Living Forever for God Ex. 3:1-15, Luke 20:27-40
Proper 27/Pent 22C/All Saints November 6, 2022, St. John, New Orleans
Those who have taken the traditional wedding vows probably had some statement in those vows which included, “till death us do part.”
Wen Susan and I got married
we used a service from her grandfather's pastoral handbook
which was published somewhere between 1910 and 1930
and it used the phrase, “I plight thee my troth in every duty.”
while these may be some very archaic phrases, they communicate the marriage covenant between two people.
We all have this romantic idea of our love for a spouse being eternal.
Yet, in the vows we take at marriage, they are severed at the death of one of the parties.
While some people might renew their vows from time to time,
we don't review them like we might a contract for an insurance policy or a car warranty.
After all, we didn't get married because the vows were so attractive and enticing,
we recited the vows because we wanted to be married to one who loved and captivated us.
We knew and understood that we wanted to go through life as husband and wife.
In Luke 20 the Sadducees we're wondering about how marriage worked in heaven.
In their culture it was a brother's duty to marry his brother's widow and they wanted to know to whom she would be married in heaven.
The question was all about protection and property.
Women were not autonomous in their culture, they depended upon their husbands to survive.
But Jesus moves the discussion to the point that the concerns of this age will not be the concerns of heaven
because here is much different then there
And we are much different than God.
But in the beginning of Scripture, we didn't have any mention of marriage.
Adam and Eve were simply created for each other for eternity.
They were placed by God in paradise to care for it, tend it,
and fill it with children to help them and to continue to extend their work.
Their union was intended to be eternal, just as this paradise was intended to be.
But, of course, sin entered the world before that scenario could be realized
and everything in the world was changed.
But God was not changed.
And so, while marriage, as God designed it was eternal,
sin had corrupted it so that it would now be temporal.
What God intended to last for ever, sin and death would end at some point in time.
With sin introduced to the world, so was death, and with death an end to the perfect, intimate relationship between people and God.
Is it any wonder then that relationships between people would become so important?
Marriage, and family, would attempt to fill the void left in their hearts when God no longer walked with them in the garden of Eden.
In fact, they would even be kicked out of their perfect home
and from then things continued to go downhill until we hear God speak to Moses in a burning Bush.
God's people are enslaved by Egypt.
They have no identity, freedom, or personality.
They are only worth whatever they contribute to promote Pharaoh himself.
They are cogs in a machine. Grist for the mill.
And yet, God heard their pleas.
And this is good news, because while the world has devolved into chaos, God is still God.
This simple fact is so important for us; that God is simply himself.
In fact, that's why he calls himself, “I am.”
he is not only above the fray of their sinful and corrupted world,
but his eternal presence also encompasses and enfolds all of creation.
Nothing escapes or trumps his effects.
Nothing goes, “out of control” because there is nowhere beyond his control.
And so, if we consider ourselves, our lives, and our own mortality and eternity, it is comforting to lean on the existence of “I am.”
With God being “I am,” our lives are measured against and anchored to an immovable and immutable pillar of strength.
And this this by no means is a statement of our weakness.
For we are created in his image.
Meaning, we were made to reflect everything about him.
And though we are not him, and could never be him,
he uses us to project and extend every one of his works.
Like the mirrors in a lighthouse
To reflect, magnify, and focus the lifesaving rays of light to passing ships,
we are the mirrors projecting the lifesaving gospel to the world around us.
And so, if we compare ourselves to the “I am,”
we can recapture a bit of our origins in Eden
and look forward to our future with God in eternity.
So, instead of framing our future as a better or improved version of today, we can, instead, look forward to regaining what was lost.
And that's part of what Jesus is telling the Sadducees.
Our life with God is not defined by our life here and now.
Not our marital status or lack of a mates,
not our profession or lack of work,
not our good works or even our poor choices.
Our life with God is only dependent upon him,
his eternal and steadfast nature,
his unchanging love for us,
his ability to overcome our sin and corruption by the death of his Son Jesus,
and by his insistence on forgiving us when we are repentant.
And when our entire existence is connected to the “I am” we are now free to live in a new way.
Like the Israelites in Egypt, we rely on him to accomplish the impossible.
Like Moses listening to God in the burning Bush, we are bolstered by a power which is outside of our time, our nature, and our reality.
And, when we are part of that eternal reality,
we can be confident in our qualifications to tap into that relationship we have with him
to affect his work in our own time.
What that means for us Is that we can be empowered to return to the role of God's stewards because we have not been separated.
Like Adam and Eve before us, we care for all that God has placed around us,
United with God like Adam and Eve were in paradise
we are united in baptism with Christ as his church to care for creation and all people
But unlike Adam and Eve we will have to wait to know perfect fellowship with God.
Not only what it feels like to walk and talk with God,
but to know his full will for us as we work in his Kingdom.
But we are not left clueless or without any knowledge of that kind of relationship with God.
We have scripture to inform us and to tell us the story of how things were and how things will be.
We also have his sacraments to reconnect us, even if only as a shadow or reflection of the complete person of God.
While our perspectives and experience are diminished, his power and presence and effect are not.
Therefore, with confidence, we are bold to engage God's mission and ministry,
doing that which he expects, from his perspective outside the realm of sin and error,
while anticipating the support he gives to those who are perfect and holy.
Not because we actually are perfect and Holy,
But because we have been declared so by the body and blood of Jesus.
This also means we naturally experience more faith.
We pray more because we know God is nearby.
We do more, knowing God has planned our work for us; to complete his plan for this world.
And we return more to our Lord because we are confident in our future under his care, protection, and provision.
And all these things, when shared among us, will result in a congregation
that moves forward in powerful expressions of faithful witness for Jesus,
and which extends acts of love and kindness to the world around them in his name.
Today we have an opportunity to declare our faith in the “I am” as we present our gifts and commitments to him today for our work in the coming year.
We can declare our confidence in his power to enter our lives from his position outside of our time in space as our eternal father and God.
We can freely commit ourselves and our talent and our resources to affect his plan in our time and our lives.
We can search his mind and scripture and understand, embrace, and engage him and his plan for us as his stewards.
And we can walk into that relationship with God in our time looking forward to the day
when we will no longer be distracted with the troubles and struggles of this world
but be able to place all our focus and attention on him and his glory in heaven.
In a few moments, we will do a couple of things that demonstrate our faith in this God that lives outside our realm of time and space.
First, we will remember those who went before us in faith.
As we commemorate the faithful dead,
we give thanks for their examples of trust faith in the “I am”.
Even as we profess their continuing life with God in heaven
and look forward to continuing our love and service to God at their side on the last day,
we commend their souls to his keeping until that day when we were all reunited.
And after that we will not only give our weekly gifts to the Lord of our life
but give our commitments for the coming year as well.
Those commitments are not only helpful for planning purposes,
but they give each of us who submit them personal accountability
to live and act as the Holy Spirit leads us to respond today.
As we take a few minutes to consider these commitments,
I hope you do so from God's point of view of our life, and not the dimly lit or foggy view we have from our own perspective.
That you will see in your life the unique and holy person God sees in you as the child he formed in love.
That you glimpse the potential located in the gifts, talents, and abilities he planned for you even before you were born.
That you would look forward to the joy which comes from being in communion with God and his will,
whether we know it completely or not,
but trusting in and looking forward to the day when we will.
As we give thanks for our fathers and mothers in faith who have died this year,
and as we place our trust in God for our future ministry together,
may we be united with our God and one another in our worship and in service to our Lord and Savior Jesus.