Scripture: Job 19:23-27a and Luke 20:27-38
Transcribed from voice recording above.
So I’m curious to know how many of you have ever wondered something along the lines of the questions the Sadducees asked, about what happens if someone gets married, and the spouse dies, and the person gets married again. You know, what happens in heaven? Anybody ever wonder about stuff like that? Am I the only one? Apparently I’m the only one who thinks about stuff like that! You know, what would happen? You know, if a teenager or an infant—or say an old person, you know, do you look like your younger self, you know, just little details like that. People wonder—or I wonder, apparently!
So, when I was in confirmation, a few years ago, we were talking about the Bible, and I had started reading the Bible a little, and I had a question: where did Cain’s wife come from? Anyone ever thought about that? Anyone even remember that story? Ah, all right, so there’s a couple other people who are going, “Yeah, I don’t know!”
So, there’s Adam and Eve, right, the first two people, and they have kids, Cain and Abel. And Cain kills Abel (that’s a whole other story), but then Cain takes a wife. From where? There were only two people to begin with, right? It doesn’t say! You know, there’s lots of scholars who will say, “Oh, there could have been all these other different groups.” Or there’s that “royal we,” that “we,” right, at the beginning of creation? We will make them into our image. Is it a “royal” we? “We shall” (in queenly voice), you know? Make them. And it has to be the queen’s voice, when you do that! Or, is it a divine council? I mean, we read from Job, and in Job, there’s like a council advising God, “Do this to him, then Job won’t believe in you!” Alright, sure! Who are all these others?
There’s all these little things, these questions we can ask, these things that we can wonder. You know, but if you listen closely to the passage from Luke today, Jesus doesn’t actually really answer the question, does he? No, he doesn’t! Oh, some of you a little frustrated about that?
He kinds of shifts and avoids the issue. Talks a little bit about marriage, and maybe a little anti-marriage, which was kinda typical for that time. If you look at Paul’s letters he says, that: “Don’t get married, because Jesus is coming back right away. You want to be single.” But he really just brushes it off, like it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter. You’re missing the broader picture, people. You’re trying to nail down these itty-bitty questionable details. You’re missing the forest, by looking only at the trees. What matters is that resurrection is true. Remember he’s talking to a group that doesn’t believe in resurrection. So he’s saying resurrection is true. To God, all are living, so these little human-y details that we have, don’t matter.
Now, as a pastor, I get questions like these all the time. People are always throwing stuff out. People who don’t really know the Bible say, “Well, does it really say what so-and-so on the tv says the Bible says?” Or, “I’ve heard that, you know, that this saying from Ben Franklin actually came from the Bible.” Or people who do know the Bible saying, “Ok, but what about this little passage? See it says here in this one thing.”
I think maybe my new standard answer will be kind of along Jesus: “It doesn’t matter!” It doesn’t matter. And then, you know, point to the larger truth. Some of them have to do with science, right. “Did Jesus really walk on water?” I don’t know. Or the Red Sea, you know. There’s some science trying to prove that the parting of the Red Sea actually was some kind of natural phenomenon or something. Some wind, or something happened. It doesn’t matter.
I’ve talked before about facts vs. truth. I always try to talk about this a lot with my confirmation kids. There’s a difference between facts and truth. I mean, look at like, creation, the facts would be that there are two different, conflicting creation stories. You’d either have to go with man and woman created at once, or man created first. Conflicting facts, which point to a larger truth, of God working in creation, God creating the world. Does it really matter if Jesus actually walked on water or not or how that happened? No. The larger truth being, that story. What was that story? Faith and doubt, right? “Come to me.” And then “Ahh! I’m sinking!” I love that story. Fact? What’s the bigger truth? What matters, when we look at the Bible, and our faith? Jesus matters. Grace and resurrection and justice, the Beloved Community, alleviating suffering…that’s another one that Jesus pulled out a lot, right? Remember the healing on the Sabbath? That’s another, “Ooh! But it says, Jesus, right here! It says, ‘you’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath.’”
It doesn’t matter, people. What’s the bigger picture. Is it better to heal on the Sabbath? Alleviate suffering? Or to follow the letter of this Law. What’s the bigger picture.
Loving your neighbor matters. Helping the poor matters. The Reign of God. Love. Those matter. They all point to that wider, greater truth: who God is, how God works in the world, that we are all God’s beloved, that we are all living to God. Now that’s something I’m going to be thinking about a lot. Somebody said at some point that “we’re not humans on a spiritual journey—not human beings on a spiritual journey; we’re spiritual beings on a human journey.” Kinda makes a little sense, right? This is just one little portion of our whole spiritual experience, where we’ll be present with God. And to God, things like, how many times this woman was married to the brothers (the poor woman, p.s., you know, one brother dies, now I’ve got to marry the next brother). Those are the little things, right, those are the laws, too. There are all those laws saying, if one brother dies, then the other brother has to marry the widow, so that they can have children in his name. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. What’s the bigger picture? What’s the bigger truth?
This Lutheran pastor, who I actually think I mentioned a couple weeks ago—the Washington Post did a piece on her: Nadia Bolz-Webber. Anybody ever heard of her? She’s a Lutheran pastor out in Colorado. She started her own church. Her husband is also a Lutheran pastor; she met him while he was in seminary. He’s like this clean-cut, typical Lutheran pastor guy. She is not. She has this really short kinda spiky hair. She is this gold-medalist cross-fit weight-lifting thing, she’s got tattoos all up and down her arms. She’s kind of foul-mouthed, often. House for All Saints and All Sinners, that’s the name of her church, that’s why I mentioned it. So, she just came out with a new book. But in her piece, she was talking about, you know, all these rules and barriers people put up to people coming to the faith, and basically she was saying it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what we do or what we don’t do. What matters is that God loves us. You know, we don’t have a checklist of all these things we’re supposed to accomplish in our lives. God loves you. That’s what it boils down to, right? Love. Resurrection. Doesn’t matter.
I think I might just start saying that all the time. “It doesn’t matter!” How many people think that there are barriers to them coming to church? Maybe not the people here, because you’re in church. The people who are out there, who say, “You know, I’m divorced, and the Bible says you’re not supposed to get divorced.” Or, “I had a child, and I wasn’t married, and I’m still not married, and I’m living with the father of my child and ooh, I don’t think I should go to church.” Or, “I’m gay.” Or, whatever else. “I’m poor.” Or, “I’m rich.” Or, you know, “I come from the wrong side of town” or “I’m uneducated.” Whatever. “My life is a mess.” “I have an addiction.” It doesn’t matter. What if they were all told that message. They all heard that message. It doesn’t matter. You are God’s beloved child. You are living, you are loved, and you are welcome.
So be evangelists in the coming weeks. Share that good news with people. Let them know it doesn’t matter. Those little arguments, those little things– it doesn’t matter. What’s the bigger truth? There will be some people who still want to argue with you. I’m sure if we had listened to this conversation continued on, the Sadducees would have been like, “Ooh! But wait, you didn’t really answer our question.” There are going to be people. It doesn’t matter. Here’s the forest, don’t mind the trees. Amen.