The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate
Luke 20:27-38

The Joy of Resurrection
Prayer: Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today, now and always. Amen.

Our world is a pretty broken and somewhat scary place. In youth group earlier this week, we started a four week series on taking a deeper look at poverty in our world, in our country, and even in our own backyards. The curriculum had us take a look at a reading from Romans that looks at some of the qualities of humankind. One sentence alone used 21 description words or verbs to talk about the more negative sides of humanity. After we read it, there was a heaviness in the room, and we talked about how this couldn’t possibly describe our world…maybe Paul’s world but not ours. We then went through the list again and asked ourselves if each particular word or verb was present in our world…each and every word was.

I didn’t fully realize just how broken our world was until I went on a mission trip eight years ago with Kansas to Kenya (or K2K) through our diocese. I expected there to be poverty, but what I saw was beyond my comprehension. The individuals we were helping were living in makeshift tents in what’s called an IDP camp which stands for internally displaced people. The reason they were displaced is because over ten years ago there was a tribal war between the Kikuyu and Luo tribes in Eldoret. The government pitted the different tribes against each other in order to get a vote during the elections. Hundreds of people were killed, and most people lost their homes. A lot of the women and children fled to Maai Mahiu where Habitat for Humanity created this IDP camp for them. They often times didn’t have enough food to feed their families or enough clothing to keep them warm during the frigid nights. And what I saw broke my heart.

But do you know what I saw that I didn’t expect? Joy! I saw so much joy. These displaced people were so happy to be alive, to be with each other, and to have God in their hearts. While we were there we would play with the children outside of the Anglican Church. Many of them were orphaned, and most of them didn’t speak any English. They did’t care though, because they just wanted to play.

We also built houses for three families. And when I say a house, I don’t mean the types of houses we live in. They were about as big as from the front pew to the front of the pulpit, and it was only one story. About five people generally lived in these houses with three tiny rooms, but they were so happy to have a roof over their heads.

On our last Sunday there, we went to the Anglican Church that was right across the AIDS highway from the IDP camp. Most of the service was spoken in the tribal language of Kikuyu, so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but I remember watching the three families who we had built the houses for. They were praising the lord like they lived in million dollar mansions and didn’t have a care in the world.

During that service I felt like I fully understood for just a second what the resurrection truly meant. It’s a light that cannot be blown out, it’s a joy that cannot be suppressed, and it’s a love that cannot be taken away. Resurrection is the joy in our broken world.

My experiences in Kenya taught me that just because we live in a broken world doesn’t mean that there can’t joy, but it is a choice that we have to make. Theologian Karoline Lewis says it perfectly, that “Joy is not abstract happiness. Joy is elusive. True joy is hard to come by and seems simply impossible when one starts down the road of real life.”

This Gospel lesson is the last section within a larger story of the chief priests, the scribes, and Sadducees trying to entrap Jesus into saying something blasphemous. In the section just before the gospel we heard this morning, Jesus shuts down those trying to entrap him when they ask him about paying taxes to Caesar. The same thing happens to the Sadducees in this section when they ask Jesus a question about the resurrection.

The gospel reading makes it very clear that the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection, so they make up this almost implausible scenario in which a woman would be passed like cattle from brother to brother to brother after their untimely deaths to ultimately not bear any children. So they ask who this woman would end up with in the resurrection. Why would the Sadducees need to know this answer? They don’t…they don’t believe in the resurrection, but they’re trying to trap Jesus into saying something heretical.

The important thing to note here is that Jesus doesn’t even answer their question. Most of the time when someone or a group of people ask Jesus a question, he rarely ever answers them. It may seem like he does, but he almost always reframes the question. He always finds a way to make his point without being caught up in the traps that are set out for him.

So instead of Jesus answering the Sadducees about which brother the women will end up with in the resurrection. He takes the opportunity to give us a glimpse of what it means to be people of the resurrection.

In the short time that I have been here at Grace with you all, I have witnessed an incredible amount of joy, both in the church and out in the community. It has been an inspiring place to be, even in the midst of the unknowns of searching for a new dean, and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of my time with you all.

I have witnessed the way you all love God, and I want to encourage us all to continue finding and creating joy in the midst of the brokenness. I know that it can be difficult to feel joy when things may feel uncertain. But remember joy is a choice. We have to choose to love God. We have to choose to be joyful. So even though Paul has pointed out some very true and harsh realities of our world, the youth group and I will continue to explore the devastation of poverty, but we’ll also look for the joy that’s in our broken world.

Just as my Kikuyu friends in Kenya chose to love and praise God during the rough times and chose to be joyful through all the pain. Let us also make those same choices. Let us focus on our love of God and the joy of being people of the resurrection.

AMEN.
Lewis, Karoline. “Choose Joy.”