Lent Reflections @ CEC (4/1/20)
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence ... We need silence to be able to touch souls."
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 12:1-34; focused on Mark 12:18-27
Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him 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 raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
Some people LOVE to argue. With toddlers, we all get it: this little person is developing her sense of self; she’s got to shout WHY? or NO!, only minutes later to come running for a hug. With bigger people, crankiness may mean I’m dead tired, I’m overwhelmed, I need some corner of the world to stay the same with everything else changing. But others do make contrariness a way of life. On the one hand, we all need folks who challenge the status quo—in order for us as a culture and a church to figure out a best way forward. On the other, continual apparently pointless questions, asked just to throw sand in the works, to provoke an emotional reaction, or as ‘gotcha’ traps, these wear me out.
Jesus has the number of these Sadducees. We know Jesus ‘gets’ these guys because a few lines later, he warns, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect.” They like to show off fancy clothes, get the best seats, pray long windy prayers—and cheat widows out of their property.
The Message in this passage calls Sadducees “the party that denies any possibility of resurrection.” So why are they even asking whose wife this poor widow—passed from brother to brother after her husband’s death—would be in the afterlife? They don’t care about the woman or about this Hebrew tradition that keeps property in the family, and they hardly even care about the resurrection. They want to publicly trap Jesus, expose him, one-up him, so that they can look smarter and more powerful.
Instead of falling into their trap, Jesus listens carefully and offers the Sadducees and all of us his message then and now: three critical aspects of real spiritual life. First, he points us to Scripture which should always be our measure of godly teachers and leaders. Second, he promises that “the power of God” is here-and-now available to us. Third, and most important, he offers us Himself, “not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
In our moment, here’s what this means to me.
One—stay in the Bible, reading, pondering, talking with others about it online or in your household. Daily news right now is grim, and God cares intimately and profoundly about the corona virus threat, front-line responders, our loved ones, and us. We can best know how to think and respond to all of this if we daily open the Word to hear its writers proclaim, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105). God’s light holds steady even on a dark path.
Two—Just as for David, God’s power is right now available to us. The warrior-king is urgent in his assertion and appeal: “You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” (Ps. 70:5). Another psalmist declares, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Ps. 46:1). Beyond any verbal, mental jousting, real fear can make it seem our world’s falling apart. But we can talk over anything with God. Our powerful God holds the whole world in His hands.
Finally—I’m realizing that for many, our old world may never be the same after a great crisis like this, and yet both in the middle and after, Jesus promises our living God is with us. “I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Hebrew scripture also many times teaches that our Creator and Defender, our Father God is here: “Do not be afraid or terrified…, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:8).
O, God—I am so very grateful that your Word, your power, and your living presence are still with us. Enable us, by the light of your Holy Spirit, to see you and know you and trust you right now.