Sermon at St Giles – Sunday 7 November 2010
Gospel Luke 20.27-38
Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
If our greatest hope for eternity is heaven, you’d expect us to have a pretty good idea of what it’s like. What’s in store for us. What redemption brings. The hope of salvation.
If a child asks – what would we say? Wouldn’t we look in the Gospels? Find out what Jesus told us? Can you think, off-hand, of a few verses that come to mind? If not, that’s because Jesus said almost nothing about what heaven is like. Ever wondered why not?
By the magic of search engines, there are 140 uses of word heaven in Gospels. Many say nothing about heaven as a place or a state of being. Like your Father in Heaven… Just another way of saying God.
The references that actually say something about heaven reveal that heaven is:
· Place of reward
· Many will come from E and W – take their places with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
· Everyone there is equal – but even least will be greater than John the Baptist
· Secrets given to little children
· Peter given keys
Most of descriptions are what heaven is like:
· Mustard seed
· Buried treasure
· Pearl of great price
· Net let down to catch fish
· Owner of house who brings out storeroom treasures old and new
· King who settles accounts with servants
· Owner of a vineyard who hires workers
· King preparing wedding feast
· 10 virgins with lamps
Reading passage – query by Sadducees about resurrection. Does not even mention heaven. But forget the trick question – response is closest we get to what heaven is like.
Heaven is where people
· neither marry nor are given in marriage
· can no longer die
· like the angels
· God’s children
· children of the resurrection.
Perhaps our imaginations are too limited. Our vision is too narrow. Our comprehension too small. That’s why Jesus gives us so little to go on.
Still people have dreamt. Let their imaginations run riot. Wonderful book of Revelation. Apocalyptic glimpse of heaven. In his dream, John looks, and there in heaven a door stood open. A voice invites him to come up to heaven and see what must take place after this. Then in the spirit he sees a throne and One sitting on it. He describes the wonder of what he sees.
Most people find this sort of literature hard. Challenging. Even threatening.
They prefer more homely account by Jesus in John 14 – no mention of heaven – comfort to those who are grieving.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 My Father's house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Comforting words. Trust. Faith. Reliance on God. In a way, we don’t need more.