Twenty-Fifth Sunday after the Pentecost- Sermon
11/7/13- Year C
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
58. 35. 7. These numbers or roughly about these numbers, studies show are the way in which we communicate to one another. I know I have shared these figures with the Leadership Team and some who attended one of my classes, so those who’ve heard this before bear with me for a moment. There is no single way in which we communicate to one another. Communication is always layered and filled. There is no such thing as flat communication. It is multivalent in that depending upon time of day, previous night’s sleeping posture, and the like will affect how something spoken is received. And communication studies tend to show that break down in the following way: 58% of all communication is Body Language (corporal), 35% is tone (tonal), and only the remaining 7% of communication is the actual words used (verbal). Whether we realize it or not, even when we’re not speaking we are actually saying quite a lot.
It is in reality a small unnoticed gift of God that we communicate through these various mediums and at the proportion that we do. If for no other reason than for parents to have the ability, through perception to know whether or not their kid is telling the truth. Such as when I ask Justin to brush his teeth and he responds, “Yes!”. Now if we only had flat communication, I would by necessity have to believe him. Yet when his answer is accompanied by a grin sticking out of the corner of his mouth, wandering eyes that can’t seem to focus on me, and a choked down giggle; I have good reason to believe he is trying to sneak one past me. Just as I used to do with my mom and like Justin failed miserably at.
These cues help us, though not perfectly, discern the true intent of the speaker who happens to be talking with us. By the way they shift their bodies we can tell their nerves. Raising a voice, depending on the tone, can be either an exclamation or a curse. And all of it matters little to what actual words are being said. But this is not to say words do not matter. For we Christians are all about words and the Divine Word, Jesus Christ. We have a book chalk full of them as we hear from this and every Sunday; gathering around the Word and Sacrament. Turning to our Gospel lesson this morning we see an encounter between our Lord, the Word made flesh, and the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the social elite of the day and a faction of Jewish life and piety. They held only to the Pentateuch, the Torah, the Law, the books of Moses, or as we more commonly know them today the first five books of the Bible (Gen-Deut). Their focus was centered around the temple and many sadducees functioned as priests. And as Luke narrates for us, they denied the resurrection and the existence of the holy angels. Both of which Jesus, the Pharisees, and today now the Church affirm.
They come, these sadducees, to our Lord seeking from him an answer to their riddle. “Teacher,” they begin, a verbal form of respect in 1st Century Judaism. Perhaps done to feign the sincerity of their inquiry. Just as congressman today address their opposite party candidates, “as the distinguished gentleman from California,” when in reality they mean, “that jerk over there.” Yet all their flattery does not work. Though their body language, tone, and even their words may all be working together to produce an image of sincere piety, they forget with whom they are speaking. For our Lord, unlike we humans, does not need the added forms of communication in discerning his inquires intent. He simply can perceive and look into the human heart. That place from which come all those things that our Lord describes, “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander” all of those that break the Law of God. The sadducees approach Jesus, not with the curiosity of faith, but with the tone of ridicule, deceit, and entrapment. Standing in the presence of the Messiah of Israel—the One of whom Moses himself promised and foretold—they seek to deceive him by the prowess of their wit and intellect.
Yet God will not be mocked. Jesus does not play along with their deception, but pushes back with cutting words of truth. Words that slice through their charades, while getting a dig in or two as well. Mentioning both the resurrection and angels in his reply to overturn their teaching. No matter the sincerity of the sadducees belief, it doesn’t make it any more true in the sight of God. Because it is built upon a false premise, they believe in a god of the dead and not the One true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though the text itself doesn’t say it specifically, it seems to me not a very far leap to say that the sadducees not only live and believe in a god of the dead, but rather in a dead god. One who acquiesces (at least in their mind) to their beliefs and actions. Yet that is not Jesus and that is not the true God of Israel. For He is God of the living, the God of those who have been born in Spirit and truth through the waters of Baptism and clothed with the resurrection. Sons and daughters of the resurrection by the work of God and the gift of faith.
We, my brothers and sisters, are those sons and daughters of the resurrection which our Lord speaks today. Having been washed in the sacred waters of the font, fed and nourished at the holy table, and given by the grace of the Holy Spirit faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, we come today not to placate or appease a god of the dead or a dead god. But we come in faith, in humility to encounter the God of Israel of Old, the Living God, the God of the living. We come now to receive a foretaste of our resurrection life with Him forever. For our eternal life begins here and now. It is ours by faith, where we are clothed with the mercy, grace, and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven and by the power of the Word and Holy Sacraments through the work of the Holy Spirit. Today, this very day, you and I stand as sons and daughters of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By sins forgiven, life and salvation are made to reign in us. We are given the fruits of the Spirit, and the gifts of the kingdom. By grace we are made alive, so that we may join with all those who live in Him and who live to Him.
Having been made alive by the Lord we now live to and in service of the Lord. We are blessed by so much and so many gifts, that we now live to use those for the sake of the least among us. We are given joy, peace, and patience by God, so that we might share that resurrected joy, peace, and patience with others: at church and at work and even at home. We are given the gifts of the kingdom so that we live the kingdom here and now in this place and wherever we go—from the soccer pitch, to the classroom, to the bar, to high tea, to work or the beach—we go in the name of the Lord. Proclaiming the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and what He has done. For Christ has redeemed our whole person so that all our hearts, bodies, minds and strength may fear, love, and serve the Lord. As sons and daughters of the resurrection, given everything we need, let us go forth in joy from this place. Let that resurrected light shine, that you have been given, by your kindness, your peace, your joy, and your faith. For our God is truly a God of the living and you are alive in and with God. As the apostle Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Therefore let us, 58, 35 and 7 proclaim to the world or at the very least to Westminster what God has done for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.