Resurrection. Rebirth. Revitalization. Renewal. Regeneration. Restoration. Response.
They all start with r-e, re. R-e is a Latin prefix, if you remember your high school language studies, you might remember that it means again or back. Adding re to a word gives a repetitive or returning feeling to the new word. And we see this at work in thinking about all those re- words. Even resurrection. Believing and participating in the resurrection implies a returning quality, being redeemed and returned to life, though this time life in God's kingdom.
Luke's gospel gives us a window into an encounter in Jesus' life and it demands a response. The Sadducees bring what they think is a ridiculous question in their mind to Jesus, probably in order to poke fun at him. The Sadducees do not believe in any kind of resurrection, but the Pharisees do, so the Sadducees might be trying to see where Jesus lies in the religious politics of his day. It is almost like asking someone if they think women can be ordained. Depending on the person's answer, you automatically know something about their religious politics. Its not that hard to understand why they don't believe in any kind of resurrection, there is not much evidence for resurrection. The probability of resurrection, in any manner, is inconsistent with what we see going on in the world. Yet, Jesus believes in resurrection. Jesus believes in a resurrection completely different than what we see in this world altogether. And he gives a glimpse of this in his response to the Sadducees. Marriage is not a part of resurrection life, death is not a part of resurrection life, and we are surely witnesses to the place of both marriage and death in earthly life. Death and marriage are two staples of human existence, defining ways in which we live and relate to each other. Yet, even these defining factors do not exist in resurrection life. Life in God's kingdom is very different.
However, life in God's kingdom is not completely different. Our life in God will not be characterized by the changes in relationship we experience now, but relationships do exist, just not in the same way as they do now. Jesus points to how Moses encountered God in the burning bush and how God is God of our ancestors in the present, living, for God all of the community of saints are alive. God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The patriarchs still are in relation with each other and with God, but they are all living. They are in living, resurrected, relationships with God and each other. And not just Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also Moses, Mariam, Zechariah, Susanna, Paul, Phoebe, and the myriad of other saints. God has promised eternal life to those who follow him and God fulfills the promise. In God, resurrection happens, the dead are returned to eternal life.
The resurrection accounts of Jesus and the way Christians have understood resurrection throughout the centuries suggests that this will be an embodied rebirth, a full scale regeneration of our minds, bodies, and spirits. Fully redeemed, fully sustained, fully created, and fully loved. When the kingdom of God is revealed there will rest the full communion of saints. Embodied in a new way in eternal life, means we will be fully ourselves, more wondrously than we have ever been before.
But since this is resurrection, it does imply death. I assume we are all living this morning, as much as we might not feel quite fully awake or present, we are living. So we haven't experienced full resurrection yet in this world, but we have experienced something. We must have experienced some kind of rebirth in our lives, some kind of response to belief and presence, otherwise we would not be here. Our sharing in the Eucharist is a giving thanks for something which we have experienced. In the prayer Mother Leyla will say in a few minutes, we remember Jesus' resurrection and what God has done for us through Jesus' resurrection. The prayer says that we are celebrating our redemption. Do you feel like you are celebrating your redemption today? You have and will be redeemed! It is definitely cause for celebration!
Unfortunately, we get very complacent about celebrating our redemption since we come here for Eucharist every Sunday. In order to get involved in this celebration, we need to go deeper, deeper into living with God and believing that you have been redeemed through Jesus' resurrection. Living into our belief of the resurrection means celebrating the renewal, the rebirth, the restoration we see all around us. Martin Luther wrote, “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books, but in every leaf in springtime.” Alas, it is fall. Instead of new life we are shown death in the created world. However, even the seasons cannot stop the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. We see renewal, rebirth, and restoration in the people around us. In our political challenges, in our emotional challenges, in our relational challenges, we experience resurrection life in the changes which make us better people.
Psychology research shows that sharing our gratefulness and our joy increases our experience of those feelings. If we try to be more grateful, we will be more grateful. If we share our experiences of resurrection life, we will better understand the place of the resurrection in our own lives. Sharing our stories of growing into deeper relationship with God, helps us and others grow into deeper relationship with God.
We come to the Eucharist, to church to remember Jesus' death and resurrection, to grow into deeper relationship with God, we want to be part of God's story. We want to be part of the embodied rebirth of the world around us, but that requires response and sharing in order to live into our belief in the resurrection. We need to understand in our hearts and our minds that death does not have the last say. In God, our life means more than what we accomplish before we die, more than how we die, more than what we leave behind. Death has nothing on the power of God in redeeming us. When we live into our belief in resurrection, we are reborn into the joy of God's kingdom. Come, let us rejoice and celebrate the resurrection!