Learning resurrection

The Sadducees seem double-minded, a mix of scriptural conservatism and liberal living.

They proclaimed a literal interpretation of the written law with a rejection of the oral law. That separates them from the Pharisees who believed God gave Moses oral instructions for how to follow the written commandments. This is an important detail to understand about the Sadducees because it highlights how they read scripture.

While they held to a strict adherence to what was in the written law, they seemed to be more lenient with other parts of scripture. Their leniency kept them from knowing the power of God, according to Jesus.

When a group of Sadducees asked Jesus a question about resurrection, he challenged their rejection of the belief. They asked a question about what would happen to a woman in the afterlife who was remarried several times. Jesus never answered their question the way they thought he might.

Instead, he used the occasion to show that resurrection was in God’s mind throughout scripture. Now, resurrection isn’t mentioned in the Torah. Since the Sadducees overemphasized the written law, then, they didn’t believe resurrection to be real. The problem Jesus had with that was he saw God pointing to resurrection in the Torah.

He called to mind the story about Moses and the bush.

It’s there God told Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The idea is that those three men of God are still alive. God didn’t say, “I was their God,” as if they are no longer living with God.

What can this teach us today?

Clement of Rome, who was the fourth bishop of Rome in the first century, once said, “Day and night declare to us a resurrection.”

I take that as a reminder that resurrection is all around us. You can see it in the natural cycle of the seasons and daily life. The Sadducees missed the resurrection in a very common Bible story. They’d probably read that text hundreds of times. But they missed it. Like them, you and I don’t always see resurrection happening, even right before our eyes. Quite often, today is another workday, another day filled with stress and anxiety and a mountain-high list of things to do.

No wonder we miss the power of God. It’s there; it’s happening. We just miss it. 

Maybe we’re too busy. Maybe we’re preoccupied. Of course, it could also be we haven’t learned how to see resurrection. Has your church taught you to see resurrection? How do you know? How does the resurrection of Jesus influence and guide who you are and who your church desires to be?

Today, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob know the power of God because they are alive with God. Today, may you know God’s power just as much as they do.

Stay blessed…john

Responding to resurrection

During the season of Lent, our church hosted a Bible study written by pastor Adam Hamilton. I joked before that I was a little salty with Pastor Adam because he wrote the book before I did.

It was a study on five essential practices of the Christian life: worship & prayer, study, service, giving and sharing faith. In The United Methodist Church, when someone joins a local church, our membership vows include a commitment to each of those practices.

Another word for them is disciplines. But we don’t like that word. Not even spiritual disciplines. We have learned, though, that the more we practice such disciplines, the more our walk with God matures.

So, spiritual disciplines are always on my mind.

I’m always trying to figure out how to get the church more involved with them. For a while, I have considered my own book project that centers on our United Methodist membership vows. Since Pastor Adam beat me to it, maybe a daily devotional will do.

When we talk about spiritual disciplines or essential practices, it’s important to recognize them as a response to the grace of God. Because we know something about God, we respond. In that light, we don’t pray, for example, to get God to do something we want. We don’t go to church to make sure the Lord knows we’re still alive.

We’ve experienced the grace of God and we want to know Christ as Lord. That doesn’t happen by accident. So, prayer, worship, study, service, giving and even sharing faith become indispensable forms of knowing God more.

You can see all five of our vows lived out in a small passage from Acts 2. First, remember that chapter begins with the Holy Spirit’s anointing over the disciples. Divided tongues appeared over each of them and they began to speak in the languages of the gathered crowds of people in the temple. Right after that, Peter gave his first sermon and thousands of people believed in Jesus.

Here’s the line that gets me. It’s verse 42. As a result of what they had seen and what they heard from Peter, the people, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

My first reaction to that verse is to bless God. My second is to ask a couple of questions. How would you rate the church’s devotion today to such things? What about your devotion? What about your church’s devotion to do these things together?

When I talk about these things, people often affirm to me that they, for example, pray every day. That’s great. Keep doing that. But are we devoted to praying together?

Because that’s the key to what happened in Acts 2. The people shared their faith together. The apostles’ teaching relates to study. The breaking of bread and the prayers is worship and prayer. What kind of service did they offer one another if Luke says they all had “the goodwill of all the people”? They gave all their possessions to ensure they could take care of one another. And their community grew because people learned what was happening there.

See?

Our five commitments are there. They always have been.

This is the week after Easter. We’ve just experienced the glory of the resurrection. This feels like the perfect moment to respond to the power of God with a devotion to knowing God more. Is that something you are ready to do?

Stay blessed…john