Rev. Alex Wilson
November 10, 2019
Rev. Alex Wilson
Vicar

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So after we die, what’s next? Baptism and the gospels tell us it's resurrection, something we hear and see by faith alone because none of us have or will ever get a to-test-drive death to find out first. So we look to resurrection in faith and trust that what we believe and follow will happen. Sure, there are the theological debates, there are the personal ideas, and even the assumptions, but what does resurrection really mean? We confess faith in it every sunday, our baptisms are living meditations on it, but what is it like? In this thin season of the year, where the light and warmth of summer is replaced by the cold and dark of winter, we mark the passage of time not just with traditions but with memories, memories which bring us back into union with those who have form us and have died. These thin places teach us how to live and what the caricature of resurrection is and will be for us because through them we are led daily into the crucifixion of Christ. Something our Gospel unveils for us this morning.

The imminence of the crucifixion is palpable in this section of Luke's gospel, so much so that we can almost smell the wood of the cross -- its that close. And here again, we see Christ being tested about what all of this kingdom of God stuff that he’s been preaching about really means. You see the sadducees are a people who do not believe in the resurrection, so here they are trying to catch Jesus as just one more false messiah in a long list. Yet Christ, turns the question on the head and reframes how we see and know what resurrection is really about. Marriage is, for us and for the Jewish nation, a moment of deep importance. Historically it was the passing of property and binding together families, while socially it was about honouring God's covenant with Gods creation. So the question about marriage in the here after goes directly to the depths of what it means for us to live and breathe, because it is in marriage that the cosmic order is named and manifest here on earth. It is this question, therefore, which is  asking us to examine what it means to be in relationship with the world and with God.

Like marriages, funerals and death care cost a lot of money. We spend an intense amount of time and money on death as a society. We are sold fancy caskets, with protective seals, and bells and whistles akin to a new car, all of which goes into the ground and none of which can be reused. Sometimes we are even told we are buying something to “protect our investment,” what investment? We are dead, and that is final. We fill our corpses full of preservation liquids to help us look more like we used too, while on this side of the grave we spend billions of dollars a year as a society on new drugs to prolong our life. As Christians, we are more likely according to research from the United States on death preparation, to ask that everything be done to prolong our lives, rather than manage our wellness until God calls us home. I wonder, as I read this morning's Gospel, if this is an outcrop of the mystery of the resurrection, and about what resurrection really means.  I wonder because Jesus is speaking to us every day about the inbreaking of God's kingdom here in our midst, about God's cosmic order and covenant, and that we are called to be a people of the resurrection in our everyday, and that we are to die to ourselves in taking up the cross and follow him, but that often makes my own death seem so far away -- which also places resurrection even farther. I wonder if we’ve get resurrection confused. I wonder if as Christians, resurrection is a prolonging of life, a continuation of what we are presently experiencing, just with a bigger party and more friends, with a focus on what we leave behind rather than what we are going to? I mean, that's what Sunday school taught me? So Maybe we are onto something there. Well, what the Christ of Luke is saying is, no, resurrection is very different than what we are living now because it's about our proximity to God.

In our lives on this earth we are called to reflect on the places where the kingdom of God and our lives, gifts, and abilities intersect, and to respond with action which works towards the fulfillment of God's desired wholeness in creation, creating a thin place where glimpses of the kingdom shine through. Examples for us of that work is our Neighbourhood Ministry, among others, where we saw an issue in our world and asked questions about what we saw and how we could respond with our talents and abilities. This intersection of questions is one of mutual transformation, as we help those on the street reclaim their humanity, and we begin to see the real work of God's justice become real as they move into housing, break cycles of pain, and find fulfillment in their lives. And there are many more experiences of thin places, of mutual transformation which cannot be explained -- but for God alone, which gives us a foretaste of what is to come in the resurrection. The difference, however, is that the resurrection is about a new world, a new person, and new reality, in which wholeness and intimacy with God is the constant, not the development of life. We get a foretaste of that constant presence of God in the work of our lives here in this time, as we continue to develop and mature in our faith over the whole of our lives.  We start to see the thin places of God's kingdom as we build community, overturn unjust systems, strive for inclusion of all people, break down our walls and systems of isolation, and enable the family of God to flourish, we start to taste the kingdom life of resurrection. Like any taste of something good, however, we crave more of that wonderful freedom, of that closeness and intimacy with God in our everyday.

The gospel this morning is asking us to reflect on the places where we might not fully believe in the resurrection, the doubts about it, our fears, our thoughts, our interests, our anxieties, or even aversions, and to see God's presence woven so deeply in our lives as to be the one who leads us into resurrection -- into the newness of life which shatters all death, fear, and anxiety, and brings us closer to God’s presence forever. The Gospel is asking us to name what is holding us back from resurrection, and to let it go. The enmity we have for that person, or the assumptions we carry about others. The fear of not being enough for someone, or that we are not worthy of love, the self pride and walls which keep us apart from one another, the anxiety of control, or the violence in our world -- How can we let them go in our lives? Because to let them go enables us to become more alive in this world in order to shine the Glory of God into every area of this world with our gifts and abilities, to lean more deeply into the thin places of resurrection in our midst today.

So church, what is holding you back from resurrection, and how can we let go of it this week -- in order to let God work more fully through us in the world which craves God’s intimate presence more than ever?