Sermon for Third Sunday before Advent (Year C)

Luke 20.27-38
The Kingdom Season
Preached on 6th November 2016

If I were ever to go on an ecclesiastical Mastermind programme (if there ever were such a thing!) I think my specialist subject would be the Church’s liturgical Calendar and Lectionary.  I love the rhythm and flow of the Church’s year, the different seasons and the different stories they tell.

At the moment we’re in what’s informally called “The Kingdom Season”.  It runs from All Saints Day, or All Saints Sunday to the eve of the First Sunday of Advent which this year is the 27th November.

It’s a season to celebrate and reflect upon the kingdom of God and it ends with the great Feast of Christ the King on the 20th November.

We then go back to the beginning of the story on Advent Sunday, this time following the lectionary for Year A. (so that’s something to look forward to – the year of Matthew!)

In the Kingdom season the past, the present and the future are brought together and held in a time of now-ness.

Looking to the past we remember:

  • Those who lost their lives in war or who suffered terrible injury of body or mind.
  • The Saints – our ancestors in the faith who from their labours rest leaving behind their example and their teaching.
  • The Faithful Departed, All Souls – the men and women who have been special to us in our lives and our faith journey and who we remember with thanksgiving and prayer.

For the future, we look forward to the day when Christ will return as King and Judge, reigning on earth and in heaven.

In the present we reflect, yes on the return of Christ as King but also on the mystery of his Kingdom in which there is no past or future.  Today, in this present moment, although limited by time and space, we are in union with the whole company, the whole citizenship of heaven, we are alongside the Saints and the angels in the Kingdom of God and I wonder how much we understand of the nature of that Kingdom which in the end cannot be fully understood.

In our Gospel reading this morning we hear the Sadducees asking Jesus about life after death and resurrection (something which they don’t actually believe in!)

To set this in context:
It takes place in Jerusalem during the days between the excitement of Palm Sunday and the agony of Good Friday.

Jesus is constantly being questioned and challenged:
by whose authority is he acting?
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?
After the resurrection, whose wife will a widow be if she’s been married seven times?

Jesus answers each question with some quick, witty and intelligent ripostes leaving the questioners baffled and looking a little foolish.  In fact, after this particular encounter with the Sadducees we are told that his enemies no longer dare to ask Jesus further questions.

Of course, the people asking these questions aren’t honestly seeking answers: they’re trying to trick Jesus into saying something blasphemous or openly rebellious against Caesar so they can have him arrested, charged and killed.  If this particular question had been an honest one, the Sadducees would have heard some valuable teaching about the kingdom of God which we can learn from even if they don’t.  Jesus makes it clear that the question is based on a complete misunderstanding of resurrection and God’s kingdom.  Human ways of behaving and relating to each other will be changed because human beings will be changed.  They become like angels, they are children of God, children of the resurrection.

Jesus talks about the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  And says “he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive”.

In God, there is no past, present or future – his Kingdom is beyond time.

When we reflect on the nature God’s kingdom I think we need to be ready, unlike the Sadducees, to look beyond our earthly boundaries and the limitations of our understanding.

Jesus invites us to think of a dimension in which there are no clocks to tell us what time it is or how long we have left to finish writing a sermon!
No calendars with pictures of the countryside or cute kittens.
No timetables – I know a train and bus enthusiast who will miss those!
But:  time is no more – there is only an eternal now.
Can we imagine that?

Can we reflect on a dimension in which relationships like husband and wife; parents and child; uncles and aunts; nieces and nephews no longer have meaning because we are all children of God and equal in his and each other’s eyes.  Can we imagine that?

And what about a dimension in which poverty, injustice, oppression, cruelty, terrorism, war do not diminish the human spirit because they have no place in Christ’s Kingdom and have been redeemed.
Can we imagine that?

And no religion:  no distinction between Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist – we are all children of the One Father and Mother God and we will rejoice in that.
And can we imagine a dimension in which we are fully free to be who God created us to be – whatever that means for each one of us?

And in this Kingdom season, as we think about and reflect on the Kingdom of God – its freedom, its creativity, its joy and its unity we can perhaps, learn to long for the coming of that Kingdom more deeply than before and re-commit ourselves to doing all we can to bring the reality of God’s kingdom into the kingdoms of this world remembering these words from scripture set to music in Handel’s Messiah:

“The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords.”