer?
Is it a trap or a real question? If the former, well, no big surprise--the text is easily reduced to they say he says and we of course agree with him and disagree with them and what does that mean for us today? But perhaps the question is simply posed in such terms as to discount simplistic answers.
Maybe what I have read as cheek and condescension is, somewhere under the obvious, a real seriousness... as in, don't tell me God is good all the time and everywhere until you take serious account of the counter-argument.
And still, one is reminded of Anthony Flew's "death by a thousand qualifications." Perhaps they are rendering belief in the resurrection as absurd as they can. The tenor of the question feels like...what? Bemusement? Sarcasm? Ridicule? Jesus' answer seems to suggest how one can read Moses differently from Zadok's heirs...
The temptaions earlier in Luke culminate in the Temple (not on the mountain as in Matthew), and here near the end we are back at the Temple for more questions: authority, taxes, life after death...pretty basic stuff, the kind everyone talks about, even a Sadduccee. But here on the Sadduccees' home turf (Craddock) they take on even sharper significance--and all the more so if the Sadduccees, like other inquiring minds, may really want to know.
If the tenor of the Sadduccees questions is, well, whatever it is--however you read or hear it--what is interesting is that Jesus answers with respect and on his questioner's own terms. He treats the question as legitimate inquiry and an opportunity for doctrinal discussion--whether the question is real or not. He cites "their" scripture in his attempt to teach and correct, but he does not dismiss them (as I am so inclined, for instance, to dismiss and disregard the clean-cut young men on my front porch with the nametags and short sleeves and alternate scriptures; for sure I never engage in debate!). And in vs. 39 "some of the scribes" commend him. They no longer dare to ask him anything... but the reasons for that decision could well be complex.
David Mosser, Article Highlights, Blackberries
2007-11-06 by David von Schlichten
Fruitful is guest blogger David Mosser's entry below, in which he provides background that helps with understanding this week's text about the Sadducees' slippery questioning. Mosser also points out that Jesus is brilliant and reorienting as he outwits the Sadducees with a response that redirects us to what really matters, God's relationship with us and the eternal impact of that relationship.
Also take time to read Tom Steagald's wondering about what Jesus' facial expression might have been in response to the Sadducees' serpentine question.
Below are highlights from this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics.
Seung Ai Yang provides an excellent, thought-provoking article, which you can read for free by clicking on the samples link under Share It! Note that this is a new location for the weekly samples.
Kristin Johnston Largen connects the gospel with some of the leitfmotifs of Karl Barth's dialectical theology, which stress that God is in charge in the world and in our relationship. We are not in charge of God. The Sadducees' questions arise from thinking on their terms, but it is God who defines reality. God will not fit into our frames and questions. God is God, not required to play by whatever rules we think God should play by.
Along these same lines, Steve Frazier succinctly states that the Sadducees' question was designed “to generate heat not light” (p.47). That phrase snagged me, and I wonder if it might be beneficial to preach a sermon on the tendency among us humans to ask questions and make statements that are meant to create trouble instead of to be helpful.
“Lesson and the Arts”
Terry Lindvall quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning's piece Aurora Leigh:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
The Sadducees are doing a great deal of fruitless blackberry plucking, Lindvall indicates.
I don't know which way the Spirit is steering me, but I find intriguing the idea of exploring the motives behind questions.
I also can imagine parishioners wondering if, when they get to heaven, they will be reunited with their beloved spouse. Will I get to spend eternity with my wife?
Jesus' response to such a question would probably not be much comfort to many of us. What do you think?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2007-11-05 by Tom Steagald
I find myself trying to see the look on Jesus' face when the Sadducees ask their question, spin their riddle. By my count, this is the third time since the Entry and the Cleansing that he has had to answer questioners who are not at all interested in answers or even discussion (authority; taxes; resurrection). His questioners do not ask because they want to know; they ask because they already know, or think they do, and are setting a snare. Jesus discerns their intent, but I just wonder what he felt, what was the expression on his face, if he ever got tired of this kind of game.
I get questions, as I am sure all of us do, from people who are looking for something other than information or answers. Their questions are not so much interrogations as George Carlinesque queries (Can God make a rock so big even God can't pick it up?), footers for a constructed cynicism, rationalizations as to why this belief or that one, or even belief itself, is absurd (so, the woman was married to seven different guys...). I have trouble, sometimes, being patient with someone who is unashamedly sandbagging me or trying to make me look bad. If Jesus were more serene than I ever am in such a moment, it is because he is who he is and, as Father Mulcahey says, "a really good sport."
Anyone going to refer to Tobit in this sermon? What a GREAT story.
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