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Pentecost 22C Sermon
Job 19: 23-27, Luke 20: 27-38
November
10, 2019

 

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Job 19:23-27

O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock for ever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

I don’t believe that I have ever preached a sermon based on a passage from the book of Job before, so this is a bit of a first for me. Most of us know the story – Job is a good and upright person … God brags about him to the Satan, who then says, “Sure, he has it all … let me take everything he loves away from him and see how he handles it.” God allows this to happen, and the rest of the book is a dialogue between Job, God and Job’s friends about why this good man is in such utter physical and emotional pain … there MUST have been something he did to deserve it, his friends “assure him.” He searches his memory and cannot even come up with one incident where he was unfaithful. And yet here he was, loving family dead, his crops ruined, animals either killed or taken away by enemies, and finally sores covering his whole body. Yet the whole while, Job does not cease praising God. His wife does not understand it, nor do his friends … and if we are honest, we do not either. We would be crying out, “What have I done to deserve this?!?!” And just as happened with Job, no answer comes to us … because there is no answer.

The heart of this passage is verse 25, where Job proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” When we hear those words, a few things go through our minds … if you are musical the tune to this part of Handel’s Messiah instantly gets stuck there … “I know that my redeemer liveth …” It is a memorable soprano aria that inspires our faith. Regardless of your musical ability, though, you probably associate Jesus Christ with the redeemer of which Job speaks. Even though this was written hundreds of years before Jesus’ earthly life, we still apply these words as prophecy to the coming of the one that God has sent to redeem, or to, “buy back” those who have fallen into slavery to sin … redeem means, “to buy back” after all.

But I want you to do something that I rarely ask people to do in the case of a passage like this one. I want you to hear Job’s words literally – not figuratively or prophetically, but as witness to his faith, a statement that proclaims that the one who will free him from all of his afflictions is alive – that Job knows him – heck, he is probably a close friend or family member. To say that your deliverer is alive and at work to free you is a much more faithful and powerful statement than to say, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

In a recent article, Trinity Lutheran Seminary president, Dr. Kathryn Kleinhans, tells about a recent trip to Germany where she was able to visit the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. If there was ever an incident in recent history that resulted in the suffering and death of millions of innocent people, the Holocaust was certainly that. Ravensbruck was a camp specifically built to hold Jewish women and children. As a result, the Nazi guards prostituted out these women to other camps for the use of the guards and as a reward to prisoners who collaborated with them. These women were officially assigned to work as, “brothel women” while others were sent to factories, offices and homes. Making things even more obscene for Dr. Kleinhans was the fact that this place of unspeakable horror for so many women is located in such a beautiful setting, on a small lake in the countryside.

The sobering nature of the camp is made even worse by the fact that there are no modern-day chapels built on the site, like there are at Buchenwald and other former camps. It makes it feel like there is no sense of hope, no embodiment of anything good coming to those in the camp or coming out of the camp. She claims that even the sculptures that have been installed there depict the stark burdens of the women, not the hope that anything different might happen for them.

Reflecting upon that visit, Dr. Kleinhans writes these words: The phrase “redeeming the time” has been on my mind since my visit to Ravensbruck. In the King James Version of the Bible, Ephesians 5:16 is translated, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In both the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard versions of the Bible, the translation is, “making the most of the opportunity,” a phrase that – for me – loses much of the power of the older language. To redeem is to buy back, to reclaim, to restore. In the familiar words of the offertory prayer, we are to be “dedicated to the care and redemption of all that God has made.”

I started to wonder this week – did any of those women forced into prostitution even share the faith of Job and proclaim that they knew that the people who would redeem them from that evil time were alive and striving and dying in order that they might see God not only in the resurrection, but also once more in this short life? Do those who are facing any kind of hardships today – innocently and seemingly without hope of them ending - because of domestic violence or wartime, religious persecution, addiction, poverty or whatever … do they have the faith in God to know that their redeemer is alive and close – and may even be someone in their own family who will be on their side to help release them from their innocent suffering?

It is interesting to have this passage paired with our Gospel reading – where Jesus is in an argument with the Sadducees who do not believe in a resurrection of the dead. Resurrection and the afterlife have often been used by those who hold the power over others as a carrot on a stick – “you may be miserable now, but you will be so happy in heaven!!” But it is an important part of our faith and how we define the free gift of salvation – eternal peace and joy filled life in the presence of God. It is important enough that we still get into those debates about marriage in the afterlife – whose spouse will be married to whom there if there were multiple marriages? Or what will the relationships be like? Jesus does not get into the details of that mystery – he basically tells them that the belief in an afterlife as part of salvation goes all the way back to at least Moses, and we should really leave all of the details to God!

There is more than the afterlife to salvation, though. There is joy and peace in this life as well, as experienced through the presence of Jesus among us – and as experienced through Jesus in our neighbors. If the church is to live into our calling to be the body of Christ, then we are to hear the words that Job professed – I know that my redeemer lives – as a rallying cry for mission. Imagine the relief of those women and children at Ravensbruck when the liberating troops came through the gates!! Imagine the joy when an abused woman discovers a place like, “CHOICES” where she can escape the violence of her spouse. Imagine the happiness when someone has food in their pantry, medication for their conditions, and a warm place to stay; imagine the celebration among children when the bombs tearing their cities apart finally go quiet.

Job knew that God is a God of justice, and he wanted justice. We all want justice, and God promises it to us today as well. Salvation is a promise for eternity – that place and experience where God’s presence is perfect. Salvation is also a promised reality for all in this life as well. Thanks be to God that whenever we cry out for justice or peace or whatever, God has promised that there is one who is alive that will deliver – maybe it is the person sitting next to you! Amen.