1. I used to be a news junkie. Perhaps you were too.
a. I remember a time when
b. WINS 1010 would be what I woke to,
c. CNN would play in the background while I was at home
d. And NPR’s All Things Considered was my companion as I drove home from work.
2. Nowadays however, I can barely get through the nightly news.
3. The actual news is bad enough
a. Wildfires destroying northern and southern California
b. Air in India so toxic that people literally cannot breathe
c. The retreat of our country from leadership in the world
d. The growing number of countries which claim to be democracies but which in reality are controlled by corporations and oligarchs
e. The growing division in in our own country over whether we are one of those countries.
4. But what is perhaps even worse is the way
a. rumors and fear mongering,
b. prejudice and fantasy have taken the place of facts in the modern media.
5. However. As slanted as new coverage can be,
a. Whether it is MSNBC on the left or
b. FOX on the right or anything else in the middle
6. They just report,
a. admittedly at times with glee,
b. at times with horror,
c. what politicians actually say and do.
7. Politicians who are often dependent upon the shadowy figures
a. who pump vast quantities of money into their campaigns
b. who pump vast quantities of false facts and fake news into the media
c. who pump up politicians in the polls
d. who pump vast numbers of voters into the voting booths;
e. So that their candidates win the election, but then these candidates
f. are beholden to these shadowy figures and serve their interests rather than the public’s.
8. And this is nothing new.
a. The current state of what passes for democracy in America
b. simply reveals that for many leaders
i. be they bishops and pastors in churches,
ii. Presidents in the white house
iii. Politicians in their offices
iv. or the wealthy in their boardrooms
9. Politics is not ultimately about issues; values, and ideals.
a. Not really, they are just means to an end.
i. Politics is about power.
ii. Getting it and keeping it.
10. The Sadducees in today’s gospel reading would have understood this very well.
a. They were the high priests, the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
11. And yet strangely enough they worked with the Romans
a. Whom as pagans they should have despised.
12. Strangely enough They also worked with the Pharisees
a. Whom, because they claimed that you could be as holy as the priests themselves were simply by following the law,
b. they should have rejected.
13. And yet it is not all that strange;
a. Because they had something in common with the Romans and Pharisees–
b. They wanted power
c. And they wanted to keep it.
14. The Sadducees should have been absolutely uninterested then
i. In this itinerant preacher named Jesus – I mean, where was his power?
b. Except for one thing;
i. He believed in the resurrection of the dead.
15. Now the Sadducees were so conservative
a. that they only believed the books of Genesis Exodus, Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy were truly sacred scripture;
i. All the other books of the Hebrew Bible were too modern!
b. and in those first five books of the Bible, called the Torah,
i. there is no mention of the resurrection of dead.
c. Thus they did not believe in it.
i. And they thought Jesus was crazy for believing in it too.
16. Hence the Sadducees decide to make Jesus look silly,
a. by applying belief in the resurrection to an ancient marriage custom.
i. Where if a husband died without leaving any children,
ii. the husband’s brother was supposed to marry his dead brother’s wife.
17. This custom is found in Deuteronomy and the Sadducees believed it was God’s law.
18. So, they pose the question to Jesus where a woman marries seven brothers,
a. Each one dying before he can give her children.
i. At the resurrection, who would be her husband?
19. This was more than just an idle question:
a. For in Jesus’ day a married woman could not really inherit property;
b. Indeed, many believed she was property – of her husband.
20. Thus, a widow without children was left penniless;
a. bereft unless someone owned her in marriage.
21. But the Sadducees did not care about the woman;
a. they just wanted to make Jesus look silly by forcing him to say
i. that at the supposed “resurrection of the dead”
ii. this woman would have to go on living with seven husbands;
iii. an impossibility according to Jewish Law.
22. The story ends without letting us know
a. how the Sadducees reacted to Jesus’ novel answer,
b. that in the resurrection of the dead we are like angels, and longer marry.
c. Did they walk away angry? Perhaps.
d. Did they walk away amused? Maybe.
e. But they should have walked away frightened
23. Because they would have known the story of the Maccabees,
a. those seven brothers we hear about in today’s first reading,
24. for whom resurrection of the dead
a. did not mean they would just be resuscitated
i. to live as they lived before in their old lives
b. But rather that they would be transformed
i. to establish justice and equality and freedom in a new world.
25. Thus, when Jesus said he believed in the resurrection of the dead,
a. he was not saying that we will be resuscitated
i. to live in a world where the religious power and military might
ii. of people like the Sadducees and the Romans would continue
b. But that we will be transformed
i. to establish a world in which all injustice would end.
ii. even marriage will be done away with, says Jesus;
iii. Along with all its injustices
iv. Such as the one that lay at the root of the Sadducees question.
v. And be replaced by the union of all the faithful with God.
26. Such words should have angered the Sadducees;
a. And the Pharisees,
b. the Romans and the Greeks
c. really anyone in Jesus’ day whose interest lay in power over others.
27. Such words should anger politicians and prelates
a. Really anyone in our day who seek to obtain and maintain power over us;
28. Maybe Jesus’ words even anger us
a. Who sometimes buy into and benefit from the way things are in our world.
29. Maybe that is why we have allowed the words,
a. which we will recite in just a few minutes in the Nicene Creed
b. “I believe in the resurrection of the dead” to become something we mumble out of memory. And then forget.
30. Rather than remember what they originally meant
31. They are a threat to all those rulers who benefit from the injustice in this old world
a. that their rule is at an end and justice is coming.
32. A promise to all who have believed in Jesus and his resurrection throughout the centuries
a. That injustice and death are never the last words, but justice and new life are.
33. And a Challenge to us
a. To share that new life with others,
34. By building families and marriages and churches and whole peoples
a. Where justice and equality are the goals
35. Communities where we believe what the Maccabees believed
a. What Jesus believed
b. And what our Church, when it is following its best lights believes
36. That the resurrection means
a. Not only was Jesus raised from the dead
b. Not only will we be raised from the dead,
c. Justice is raised too.
d. And that resurrection begins right here. Right now.