Haggai 1:15b-2:9 and Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 or Psalm 98 • Job 19:23-27a and Psalm 17:1-9 • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 • Luke 20:27-38
In this Sunday's readings, Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees, a Jewish religious sect known for their skepticism about a next life, or resurrection. They put forth a hypothetical involving a woman married seven times to seven brothers, in accordance with Jewish law as each died. Then they asked Jesus: who will be her husband in the next life?
Who indeed? Jesus seems to take their question seriously. Perhaps he was himself tired of hackneyed understandings of eternity – perhaps he had himself puzzled over various teachings about a next life. The reading itself is an invitation to consider life's larger points. If the present moment is, as C.S. Lewis said, the place where time touches eternity; that is, if the present moment is the place where one has the best chance to experience the fullness of life in all its possibilities, what can we learn from this text?
Jesus begins by saying that while people marry in this world, in the age to come, they will not. Now this is interesting. If there is no marriage, then, by extension, there are no families. All of us continue as children of the same God (v. 36) but that is our only loyalty. Imagining such a future is a stretch. It means putting aside all of our family roles as a thing of the past. No longer the child of one's parents, sister or brother, older or younger, cousin, grandchild, husband or wife, aunt or uncle, mother or father… the list can go on and on, of how one identifies as part of a family system. By extension, one's role in work settings and friend groups is also left behind, along with allegiance to or competition between any groups. In the age to come, we are no longer defined by our relationships.
What then will life look like? Who am I, in the world to come? Who are you? In that world, it's my guess that we will still recognize each other. Somehow the freedom of that space might allow us to know each other more fully than is possible in this world, where so much gets in the way. In this hypothetical age to come, it seems that each of us would be connected to and respectful of every other person. After all, we would all have the same status as 'children of God;' in essence forming a totally egalitarian society where everyone would be our brothers and sisters. Blaming and criticizing each other would no longer an option! Further, there would be no more leaning on another, nor having them lean on you: both ways of losing oneself. In this world, each person follows the dance teacher's advice: put weight in your own feet, and stand.
Could a person live as though already in this age to come? Is it really possible to experience each moment as a place where time touches eternity? We still have one foot in this world – and along with it, the opportunity for deep relationships. At the same time, the challenge is to live as though we're aware of another way of being: already there, as the country song tells us. Perhaps all of our relationships can be enhanced by the picture Jesus is painting for the Sadducees and other doubters.
Morning: When in my day can I stop and notice the present moment where time touches eternity? What might be different?
Evening: When did I put weight in my own feet, and stand?