Martha Mutikani
6th November 2016
Martha Mutikani (Guest Preacher)

In 1983 my uncle married his 17th wife, the other wives had left and about 4 were at his homestead. My parents were shocked by the decision. Marrying another wife but struggling to feed his children who were now more than 15 was just too selfish. Polygamy is more common in Africa, for some it’s a traditional issue. If the first wife does not have children her family is required to provide another wife. The cycle could continue until there are children born to honour the husband. It was common to find a man in church with his two or more wives. To them it was about their family set up and most of them got along despite their situation. My Uncle is now over 80 years he was a polygamist by choice not because of traditional issues. He has more than 30 Children.His legacy is not a good one.

As background, you need to understand that, if a Jewish man died without children, Jewish law required the dead man’s brother to marry the dead man’s wife so he could give her a child to honor his dead brother’s memory.

I think 150 years ago those who built St Matthews knew the building would be a sanctuary of worship for many. I am sure if they were to see us all today they would be moved by the way the congregation has developed. I stand here today as a product of St Matthews, it makes me proud to come and say well done to you all for the legacy you are building. I am sure when you look in your life’s rear view mirror you will have something beautiful to smile about St Matthews church.

What personal legacy are you building?

Unlike the Sadducees in our text today, those who build St Matthews where not selfish. The Sadducees were Sad-you-see as their name. I was giggling all the way as l read the text for today, wondering whether my uncle ever thought of the resurrection. Was he a Sadducee by his way of life? Building an empire on earth thinking his life was ending here. I guess l will never have the courage to ask him. The questions by the Sadducees today reminded me that we can be selfish and forget those around us easily. My Uncle focused on many wives but forgot how the children could be supported. The Sadducees continue to pester Jesus with multiple questions because they wanted to discredit Jesus for their selfish needs.

Who is benefiting in your empire?

In the gospel reading, the Sadducees come with a theoretical question concerning resurrection, they don’t believe in. Jesus knows their unbelief. Perhaps he knows he also won’t convince them, even appealing to the Torah, as he does. But he still answers the question.

Jesus’ enemies were selfish. They wanted to embarrass Him. They wanted to humiliate Him publicly. They wanted to destroy Him. In fact, they were plotting to kill Him. But they didn’t want to create a martyr.

The question the Sadducees pose has a deeper element than that of the mere existence of a resurrection. Whether they see it or not, embedded in their words is a question also about the character of the resurrection and the location of hope. For their theoretical woman’s entire life, she has suffered being a burden on those who have dutifully provided for her, and in her barrenness, she has nothing to offer in return. If the life to come is only a parallel to or continuation of the life that is now, why would she want to be resurrected? Could more of this present life possibly be hope? 

It is that question that I see as the reason Jesus entertains their absurdities. She is a fiction they have created, but while her life doesn’t factually exist, it exists in truth in the lives of so many others. Human life isn’t immune to suffering and despair. The question he answers, is one that most who honestly wrestles with the gospel at some point encounter: How is this message hope? Jesus says in so many words that the resurrection isn’t just more of this life, but rather takes on the qualities implicit to shalom, for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

The Sadducees said a man’s brother married his dead brother’s wife, but still she had no children. Then her second husband died, so another brother married her. Again she had no children. There were seven brothers in all, and all seven married her in turn and died, leaving her, at the end, with no children.

Then the Sadducees popped their question:”In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?” (20:33). How would you have answered that! Husband one? Husband two? Husband seven? Who would be her husband in eternity? But Jesus took their question and went in another direction. He told them that marriage is important in this world, but won’t be in the age to come. The reason is simple: in this world, people die. For the human race to survive, babies must be born. Marriage is needed to provide homes for those babies. But in the age to come nobody will die – so there won’t be a need for childbirth – so marriage will have outlived its usefulness.

Then Jesus gave an example from Jewish history to prove that there is a resurrection. Jesus reminded them that, at the burning bush, God told Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). When Jesus speaks of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being a God of the living, he signals that God is alive, that Yahwah IS, not WAS, that the great “I Am” is not, and never will be “I Was”. ‘I am the God of them when they were here, and I Am the God of you today, and I will be the God of your children tomorrow.’

ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD This scripture raises some issues, doesn’t it! Some of you will say, “I really like being married, so heaven without marriage doesn’t seem very wonderful.” But the transition from this world to the next has lots in common with the transition from the womb to the nursery. If you could tell a baby in the womb what life would be like after being born, it wouldn’t sound all that great to the baby. The baby in the womb wouldn’t want to hear that it would grow up and leave its mother, would it! But things begin to look differently after we are born and start to grow up. My point is that, just as the baby in the womb can’t really understand life outside the womb, neither can we fully understand life after death. Heaven will be very different from anything we know – so different that we can’t really comprehend it. If you were to ask me what heaven would be like, I would just say, “Nice! Heaven will be really, really nice!” That’s all I know for sure.

But in our Gospel lesson today, Jesus wasn’t trying to describe heaven. Jesus was simply reassuring us that there is a resurrection – and that God has made provision for us to live with him eternally. Jesus gave us a peek – a little tiny peek – into heaven. He said that there won’t be any marriage there. That might not sound wonderful to you now, but just wait till you see it. You’ll like heaven! I promise! You’ll like it a lot.

Let’s create legacies that will be remembered when we are gone. Because we go to a beautiful place. Let’s try to make it beautiful for those who are our neighbors today. Jesus our resurrection, who is alive today, enables us to see beauty despite daily challenges.

In Li-Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms”, these words snag me in similar ways to how those of Jesus do:

O, to take what we love inside,

to carry within us an orchard, to eat

not only the skin, but the shade,

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into

the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background, from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Isn’t that the Eucharist, taking what we love inside, and carrying within us the orchard? 
Isn’t the resurrection that sweet impossible blossom we live toward?

Luke 20:27-38