Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“All are Alive in God”
I want to share a fun little thought regarding carving pumpkins. You might remember seeing our October newsletter cover: “Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin.” God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes off all the dirt. Then God cuts the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. God removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc. Finally, God carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside you to shine for all the world to see. When God holds us, we will have a smiling face filled with the light. Since I read that, whenever I see pumpkins, I smile at pumpkins, remembering this story. What a great parable it is!
Today is “All Saints Sunday.” Last Sunday, a parishioner said, “I wonder what the ‘saints’ mean.” I think it was because you were asked to write “saints’ names” on the signup sheet who you would like to be lifted up on All Saints Sunday. The word “saint,” somehow, is more familiar to Catholic Christians because they have many saints in their religion, such as St. Peter, St. Mary, St. John, and St. Thomas, and they often pray to saints as well. It sounds like ‘saints’ means big believers.
According to the Book of Worship of the United Methodist Church, “All Saints Sunday (November 1st Sunday) is a day of remembrance for the saints, with the New Testament of all Christian people of every time and place.” In other words, “saints” mean all God’s people beyond time and place. Again, “saints” are like carved Halloween pumpkins, those who are chosen by God and became God’s people by God’s grace. Even though we are human beings, we are saints who died in Christ and are born again in Jesus Christ as “Christians.” It sounds familiar like baptism, which symbolizes how we died in Christ and are born again in him. All Saints Sunday, especially, is a day to celebrate the communion of saints as we remember the dead in the world but now who rest in a heavenly home with God.
Similarly to asking a pastor a question, in the scripture, many people brought their questions to Jesus. Some asked about growing in faith, but some asked questions about intentionally putting Jesus on trial. When Jesus entered the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus spent his time teaching people at the Temple. Jesus may have wanted to teach more people before he died on the cross. But, several kinds of people tried to put him on trial, asking diverse questions. For example, when Jesus taught at the Temple, Religious Leaders asked him, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority” (Luke 20:1-8). The other day, some asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right. So, is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:21-26). Caesar was a Rome Empire. If Jesus said, “right,” it went against the Jews; if he said, “wrong,” it went against Rome. However, Jesus was wise enough to say, “Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s, and give to God what’s God’s.” (Luke 20:25).
Then, today’s scripture shows another group of people who brought a question to put Jesus on trial. The people were “Sadducees.” While Pharisees are very often present in the Gospel, Sadducees rarely appear. Luke mentions them in a short sentence, “those who say there is no resurrection,” instead of naming who they are. As Pharisees were, Sadducees were a Jewish sect. While Pharisees were in charge of studying and teaching God’s Word (Law), Sadducees led worship. In other words, they were a group of chief priests. They were a small group but had the authority of making big decisions in religion and politics. They were descendants of Aeron, a brother of Moses and very rich. While wealthy and political people liked them, ordinary people didn’t like them because they had the highest authority.
However, as Luke mentions, they didn’t believe in the resurrection and the scriptures, except the Torah (Pentateuch-the first five books of the Old Testament), because they believed that Moses wrote the Torah. Can you imagine if a pastor didn’t believe in the scripture and God and preached about God? That’s the Sadducees. Such a people came to Jesus, and asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.” It was true that Israelite law said, “if his brother dies without a child, his brother should marry his brother’s wife and raise a child as his brother’s child. If the brother doesn’t want to marry, he would be punished by the Israelite elders” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
As I mentioned several times, God’s law is based on “love” toward the poor and the weak. The purpose of the law “marry his brother’s wife” was to protect the widow and the success of his lineage in Israel. The Sadducees, who only believed in Torah, but didn’t believe in resurrection, asked Jesus, “Seven brothers married the first brother’s wife, and all died without having any children. Now, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since all seven were married to her?” What a ridiculous question this was and what a terrible example! How could all seven brothers that married her die? Even though it was such a ridiculous question, Jesus answered them calmly and logically. In the Gospel of Matthew and of Mark, Jesus began by saying, “You are wrong because you know neither the scripture nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29; Mark12:24). It is true because they didn’t believe in Scripture and God.
Jesus said, “those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed, they cannot die anymore because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” If there is no resurrection, many people might pursue more wealth, dealing with untruths in the world, as did the Sadducees. If there is no eternal life, how poor Christians would be! However, Jesus explained to him clearly, “they are like angels and are children of God, being children of resurrection.” This means “saints.” All children of God, who would be in the resurrection, have no pain, no fear, no suffering, no marriage, and no give to marriage, who would be like angels. The people of God in the resurrection would be not someone’s wife or husband, but Christ’s bride. And they are not someone’s children, but God’s children. Please don’t misunderstand, but believe in God and the scripture even though we cannot imagine what it looks like.
Jesus explained it more logically as an example of Moses’ story, which the Sadducees knew, saying, “the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now, he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” In other words, we regard Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as dead in the world, but they are alive in God.
Remember, who God is. God is the Alpha and Omega, who is, who was, and who is to come the almighty (Revelation 1:8). God is identified by himself, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). And Jesus Christ who is the only Son of God said, “in the resurrection, they would be Children of God, and all are alive in God.” Today, we live in a world experiencing terrible events which we can’t understand. Sometimes we feel heartbroken by the loss of loved ones. Nevertheless, we live through it and overcome it by faith in Jesus Christ. We believe in the final victory with Jesus Christ because we are God’s children and saints in God. We are alive in God forever and ever as long as we believe in God. Thanks be to God. Amen!