25th Sunday after Pentecost
Job 19:23-27aPsalm 17:1-92 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Our Gospel story today enters into a theological argument between the Sadduces and the Pharises? Sadduces believe that God works in this world and the Pharises believe that God will work in eternity beyond this world. Recognizing only the Pentateuch, the Sadduces do not believe in life after death. Whereas the Pharises believe that God’s realm is eternal. Why is this important?
Luke is writing sometime around 60 AD. So while he is writing Jesus’ story, and giving us Jesus’ words, he is writing with the full knowledge of Jesus’ crucifixion. He is writing at a time when under Roman law, Jesus was sentenced to death and executed. Because this story names the Sadduces, we can imagine that Luke is writing for people who like the Sadduces have questions about God’s realm. We can hear the Sadduces asking, “where was God when they crucified Jesus?” How is God working when we know that there is injustice in the world?”
Luke has to answer this question. Where, how and when is God’s justice? In telling the story of the resurrection, we see that Jesus triumphs over death. He prevails and in new life, God’s justice is made visible. The Roman Emperor did not win the fight. He imposed his unjust law on Jesus the man, but God raised Christ and in this resurrection, justice is done.
Jesus explains the resurrection to the Sadduces using the example of levirate marriage. Under the law of the land, a widow without children will become the wife of her brother in law. She will be passed from brother to brother, as property. But she will also be cared for this system of laws. Jesus gives the extreme example—what if she is passed from one brother to another seven times? Where is the justice? In this legal system of obligations and rules about how people will be treated, how will the woman’s personhood be respected?
Jesus tells the Sadduces, justice will be done. In the age of the resurrection, the woman will not marry or be given in marriage. In the resurrection, no one will die. They will be like angels, they will be children of God. Instead of looking to a flawed legal system that won’t really take care of the woman, Jesus tells us to look to God’s justice. In the resurrection, all people will be taken care of. They will be loved and cherished. The woman will be cared for completely as a child is cared for. A flawed system that does not provide justice will have no consequence. In resurrected life, what is good and right and just will prevail.
This week we are praying with Bishop Marc, and Rev. Daniel as they protest with the Sioux nation at Standing Rock. The fight at Standing Rock is a fight about the Dakota Access Pipeline and whether it will run through Sioux land—land that is protected by the US treaty with the Sioux nation. The protesters at Standing Rock seek to reroute the pipeline so that it wil not cross their sacred homeland and will not threaten to pollute the Missouri river which is their only source of clean water. Also in this fight for justice are the workers and their unions who need the jobs created by the pipeline. They believe that without this work, they cannot survive economically.
Our Presiding Bishop, Bishop Michael has issued a statement about the protesters at Standing Rock. I would like to read it aloud:
“Water is a gift from the creator, respect it, and protect it.” I was deeply moved by these words printed on the sign of a person standing with hundreds of others to protect the Missouri River. In the Episcopal Church, when we baptize a new follower of Jesus Christ, we pray these words over the water of baptism. “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.” We then recall how God used water to bless his people in the Bible, from the story of creation in Genesis, the emancipation of Hebrew slaves in Exodus, to the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan. Indeed, “Water is a gift from the creator.” To sustain it and to protect it is to “safeguard the integrity of God’s creation,” and therefore to protect human and other forms of life created by Almighty God. That work warrants our full and prayerful support.
The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, standing in solidarity with hundreds of other indigenous nations and allies, are calling us anew to respect and protect this sacred gift of God, and in so doing to respect and protect God's gift of human life. In protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they recognize the gift of water to all of us, a gift given to us by our Creator. The Sioux remind us “mni wiconi” or “water is life.” This God-given resource courses through our mighty rivers and our human veins, working to renew and reinvigorate all of creation.
We are called to do our part to urge decision makers to recognize and honor the efforts to protect the sacred water and burial grounds threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Pipeline, if completed, would stretch over one thousand miles and transport 540,000 barrels of crude oil through hallowed North Dakota burial grounds every day. A rupture in its infrastructure could wreak untold havoc on the Sioux and catastrophically pollute the Missouri River, a sacred tributary that the Sioux people depend upon for their daily water.
I stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River. We know that the right to clean water is an internationally recognized human right and that all too often indigenous communities, other people of color, and our most vulnerable communities throughout the world are the ones most at risk of losing access to clean water. As we join the people of Standing Rock, we also recognize that their stand is one that joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God's creation as a matter of stewardship.
This stand of men, women and children is also an important moment in the life of indigenous people. The Sioux people’s advocacy efforts to protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds threatened by the oil pipeline is truly historic. Leaders of Standing Rock observe that it’s been over 140 years since such a unified call for respect and justice has been made. The Episcopal Church has a long record of advocating that government, corporations and other societal players respect the treaty rights of Native peoples. Standing alongside our Sioux brothers and sisters, we continue this legacy today.
The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are calling us now to stand with Native peoples, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of God’s creation, for the sake of the entire human family, and for the children and generations of children yet unborn. The legendary Sioux Chief Sitting Bull reminds us: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” There is the urgent need of this calling.
So, while we cannot all physically stand in the Camp of Sacred Stones today, let us hold, both in spoken word and silent prayer, the aspirations of the Sioux people and urge our policymakers to protect and responsibly steward our water, the sacred gift from God that sustains us all.”
We reflect on this call for justice in light of our passage today. We might hear the Sadduces’ ask, whose water will the Missouri river be? Where is God’s justice if the US treaty does not protect the Sioux people’s sacred land or the water that the Dakota pipeline could pollute? As we pray with all who are at Standing Rock, I hear Jesus’ words.
“[T]hose who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead” neither own the water nor have the power to pollute it. “Indeed they [the Sioux people] cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” Justice will be done. God’s people and all of creation will live in fullness. The water will be kept pure and will sustain the fish, the birds, the animals and all of God’s people. The workers who need jobs provided by the pipeline will have means to live in prosperity—with enough food, good housing, education and health care. They will not be sacrificed for the profits of an oil company or its shareowners.
In Jesus’ resurrection, we know that God’s hope, God’s peace, God’s justice will prevail. But we must not take Jesus’ promises about the resurrection as a sign that we must just wait for life after death. As we are baptized into Jesus’ resurrection, we become participants in the resurrection project. We stand with the woman who is subject to the unjust laws that would pass her from one brother to another. We stand with the Sioux people and we advocate on behalf of the pipeline workers and the Missouri river itself. We witness a different kind of justice. As participants in Christ’s resurrection, we fight for the new life that God has promised to our ancestors—Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The justice that we participate in is bigger than the technicalities of the US treaty with the native peoples. The resurrection promises a justice that triumphs over death itself.