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Sermon for 22nd Sunday after Pentecost 2019

Job 19:23-27a Psalm 17:1-9 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17 Luke 20:27-38

A mother and her five-year-old son were heading to McDonald's one day, they passed a car accident. Usually when they see something terrible like that, they say a prayer for whoever might be hurt, so the Mom pointed and said to her son, "We should pray." From the back seat she heard his earnest voice: "Dear God, please don't let those cars block the entrance to McDonald's."

Job response to his three friends is not a prayer. They have met to “console and comfort him” in his suffering. Their comfort involves trying to convince Job that he must have done something to deserve this fate. Here Job responds in particular to Bildad the Shuhite, who represents the view that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to wicked people.

Job answers with a litany of his suffering. His friends have been tormenting him with their arguments and God is not giving him justice. Job has been abandoned by everyone who matters to him: he is estranged from friends and family, his servants ignore him, and his wife and family oppose him. Job’s despair is overwhelming; he has lost everything and there is no place left to turn. It can’t get much worse.

The meaning of Job’s text is uncertain and difficult for us to understand. However, the central affirmation is clear. If Job’s friends are right that he deserves to suffer – that there is no way out for him and he can’t make good of this terrible situation – then Job is a doomed man. The only solution to his misery to turn to the One whom he believes has placed him in this terrible situation in the first place. Job must cast his life before God. He must stake his faith on the one thing that still remains sure to him, because that is all that is left: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

The “redeemer” serves a role similar to a defense attorney in a court of law. This is the one who is able to speak out against the accuser (Satan) whom the readers know to be the cause of Job’s misery. A redeemer could be a family member who bought a slave’s way to freedom or who took care of a widow. Job’s confession of faith in his redeemer is a testimony of hope. Despite all the evidence before him, Job lives in hope of his vindication, hope that his friends do not have the full story, hope that there is one who can save him from this terrible situation. Job refuses to accept his friends’ view. Job is confident that he will be acquitted in time. The present moment, no matter how terrible, is never the end of the story.

“As for me, I know that my redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” These lines are at the beginning of our burial liturgy. Powerful words of hope. Job expected to see God. When the book of Job was written, Israel did not have a well-defined doctrine of the resurrection. Although Job struggled with the idea that God was presently against him, he firmly believed that in the end God would be on his side. This belief was so strong that Job became one of the first to talk about the resurrection of the body. Job believes that he will see God!

In Luke’s Gospel, we read about several conflicts between Jesus and the religious authorities while Jesus is teaching, preaching and sharing the good news. Earlier, we read about the first conflict in which the chief priests, scribes and elders are looking for a way to kill Jesus. They come to Jesus and demand to know the source of his authority. Unhappy with his answer, which includes a parable told against them, they send spies to trap Jesus on a second challenge, this time on the right understanding about the law and taxes. Today’s reading offers the third conflict. Some Sadducees come to oppose him with a question about marriage and the resurrection.

The Pharisees were committed to obeying all of God’s commands and believed that salvation came from perfect obedience to the law and was not based on forgiveness of sins. They believed in the bodily resurrection and eternal life. They also believed in angels and demons. The Sadducees were a group of conservative religious who honored only the Pentateuch – Genesis through Deuteronomy – as Scripture. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead because they could find no mention of it in those books. The Sadducees tried their hand at tricking Jesus. They brought a question to him that had successfully stumped the Pharisees in the past. After addressing their question about marriage, Jesus answered their real question about resurrection. Basing his answer on the writings of Moses – an authority they respected – he upheld belief in resurrection.

Jesus’ statement does not mean that people will not recognize their spouses in heaven. It simply means that we must not think of heaven as an extension of life as we know it now. Our relationships in this life are limited to time, and space and death. We don’t know everything about our resurrection life, but Jesus affirms that relationships will be different from what we are used to here and now.

The mystery of the resurrection revealed by Jesus is that heaven is a place where those who have been dehumanized will be restored; those who have been oppressed shall be set free; and those who have been treated as inferior will be raised and called beloved. Women will no longer be the property of men but will become children of God. In heaven, those who are children of the resurrection will know the joy and peace that were kept from them on earth.

Jesus answered the Sadducees, then he went beyond it to the real issue. Once again, Jesus is able to see beneath the questions to get to the heart of an issue. When people ask really tough questions like “How can a loving God allow people to starve?” “Why is there suffering in the world?”- instead of fumbling along, perhaps, we should follow Jesus’ example. First, we strive to answer the question asked as best we can; then look for the real issue – hurt from a personal tragedy, for example, or difficulty making a decision. Often the spoken question is only a test, not of our skills, but of our willingness to listen with our heart, to have compassion and to care about their circumstances.

The Pharisees and Sadducees had asked their questions. Then Jesus turned the tables and asked them a question that went right to the heart of the matter – what they thought about the Messiah’s identity. The Pharisees knew that the Messiah would be a descendent of David, but they did not understand that he would be more than a human descendent – he was God in the flesh. Jesus quotes from Psalm 110:1 to show that David knew that the Messiah would be both human and divine. The Pharisees expected only a human ruler to restore Israel’s greatness as in the days of David and Solomon. The central issue of life is what we believe about Jesus. Other spiritual concerns pale in comparison, unless we first believe that Jesus is who he said he is. The Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t do it. They remained confused over Jesus’ identity.

The question remains for us. Who is Jesus for us? Jesus wanted the early church to get it and used Paul to promote that message of love and compassion. On each of Paul’s missions, he would receive support from others. He didn’t have a big bar-be-que fundraiser. Jesus and Paul counted on the kindness and generosity of others. That was important in building a community of faith for the early church and continues to be important for us. We count on each of you to become the hands, and heart and feet of Christ when we have events like the Bazaar. We are a community of faith, striving to spread the Good News.

We celebrate Veterans Day on Monday. Veterans Day was originally established as an opportunity to thank those who selflessly served in that war, the Korean War, and others. Veterans Day is of course very different from Memorial Day, which serves to recognize the members of the U.S. armed forces who have passed away. The purpose of celebrating Veterans day is to honor all veterans who served. This holiday used to be called Armistice day which honored soldiers who served in World War 1.

Veteran’s Day Prayer

Dear Lord, Today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect their country. We pray that you will bless them, Lord, for their unselfish service in the continual struggle to preserve our freedoms, our safety, and our country’s heritage, for all of us. Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, for the sacrifices they made for their many different contributions to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression. We respect them, we thank them, we honor them, we are proud of them, and we pray that you will watch over these special people and bless them with peace and happiness. In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen. (By Joanna Fuchs) Amen.

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