November 6, 2022
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question: “Teacher, 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. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead but of the living, for to him all of them are alive.”
Newsweek’s cover on October 12, 2012 read, “Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience of the Afterlife” It is written by Dr. Eben Alexander who is a neurosurgeon that practices medicine at Lynchburg General hospital in Virginia. He woke up with a severe headache one morning and went to the hospital and in hours he was in a coma. His chances for living beyond a vegetative state was a hope that seemed to be diminishing by the hour and brain death was very likely. Dr. Alexander was in a coma for seven days.
He did survive and after months of therapy he was able to regain his skills and life as a doctor. While he was in the coma, he had an experience that he wrote about after his recovery. He freely admits that he was a Christian but not much in the practicing of it when he entered the hospital that morning. He writes of being in another dimension. “But that dimension—in rough outline, the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of the consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey.”
He goes on to describe light and beings and also darkness that has light in the center of it. Sounds of singing and other beings communicating with him but without opening their mouths but his brain knowing what they were saying. Dr. Alexander mixes science and his experiences in a book entitled Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. I have not read the book, but if it is half of the article I read in Newsweek, it would be amazing.
In the theological world we call this study eschatology. The study of the afterlife. Our texts from Haggai and Luke are also about the heavenly realm. Many people have a hard time with the word’s heaven and afterlife. Even though the majority of people believe in something more than this earthly presence, there is skepticism about the reality of it. If we are truly honest with ourselves and look at the world with post enlightenment lenses, there are not many scientific theories to support eschatology. The premise is, if Christians have faith they believe in the resurrection and if they believe in the resurrection then they must have hope. Our faith is grounded in hope. The hope is that there is more… but what is that more?
Haggai believed to be written in the early part of 500 BCE is about rebuilding of God’s house and the restoration of the Davidic kingship. Judah was suffering drought, famine, and economic hardships. They have been captive for a very long time and none of the people who returned had lived in the land—they had been born in captivity. When they returned, the first thing they did was concentrate on their own homes, gardens, lawns, sprinkler systems, mowers etc. They had no time for the building of a temple, nor the resources to give towards it. They walked by the ruins quickly and quietly so as not to stir up any emotions.
Haggai the prophet went to Zerubbabel the head of the government and Joshua the head of the synagogue and in essence said, “you are the ones to lead the people.” Haggai is not dumb he butters the bread before handing it out. Then he says, “Be courageous and get the project going. Encourage one another with hope.” Just as God led the pole out of Egypt and back out of Babylon, God is present with them. But it is time to rebuild the faith and to share hope for generations to come. And then to make sure they understand the power of God, Haggai says, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts, and in this place, I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.”
The money is God’s before, and the money will always be God’s and the people are just using it for a time. That’s the funny thing about money and power, everyone thinks they wield it or should have it and in the end it all belongs to God. That is the message of the conflict between the Sadducees and Jesus. They came to trick Jesus. They were trying to demonstrate how dumb the theory of afterlife was by using the story of the woman and seven husbands…
Jesus responds, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Dr. Alexander described a world or dimension that was far beyond anything we can understand of this world. Then Jesus goes on to say that those of that age are angels, children of God, and children of the resurrection.
That is some serious pegs of hope to hang our hats on. When we leave this place, we will be angels, children of God, and children of the resurrection. And then even more important the story of Moses and the bush… God is the God of the living, not of the dead. The faith we have is that we will enjoy that presence someday in hope of the resurrection to come. But what about the now. What do we do in between?
We build for the future. We cannot look back on the past and wish things were like they were. Our faith leads us to have hope for God’s work to show forth. God calls each and every one of us to ministry with a purpose. Faith is exercised by time, talent, and treasure. What you put into it is exactly where our stewardship for tomorrow lies. This is not about guilt or challenging you to give more, this is about exercising your faith. We give out of gratitude for the love given to us through Christ. We give because we want others to know of our relationship with the one who loved us first. We give because that is our calling through our ministry.
God called the people of Haggai’s time to build for the future. It is future that is ordained and blessed by the God of the living. We too are people of the living God called to act on our faith. When we gather at the table, we practice living out our faith in anticipation of sharing the heavenly banquet with all the saints who have gone before us. We gather to eat the bread and drink the wine of the Messiah who saves us from our sins.
We are the disciples of today. No one is going to take that joy nor responsibility from us. What we do will impact our future church. It is not a do or die scenario because God is in charge. When Dr. Alexander was made well, he could not contain his excitement about the experience he had. May we do likewise as we live by faith into God’s future filled with excitement and love. Amen.