Job 19: 23-27a
Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[b] lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-end
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits[b] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[c] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Luke 20: 27-38
Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “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 raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too.33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning 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.’[b] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
I am told that as we get older we are more likely to complain. A watershed for me was one morning 6 years ago. I was driving down to London to pick up my daughter Katy from University. There I was on the M56, carefully overtaking two lorries, in the outside lane, when this van came steaming up behind me – much faster than my 70 miles per hour. It flashed me several times. I refused to speed up, moved slowly past and pulled across into the middle lane. The van drew level and the driver managed somehow to lean across his cab to the window facing me, whilst still holding the wheel with his right hand, and make a very rude gesture with his left – something I couldn’t possibly repeat in church! And then he accelerated away. I felt a wave of anger and humiliation. Why was he so offensive? Such a bad example for his employer!
As we both turned off towards the M6, there was a queue and I was surprised to find that I was behind him. I managed to note down his reg and the phone number of the company on the back of the van.
My anger burned in me all the way to Stafford services, and then, just after 9am, I phoned the company and spoke to an HR manager. I think she thought I was a bit of a pain, until I explained about the rude gesture, and then she was with me – that’s not the way our drivers should behave! Picture me on the phone, standing in the car park, nodding vigorously. She would bring him in for a telling off.
By the time I got to London I had calmed down and I started to feel a bit foolish. Here we were, two white, middle-aged men, united in our disdain for each other –one aggressive and impatient, the other a pedantic prig.
Perhaps, I wonder, all hatred starts like this, offence leading to a blindness to the humanity of the other, a denial of common identity, a descent into blame.
One of the things we do on Remembrance Sunday, as we recall violent conflicts between nations, and the suffering they bring, is to be reminded that this is us – there is in each of us the potential for hatred and denial of the other, leading ultimately to the desire for war.
We may not be peacemakers at the United Nations, but we can all do the work of creating peace and of reconciliation, repair work, reaching for different ways of seeing, first in our own hearts and in opening up conversations across hurt and misunderstanding.
And so, in the widest sense, the victims of war, who we remember today, and their courage, are not “their victims”, they are, collectively, “our victims.”
The tragedy of all our human conflict is more than the direct suffering it brings, the destruction of lives and relationships. There is also the vast waste of creative opportunity, so much ingenuity and energy and time and money which could have been poured out in making us all richer, freer, happier, more beautiful. God’s creation is brimming with such opportunity.
This is how I feel when I read today’s gospel. A group of Sadducees come and meet with Jesus. What a gift! And like many religious leaders who meet with Jesus, their primary aim seems to be to test him, to set a trap and see if he falls into it. It seems he is objectified as an insurgent, a threat to their authority. Their suspicion gets in the way of truly seeing or hearing him. I can’t help wondering how much more might have come from such a meeting!
Whilst today is chiefly about remembrance, our readings also point us forward, into the future. Firstly with those verses from Job, in the midst of his suffering, sung to us so beautifully by Rhiannon last Sunday:
“I know that my redeemer liveth
And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth
And though worms destroy this body
Yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
And this chimes with Jesus words from our gospel reading, God is the God of the living, for to him all are alive – including those prophets from history who have died – but who are “children of the resurrection.”
God is alive, our redeemer lives. Fully and utterly, brimming with pure life, a light in which no trace of shadow is found. He is the source of all life, the giver of life and for whom all are eternally alive. We approach a mystery here, which we cannot grasp.
But on this Remembrance day we hold on to a hope of a thing unseen, that the cloud of death, which hangs most darkly over humanity in times of war, will be lifted, and on that day we will see God, face to face, and, with those who have died, we too will live, fully and completely.