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Twenty-fifth Sunday After Pentecost ~Proper 26


November 6, 2016

Background & History


The Gospel

The Sadducees figure prominently in todays gospel reading, but who were they?

They were wealthy landowners who lived in Jerusalem. Primarily a group of priests,

they operated the Temple and saw the relationship to God as being mediated through a

sacrificial system. They did not believe in the resurrection. The Sadducees also wielded

a great deal of power being part of the Sanhedrin which was part of the Jewish ruling

party.

Politically and theologically, they did not agree with the Pharisees on many things

but could work together in areas of agreement. The Pharisees were more middle class

and lived outside of Jerusalem seeing the relationship with God centered around the

Law and synagogue. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did believe in the resurrection.

We see the Sadducees playing political and theological games trying to trick Jesus

when talking about the resurrection. But instead he demonstrates that Gods love and

power can go beyond death. This is part of our belief in the Communion of Saints as

stated in the Creed. There is only a thin veil separating this world and the next between

us and those who have passed, still in relationship with God.

The Prophet Haggai

Haggai, one of the twelve minor prophets, in todays reading is thought by

scholars to have only been a prophet for a short period. His name comes from the word

festival and was likely born on an important feast day. The role of a prophet is to hear
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the voice of God and share it with others. He or she is to be a mediator and messenger.

Each of us through our Baptisms are called to the gift of prophecy to stop and listen for

Gods voice. If there was ever an important time for this, it is now.

The Message

Take courage for I am with you.

Yahweh to Haggai

Former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said, No president will inherit a

more complex world. (Meet the Press, 2016). It seems to me that since 911 every

election has been described as the most important election. Since 911, we have been at

war in two nations and experienced the worst economic recession since the Great

Depression in 1929. There has been and is a great deal of anxiety and fear among

people. In addition, we have a real crisis of leadership in this country that

runs through all levels of government, political parties, and even

corporations. Political parties use fear and bluster to get votes. Corporate scandals

pop up on a regular basis. Most recently is Wells Fargo who opened over 2 million

bogus accounts to meet sales goals and ruined the work records of employees who tried

to do the right thing by questioning unethical practices. These examples represent a

philosophy of greed, winning is all that matters, and is done at all costs.

Not even the Church is immune to such problems with prominent

clergy flocking to support political candidates calling themselves Christian

but acting in ways and promoting values to the contrary. What are they

hoping to gain? What does it profit one to gain the world but lose his soul, for
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what can anyone hope to gain in exchange for the soul? (Mark 8:36) The Church is in

danger of losing soul ~ not just its leadership but the People of God. As part of this

prophetic role it must be called out! Silence and denial are not acceptable alternatives.

We are in the world but not of the world, but who would know it? (John 17:16)

We are called to be the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14) and we have

forgotten!

We are to look and sound differently ~ not mirror the world. But the

Church ~ the People of God, we have lost our way. Too often the Church has become

simply a place to socialize and be entertained, to feel good, not to be challenged and to

act as change agents. We are here to be humbled, to be nourished, and as Huston Smith

(United Methodist Minister and comparative religion professor) has said to move the

sacred from the side to the center of our focus and attention!

Jesus and Politics?

Will we align ourselves with the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Man, Caesar

or Jesus? I am not saying we should not participate or support a candidate; in fact, we

should. We all must vote! But as the Church our primary allegiance is to Jesus and the

candidate/party second. Too many people have this reversed and are guilty of idolatry

worshiping candidate and nation, for that is what nationalism is about ~ the worship of

ones country. It is incumbent upon us to hold our candidate accountable not justifying

unacceptable behavior or simply looking the other way. We have two major candidates
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who are guilty of both. How do their behaviors compare to what we say we

believe?

Candidates Jesus
I am a great Christian! The last will be first and the first will be
last. (Mt. 20:16)

My Methodist Faith teaches me to be of But those who exalt themselves will be


service. humbled and those who humble
themselves will be exalted. (Mt. 23:12)

Certain rules do not seem to apply to both The Son of Man came to serve and not to
candidates. They have a sense of be served. (Mt. 20:28)
entitlement.

Advocating revenge hitting back harder. You have heard it said and eye for an eye
Talking about going high but going low. and at tooth for a tooth? But I tell you not
to resist the evil doer (Mt. 5:38)

Campaign ads slanderous, negative, and


retaliatory. (Candidates in general.)

Use of nuclear weapons first strike. Those who live by the sword die by the
Spreading nuclear weapons. sword. (Mt. 26:52)

Demonization of Immigrants For I was hungry and you gave me


something to eat, I was thirsty and you
gave me something to drink, I was a
stranger and you invited me in, (Mt.
25:35) Jesus identifies with the
immigrant, the poor, and the
forgotten.

A Larger Kingdom

It can be overwhelming ~ the crazy talk we have had to listen to over the past

year or more from both sides. The world does seem to be on the edge with tensions in so
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many different places. But as one of my coworkers reminded me, God is still in charge.

(Landis, 2016). St. Paul reminds us that, All things God works for the good of

those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom

8:28).

Todays gospel reading makes this clear ~ Gods love is greater than all things,

even death. Even in death, we are united with him and each other. This past week was

the Feast of all Saints in which we are to remember that death is but a transition. They

continue to remain connected to us ~ loved ones and great heroes of the Church. They

pray for us through the Communion of Saints. This is a tradition that is well

documented in the early Church catacombs where we find inscriptions asking Peter and

others to pray for that Christian community.

But most comforting for me are the words of Paul:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor

principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor

height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us

from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8: 38 ~ 39)

If God does this, then no politicians selfish manipulation can shake or worry us.

We are of the Kingdom of God; this is our strength and our hope.