O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame,
but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you have I hoped all the day long.
Remember, Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth
or my transgressions,
but think on me in your goodness, O Lord,
according to your steadfast love.
Gracious and upright is the Lord;
therefore shall he teach sinners in the way.
He will guide the humble in doing right
and teach his way to the lowly.
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.
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’
He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
When someone close to us dies we find ourselves caught up in a maelstrom of emotions. We are full of sorrow that we will no longer see and live alongside someone who was precious to us. We feel relief, and perhaps joy, that the suffering of our loved one has come to an end. We may feel overwhelmed by a burden of responsibility that has fallen upon our shoulders. We may feel fear because of the cloud of loneliness that has suddenly enveloped us. Death, for those who are left behind, is bewildering and devastating.
It is not only the death of a loved one that evokes such emotional turmoil. I remember walking through the streets of London in that fateful week of September 1997, the week after Princess Diana died. I remember seeing groups of people crying and consoling one another following the death of someone they had never even met. I also remember television interviews with those people, interviews in which they laid blame, expressed sorrow, and asked questions. The experience of death is difficult because it is a moment which defies human explanation.
In today’s reading, Jesus is confronted by some Sadducees, those who denied the truth of the resurrection. We know that they are challenging the one man who will soon defy death in this world and reveal not only the truth, but also the power of the resurrection. But, that is not where we are in the gospel narrative today.
The Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection is based on a range of theological misconceptions. These misconceptions are wrapped up in the question they ask Jesus about the fate of the much-married woman. The basis of the complicated hypothesis presented by the Sadducees is their misunderstanding of what resurrection means. Resurrection does not mean more of the same, rather it means a new life to be lived in a closer relationship with God.
The reality of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be doubted. Many saw him and witnessed the transformed life of the one who had passed through death. This transformational rebirth, this resurrection, is the victory over death that Jesus won for us. Until we come into the moment of our own actual resurrection, let us strive to live that transformed life Jesus won for us all. Let us prove ourselves to be ready for the resurrection to come as we, in our time, enter the eternal presence of our God. Let us show that we are ready and worthy to be transformed for ever.
Prayers of intercession
In the faith of resurrection to eternal life, let us pray to the Lord.
Endow the Church with grace to interpret the scriptures rightly and to proclaim the resurrection faith. Help her ministers and all Christian people to guide into the right way those who are uncertain and seek assurance.
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 our families, friends and neighbours to be sensitive to the needs of those we meet. Guide with sound judgement those who teach and give advice in our community.
Visit and comfort all who are bereaved. Have mercy on those who are caught in difficult relationships and on the families that are broken. Bring them new hope and understanding.
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.
May our prayers be accepted through Christ, the Lord of eternal life.
Prayer for the week
May we accept this day at your hand, O Lord,
as a gift to be treasured,
a life to be enjoyed,
a trust to be kept,
and a hope to be fulfilled;
and all for your glory.
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.
Our hearts be pure from evil,
that we may see aright
the Lord in rays eternal
and, listening to his accents,
may hear so calm and plain
his own ‘All hail’, and, hearing,
may raise the victor strain.
St John of Damascus (c.675–c.750)
translated by John Mason Neale (1818–1866)