Toorak Uniting Church

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Life, death and afterwards?

Luke 20: 27 – 38
Rev. Robert McUtchen
7 November 2010

Questions about the after life arise in everyone’s mind. When a baby is born, particularly for a parent or grandparent, we marvel at the wonder of new life – and maybe remember a loved one who recently died. Little children are curious about life and death, and what happens after we die. It is important to keep answers simple and honest. At a funeral we contemplate the frailty of life, the ever present nearness of death and wonder what lies beyond the grave. Today, as Annabel is baptised we are again reminded of God’s promises, and the connection to the life beyond this one.

Asking questions is important and valid. But sometimes questions are asked for no other reason than to cause trouble. Such was the Sadducees question, which did not seek an answer, only to trap Jesus into self incrimination. Jesus response cuts through the confected hypothetical which, purporting to ponder resurrection, becomes so self engrossed that it is blind to the greater wonder of the power of God to give life beyond death, or make possible the resurrection. As Jesus speaks of those who rise from death as angels (v 36) – remember that angels main purpose is to praise God. When he refers to Moses at the burning bush, by implication he recalls Moses first response to hearing the voice of God – to cover his face. Moses does not question God, or the meaning is of what is happening – he responds in awe and worship by covering his face. Even today observant orthodox Jews will not say the name of God – it is G _ D. Jesus teaches us that the response to the resurrection is awe and wonder and praise, not some silly question of marriage.

Death and what lies beyond are profound mysteries. Sometimes children are better able to contemplate and wonder than we adults can. Our religious traditions speak with conviction of the future hope – as you heard in Job 19:25 today: 25For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; 26and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, 27whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. Jesus recognised the existence of a life beyond the mortal one. It is not in dispute. What is unclear are the precise details of what that life is, or how it actually works. Hence the nonsense of the Sadducee’s questions – the more so since they did not believe in a resurrection.

How long since we deliberately contemplated what life after death might mean, or discussed it with those close to us? Will we see our loved ones – as some near death experiences claim? Is this new life in any way comprehensible, as our perception of life is informed by our human experience? Will we have interest in the earthly realm we have left? Is it immediate, or do we first face the judgement seat? Whatever your musings, remember that in the end, it is the certainty of Jesus promise: in my Father’s house are many rooms - I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be. A mystery, but not a complete mystery, for some things are very sure – Jesus promise. And as we celebrate this promise for Annabel, be reminded that the promise is also for you, and that the benefits begin now for you and for her – in the promise of sin forgiven, a quiet mind, and peace with God. In the face of such momentous promises – what do details about marriage, shape, sex or anything else matter? Amen.

© Rev. Robert McUtchen, 2010

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