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Sermon: Only Longer

November 7, 2010

Luke 20:27-38

A reporter asked former baseball pitcher Dan Quisenberry about his prospects for the future, and Quis said, “The future is like the present, only longer” (

In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus said—emphatically—that the future is not like the present, not at all.  God’s future for Creation cannot be measured with our clocks and our rulers.  God’s future does not look like anything we know from our present experience.  We do not have the categories to understand what God is doing with God’s future.  That is why we have such strange scriptures that describe pearly gates and streets of gold…and lakes of fire.  There is no way to describe a divine world using human language.  The future is nothing like the present.

When the Sadducees came to Jesus to ask their question, they already had their minds made up.  The Sadducees were conservative priests who did not believe in the resurrection.  In fact, they were so conservative that they only believed that the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, the books of Moses, were true scripture.  They did not believe the words of the prophets, the psalms or the histories had the same weight of authority as the books of Moses.  And since the Torah does not seem to tell us that resurrection is a part of God’s plan, the Sadducees—in opposition to the Pharisees—did not believe in it.

So they came to Jesus with a ridiculous question.  Imagine a woman married a man, who died without offspring.  The Law said the man’s next brother should marry the widow.  Imagine he also died without giving the woman a child.  In the same way, five more brothers married the woman and died without producing an heir.  So in the resurrection, which of these men will be the husband to the woman?

The Sadducees didn’t care about the answer.  In their minds, the very question showed how ridiculous the idea of resurrection is.  The question was a trap.  But Jesus knew the Sadducees, by asking the question, had fallen into a trap of their own.  Their question rested on the idea that the future is just like the present, only longer.  And Jesus said, “No, it isn’t.  You have it wrong.  What God is doing with the future—and with the resurrection—is completely different than the world that Jesus and the Sadducees, and you and I, have experienced so far.

*   *   *   *   *

Many years ago, Baptist preacher Carlyle Marney was at a speaking engagement at a college, when one of the students asked him to say “a word or two about the resurrection of the dead.”

Marney said,

I will not discuss the resurrection with people like you: I don’t discuss such things with people under 30.  Look at you all: in the prime of life.  Never have you known honest-to-God failure, heartburn, impotency, solid defeat, brick walls or mortality.  You’re extremely apt and handsome—white kids who have never in all of your lives been 30 miles from home, or 20 minutes into the New Testament, or more than a mile and a half from a Baptist or Methodist church, or within a thousand miles of any issue that mattered to a kingdom that matters.  So what can you know of a world that makes sense only if Christ is raised?  (Kyle Childress, “Living by the Word.” Christian Century, Nov. 2, 2010, p.20.)

The resurrection is not something for us to understand simply or easily.  There are no sound bites for the resurrection, because it isn’t anything like the present.  The resurrection is only something we can grasp as we engage with this messy, complicated thing called life.  We can only glimpse the meaning of resurrection as we walk with Jesus through the masses of people oozing need, anxiety, pain and sickness from their pores, as we walk with him to Jerusalem and the cross.  There is no sense in caring about the resurrection one way or another if the world we have right now is so great that we never want things to change.

One thing we may be able to say is that we do not so much believe in the resurrection as live into it.  We live in the hope that God is really doing something with this world, and we live in the faith that through Jesus Christ, God is doing something with us, too.  It may be that you are well past 30 years of age, that you have experienced true heartbreak and loss, that you know what it is like to fail and fear for the future.  It may be that you do know very well something about mortality.  And so to you it matters very much that Christ is raised.

That is what we believe.  So we may not be so very certain about what God’s future looks like.  We may not have the words to describe it.  But we do have the foundational belief that the cross of Christ prepares us for the new world of resurrection, and empty tomb is a powerful statement from God that this new future is surely coming, and we can all be a part of it.

To not know that the future will be different from the future and that we don’t know what the future will be like can produce anxiety and fear.  But to know that we are following Christ into that new future is more comforting and reassuring than anything that Dan Quisenberry or the Sadducees could dream up.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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