O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed be the Lord my rock,
who teaches my hands for war and my fingers for battle;
My steadfast help and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield in whom I trust,
who subdues the peoples under me.
O Lord, what are mortals that you should consider them;
mere human beings, that you should take thought for them?
They are like a breath of wind;
their days pass away like a shadow.
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
touch the mountains and they shall smoke.
Cast down your lightnings and scatter them;
shoot out your arrows and let thunder roar.
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and take me out of the great waters,
from the hand of foreign enemies,
Whose mouth speaks wickedness
and their right hand is the hand of falsehood.
O God, I will sing to you a new song;
I will play to you on a ten-stringed harp,
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 20.27-40
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, ‘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. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘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 any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And 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.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
Today’s reading is, once again, set in Jerusalem, just a few days before the end of Jesus’ earthly life. By this time, Jesus was well known as a miracle worker, a healer, a wise man, the one who had raised two people from the dead, the one who had driven the money changers from the Temple. To some he was the next Moses or Elijah; to others he was the long-awaited Messiah. In the midst of all this comes a group of Sadducees. The intention of those Sadducees was to have yet another attempt at tripping Jesus up, this time on the subject of the resurrection.
The 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, once said: The Bible gives to every person and to every era answers to their questions as they deserve. We shall always find in it as much as we seek and no more. This is particularly relevant to the group of Sadducees who are confronting Jesus today. They already knew the answer they wanted to hear, just as we, so often, go to God with the answers we are prepared to accept in our minds. We, like those Sadducees, are afraid of encountering the living Christ because the challenge of that meeting is too much to bear. Like those Sadducees, we try to play linguistic games with God in the hope that our cosy assumptions and lifestyles might receive his blessing.
When you read through the gospel narrative you will come to realize that Jesus knows exactly how to respond to groups and individuals like those Sadducees. Those who asked trick questions were usually given a parable in response. Jesus could also create mind puzzles, although his parables were not tricks, they were stories which invited his listeners to view the world in a new way. But … those who brought their deepest concerns and longings to Jesus encountered a very different response. The genuine questions were often met with the authenticity of touch, healing, wonderful signs, the love of God.
Jesus wants us to go to him with our questions, our fears and our hopes, but he does not want us to try and ‘play games’ with him. Jesus wants us to go to him with our genuine questions in a spirit of honesty and openness. Jesus wants us to be ready for his answer, which will inevitably involve change on our part. Jesus so often answers our questions and entreaties with an invitation, an invitation to join the Way to new life, to come closer to the Son of God himself.
Jesus said: ask and you will receive. But, how can we receive if we never ask? How can we receive if we are not ready to listen to the answer? There is no such thing as a ‘stupid’ question, but there are many of us who, like the Sadducees, cast ourselves in the role of the ‘stupid’ questioner!
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, the giver of all life in this world and in the world to come.
Strengthen your Church to hold fast to the traditions which she has received. Knowing that we are justified in Christ alone, may we remain faithful until his coming again.
Give freedom to those in this world who are constrained by false legalism that holds them back from fullness of life. Bring to all nations the understanding that your ways are not ours and that your love is unbounded.
Grant to us, our families and friends, the grace of good deeds offered not for our own merit but for love of you and of our neighbours. Make us faithful witnesses in our community.
Have mercy on the childless couples who earnestly desire children. Comfort widows and widowers and all who are bereaved.
Grant that the departed may indeed be children of the resurrection, raised to their new life by you, the God of the living. Fulfil in them the good hope that sustained them in this world.
That we may come to Christ with wisdom and understanding, we offer our prayers in his name.
Prayer for the week
God of righteousness, God of peace,
forgive the selfishness, greed and arrogance
that cause us to be at enmity one with another.
Help us and all people to live together
in Christian love and goodwill;
and teach the nations of the world
the things that belong to their peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding;
‘Christ is nigh’ it seems to say;
‘cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day.’
Wakened by the solemn warning,
let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.
Edward Caswall (1814–1878), based on
Vox clama ecce intonat, (Latin, 5th or 6th century)