Today we acknowledge All Saints Day and a day of remembrance for those who have given of their lives to defend our nation.
It is a day when we give thanks to God for their lives but even more than that we give thanks for the hope of the resurrection which enables us to take comfort that death is not the end but a doorway of entry to eternal life.
While death ends life here on earth that life is continued in eternity in Heaven with God.
And it won’t be just a continuation of life here.
I mean who would want that?
Who would want to have to go through all the pressures of life again – working and all the struggles of life here?
I know I don’t.
And that’s what Jesus is trying to teach the Sadducees today.
They didn’t believe in an afterlife so they just presumed that those who did thought it would just be a continuation of life here on earth.
The Sadducees were one of the religious groups of the Jews who didn’t believe in the resurrection to eternal life.
So they asked a long, somewhat convoluted question about marriage in order to trip Jesus up about the resurrection.
They weren’t trying to find out about eternal life but just to prove Jesus wrong.
So they put up this seemingly crazy situation before Jesus about a woman married to 7 different brothers who had all died and had married her as part of the Old Testament law of succession, wondering whose wife she would be in the afterlife.
Jesus showed them that they were taking situations that belong to our human, finite life and trying to apply them to the afterlife, which is infinite and beyond our full comprehension.
The bible tells us in several places that while life continues after we die it is not the same as it is here.
For those who have suffered in this lifetime there is the hope that they won’t have to go through that again when St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
For those who have grieved in this lifetime for loved ones St John says in the Book of Revelation:
‘God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
For those who have found life a toil through back breaking work just to make ends meet, working from sun up to sun down, again the Book of Revelation says:
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
For those who have experienced persecution or injustice that has never been made right the Book of Revelation says:
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And … Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” a for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
The sea was symbolic of where evil spirits would find their home – hence Jesus walking on the water showing his authority over the evil spirits including the pigs who rush into the water once the demons entered into them.
Jesus explained to the Sadducees that the resurrected life in Heaven will not be the same as human life, so it is wrong to apply the same categories of marriage to it.
He says 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 anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
It is difficult when someone we love dies because while they are in that new existence of eternal life we are still here dealing with the earthly realities of life and death – grief, sorrow, loneliness.
And that’s really hard because even though we are comforted for them we still deal with the struggles of life while we wait for Jesus to bring us home.
But we need to remember that whilst our loved one is in the presence of God, so are we.
As Jesus said to them: Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Again, that is hard to fathom because just as the Sadducees were trying to apply earthly parameters in heaven, we are trying to understand heavenly parameters while we are still on earth.
But that’s exactly the reality we have as Christians when St Paul says to the Colossians:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
All Saints Day often gets criticised by those who don’t understand it and believe that we are glorifying the dead.
That could not be further from the truth.
It is giving thanks to God for the life that he gave and for the faith that he gives.
Also unfortunate is our hesitance as Lutherans to use the words saints because of the Reformation where Luther object to prayers to the saints.
But “saints” is a word used widely by St Paul in his letters when he wrote to the churches.
Saints were those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and he made no distinction to the living or the dead as those who had died in faith continued in the church through their heavenly worship with us.
That’s why in our creed we refer to the Communion of Saints as we gather with the angels and archangels and ALL the company of heaven when we worship and celebrate the sacrament.
So let us remember that God is a God of the living and that the living includes us and those who have gone ahead of us to their new life in the presence of God.
As the angels said to the women at the grave on Easter Sunday, we don’t look for the living among the dead –
We don’t understand death while we are in this life because we have no idea of the immensity of what is waiting for us.
In 2 Corinthians St Paul said he was taken up into heaven and given a glimpse of what was waiting for us and said he saw things that humans are not permitted to know.
He also said in Romans that he considers that our present sufferings here are not worth comparing to the glory that awaits us in heaven.
There is a total inability to understand the afterlife compared to our present life
So I’ll leave my final words to St Paul who said in our reading this morning:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.