Wonderous Love, No Matter What Job 19: 23-27; 2 Thes 2:13-17; Lk 20: 27-38
First, a poem by Alice Walker, entitled “My Friend Yeshi”
My Friend Yeshi
My friend Yeshi, One of the finest Midwives Anywhere
Spent a whole Season Toward The middle Of her life
Wondering What to do With herself
I could not Understand Or even Believe Her quandry
Now Thank goodness She is over it Women come to her Full, Babies drop To her Hand.
It is all Just the way It is.
Sometimes Life seizes Up
Nothing stirs Nothing flows
We think: Climbing This rough Tree & All this time,
The rope looped Over A rotten branch!
We think: Why did I choose This path Anyway?
Nothing at The end But sheer cliff & rock filled sea.
We do not know Have no clue What more Might come.
It is the same Though With Earth:
Everday She makes All she can
It is all She knows it is all She can possibly Do.
And then, empty, the only Time she is flat, She thinks: I am Used up. It is winter all the time
Now. Nothing much to do But self destruct.
But then, In the night, in The darkness We love so much
She lies down Like the rest of us, To sleep
& angels come As they do To us & give her Fresh dreams
(They are really always the old ones, blooming further.)
She rises, rolls over, gives herself a couple of new kinds of grain, a few dozen unusual
flowers, a playful spin on the spider’s web called the internet.
Who knows Where the newness to old life Comes from?
Suddenly It appears. Babies are caught by hands they assumed were always waiting.
Ink streaks From the Pen Left dusty On The shelf.
This is the true wine of astonishment: We are not Over When we think We Are.
We are not over when we think we are. That’s exactly why we celebrated All Saints Day last week. The ones we love who have died are not exactly gone, though we lament their absence in our daily experience. But our God, as Jesus puts it in Luke’s text today, is a God not of the dead but of the living. In the burning bush that was not consumed by the flames, Moses heard God declaring I AM the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not I WAS their God. Though those ancestors had long been what we call dead, God still thought of them as presently alive—just as much as the bush that should have been decimated by flames was still somehow intact.
The point is this: all of time is in God’s hands, and God views it in a way completely foreign to us. To God, time is fluid, maybe even irrelevant. It’s kind of a perfect metaphor that last Sunday entire countries just decided that 8 o’clock would be an hour later than 8 o’clock had been the Sunday before. Time is not fixed. God is God now and yesterday and always because God encompasses all things. God IS the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekkah, and Jacob and all 12 of his kids. God IS the God of Moses and Esther and Job and Daniel. God IS the God of the 12 disciples, centuries after this conversation between Jesus and the Saducees took place. God IS the God of Martin Luther and Harriet Tubman and Gandhi and Pope Francis and your great-great-grandparents, because in God, none of those people are past tense. Our God is the God of the living, so in God, all these people ARE alive, present tense.
That their current lives are in a dimension we cannot understand or imagine is beside the point. How they are alive is not as significant as the fact that they are, somehow. I find it comforting that there is never a time when we are all alone, even when we feel we are–that sometimes I hear the voice of my dead friends and teachers and family speaking words of encouragement is possible. It is a great mystery and a great blessing that the world is filled with what the letter to the Hebrews calls “a great cloud of witnesses,” all of whom have experienced a resurrection, whatever that entails.
Which means it’s getting mighty crowded around here, doesn’t it, if all God’s beloved people from every place and time are present now, seeing God face to face just as Job dreamed he would? All of those saints had dreams—like the dreams we’ve heard lately in this sanctuary: dreams of opening a music school, of controlling their own tongues, of finding a home, of serving a community in search of its purpose. Some dreams came true; some were transformed into new dreams; some exploded. Those saints who came before us know what it feels like to transition from life in this body into some other way of being alive. For this, though it makes no sense to our little brains, we give thanks.
It’s comforting to realize that, like Yeshi, the midwife in Alice Walker’s poem, at one point or another, everyone living or what we call dead, imagined that their lives were over, that they had nothing left to give or be or do. But, like Yeshi, all living beings are surprised to discover at least once, and probably more frequently, that renewed hope and joy and meaning are possible. New dreams come; old ones disappear. The earth invents “new kinds of grain and a play on a spider’s web called the internet.” We are all, as Jesus puts it, Children of the Resurrection, which seems to describe us not only when we leave life as we understand it, but in mini-versions all along the way. God IS our God when we feel vigorous and excited about life, and when we feel stagnant and dried up. God IS our God, and that means we are never over when we think we are.
Like the Saduccees, we cannot understand or imagine how any of this works. We tend to understand “being alive” as basically meaning “not being dead.” But for God, being alive has nothing to do with death, and cannot even be contrasted with death. We see a wall between “alive” and “dead.” Jesus challenges us to break through that wall, to recognize that everything about God is so much bigger and more mysterious than we imagine.
When Jesus is asked whose wife a seven-times-married woman would be in the afterlife, Jesus calmly reminds them that they envision the world in a very limited way, including the way they understand family relationships. In God’s eyes, that wife did not and will never belong to anyone. In God’s world, she—and each one of her husbands—is a whole, beloved, and treasured child of the resurrection, a complete, new, and unfettered being. Each person, each creature, each molecule on earth is precious in their own right, and God’s dream for each one is life, life, and more life.
That is God’s dream for each of us individually, for this congregation collectively, and for all that is, seen and unseen. And because that is God’s dream, we dare to dream dreams too. We dare to dream of a world where no one is hungry or lonely or homeless or in any kind of danger. We dare to dream that all the earth would be treated equitably by criminal justice systems, by immigration officers, by corporations, by law enforcement, and by churches. We dare to dream that everyone can have access to education, the arts, healthcare, dignity, and meaningful work. We dare to dream these dreams because God is the God of the living, and these are the things that make up life!
We dare to dream that God would allow us to join in God’s mission of making these dreams come true. We base our audacity on the fact that Jesus himself encouraged us to do so. Jesus called his followers the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city on a hill. Jesus believes in the church far more than the church believes in Jesus. What’s more, Jesus not only gives us outlandishly wonderful dreams to dream, but also helps us work to make them come true for the sake of the world. Church, I know that our redeemer lives! I know we are not over when we think we are! Our God is a God of the Living!
Thanks be to God!
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