Saturday, November 5, 2016

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” - A Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
November 6, 2016

The sun rose this morning at 6:23 and it will set this afternoon at 4:24. Ten hours of sunlight is all we get today. A month ago we had eleven and a half hours and in a month from now we will have fewer than nine. It’s getting darker and colder by the day. The beautiful summer flowers are long gone and now even the vibrant autumn colors have turned dull and bleak. The trees are almost all bare, the birds are fleeing southward, and nature is preparing itself for winter’s sleep. Before we know it, and inevitably before we’re ready for it, the snow will fall and the long months of winter will begin. Now winter might be inconvenient, but it’s bearable because we know that it will only last for a time…we know that come March things will start turning around and spring will be on its way. But imagine if we didn’t know this. Imagine if we were an alien from outer space experiencing all of this for the first time. We might be convinced that it’s all over, that the world was literally fading away before our eyes. And no doubt we’d soon fall into the depths of despair. Imagine not knowing that winter is followed by spring, that bare trees are followed by lush vegetation, that the birds come back, that the days get longer and warmer again. Life would become intolerable, we would become miserable, and we’d just curl up waiting for it all to end. Thank God we do know better. The gift of hindsight and experience assures us of the beauty and the warmth and the light that awaits us on the other side of winter.

This life we live can, at times, be a lot like winter. Sometimes we find ourselves lost in the cold stillness and other times we’re fighting through unforgiving blizzards. There’s a lot of icy darkness that plagues our hearts…like doubt, anxiety, and fear. And there’s a lot of harshness that plagues them too…like anger, lust, and greed. War, violence, famine, disease, homelessness, natural disasters…it’s all winter. And on top of all that, each and every one of us is on a trajectory of decline. Without exception we will all age, become weaker, and eventually die. It can be so overwhelming at times…overwhelming, and frightening, and even hopeless, because unlike the tree that loses and regains everything it has every year, we have no definitive assurance that the winter of this life will ever be followed by a spring. After all, there is not one among us who has made it through the pain and the tragedy and the death of this life who can assure us that something greater awaits us, right? Right? I think you can see where I’m going with this.

We are in this church this morning for one reason and one reason alone. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One Who died a true death on a cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, is no longer dead but is risen. He was seen and heard in His risen state by countless witnesses whose testimony has gone out to the limits of the earth, through all time and to all places…even to Portland, Maine this very day. Jesus Christ endured death, He endured winter, and He conquered it, becoming our first and everlasting sign of the spring that awaits us. He is the very embodiment of our hope, the One in Whom we place our faith, and the true object of our love. He is the ray of light that pierces through the darkness, that warms the cold, and sets the world ablaze. The glory of His Resurrection is the surest sign and promise for us of the eternal beauty waiting for us on the other side of the winter of this life. This is why we cried out in our Psalm this morning, “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”

In our Gospel this morning, Jesus encounters a group of people – the Sadducees – who are sadly convinced that there is only winter and that there is no spring to look forward to. They were a small Jewish sect in Jesus’ day who denied the immortality of the soul, the existence of heaven, and the resurrection of the dead. They considered it their duty to obey the written law faithfully only so that they could attain the highest measure of happiness possible in this life. For them there was no hope, no spring, and ultimately, no joy. But Jesus looks them in the eye in our gospel today and He proclaims to them the very truth He would soon prove in His Resurrection: “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”

My friends, we are Christian because we proclaim Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We confess this truth of truths with our tongues and we live it by our lives. And we know the blessed hope it gives us, too, who faithfully endure our own winter alongside Him. But there are many modern Sadducees in our world today who live without the hope and joy that comes from knowing Christ. They are fighting through the storms and the darkness and the cold and they have no sign, no hope, no assurance that the winter they are fighting through can indeed find its fulfillment in an everlasting spring. It belongs to us, those who have this hope, to be – as Christ calls us – light for the world. We are called to dispel darkness with faith, to warm uncertainty with hope, and to set hearts on fire with love. This is the work of evangelization…and it is necessary and urgent.

I’m giving you some homework this week. Spend some time meditating on how the good news of Jesus Christ risen from the dead has affected you in your life. Think of the people in your life who helped you come to this knowledge and faith and then begin to emulate their witness. Parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings, priests, religious, neighbors, friends…where would you be today without them? Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith at His holy altar and then, like them, commit yourself to the work of handing on the faith. Be a light in the midst of darkness and proclaim boldly and warmly that winter is not the end, but rather only the beginning.

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