“God of the Living“
Rev. Richard Feyen
recorded on 10 Nov 2013
READINGS FOR THE DAY
FIRST READING: An Excerpt from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim: A Personal Manual for Prayer and Ritual by Edward Hays
A Prayer for LIFE
Implant within my heart, O God,
the fiery life of a Jeremiah,
the conviction of a Ruth or Rebecca
and the zest of a Francis of Assisi.
Stir my slumbering soul,
that it might sing a song of passion and devotion,
drunk with dancing joy and desire for you,
my divine and loving Friend.
May my heart be a hot as the heart of Moses
for all your children burdened by slavery,
for all who feel oppression’s steely heel
or suffer rejection in an alien land.
May I, like your son Jesus,
be consumed with life for you, Divine Beloved,
for life, for justice and for peace;
for all that I know in faith.
Fill me with life, O God.
SECOND READING: Luke 20:27-38 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message
Some Sadducees came up. This is the Jewish party that denies any possibility of resurrection. They asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote us that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to take the widow to wife and get her with child. Well, there once were seven brothers. The first took a wife. He died childless. The second married her and died, then the third, and eventually all seven had their turn, but no child. After all that, the wife died. That wife, now – in the resurrection whose wife is she? All seven married her.” Jesus said, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. Even Moses exclaimed about resurrection at the burning bush, saying, ‘God: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob!’ God isn’t the God of dead men, but of the living. To him all are alive.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Some years ago, while serving a church in another town and making regular visits to a community nursing home, I met an elderly female resident who struggled greatly with loneliness and depression. I was facilitating a grief session, and individuals were sharing their stories. When it came to be her turn, she would sit (as she always did), head hung low, hands folded in her lap and talk about how she used to sit in the living room of her family farmhouse watching the cars go by. She would say to anyone and everyone, “I would sit by the big window in the front of the house all the time and watch the highway. All day long cars would go by, one after the other, and none would ever stop.”
She received visitors only once or twice a year at the nursing home, though her family lived nearby. Her husband had died a few years before, and she no longer felt like she had anyone or anything to live for. She had tried to go on living in her home after her husband died, but her children moved her to the nursing home because they heard her complaints and could see her decline. She had been, literally, sitting in front of the window, watching as car after car after car went by without stopping.
I know that clinical depression is real. I know that many people simply are not able to turn on the switch in their minds that moves them to get up out of their chairs by their windows, as they watch while the world goes by. I also know that many, many people go through all the ‘actions’ of life, all the ‘busy-ness’ of work and family, without ever really appreciating or acknowledging the essence of life, the sanctity of life, the gift of wonder that life is – and what it contains for each and every one of us!
The opposite of the woman sitting in her chair by the window longing for a car to stop, is the harried person who cannot sit a moment and rest a while. There are as just many (and very likely more!) people for whom life is a rat race, the urban jungle, the Madison-Avenue-madhouse, where life goes by so hectically and feverishly that people exist without seeing.
So what is life and what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to experience life in all its abundance? What does it mean to be alive in God?
In the story as told by Luke, Jesus is getting questioned by people about the intricacies and details of the afterlife. “Whose wife will this woman be?” they want to know, hypothetically of course; but what they’re saying is, “Here is the law, what happens if . . .?” And Jesus responds, quashing the argument by saying, “God is God of the living!”
What gives you life?
What brings joy to your heart?
What makes you feel most ALIVE?
So often, when I am on Mission Trips, or in discovery sessions with youth, or on retreats with groups of adults; young and old alike feel life pulsating through them like electric shocks – because they have awoken to the mysteries and wonder of simply doing something for someone else! Repairing houses, helping a friend pause to appreciate a sense of the sacred in a flower or on a wooded path, or sitting with a group of men or women questioning their ambitious lives; all these things have helped a number of people find a way to discover the marvelous things in the soul of their being. These discoveries are real, and lead to deep meaning in the soul of each of us because they connect us with one another.
I believe that the Sacred Essence which we are part of, that thing that we call God, that thing or concept or being that we worship; is expressed to us in the beauty of the community of which we are a part. Nature brings us peace, but people bring us connections. The poem, A Prayer for Life, carries that message. Jeremiah lived on the edge, challenging and moving people and stirring people to the point of disruption for the sake of a cause. Ruth was connected and committed to people. Moses lived for the sake of freedom for a people born into slavery. And Jesus’ life was consumed with the idea of freeing people from the oppressive ways of the rules and giving them the freedom to be connected as people. Real people with lives, present to one another.
Experience the community that expresses the love of the sacred through us and live abundantly! Whether we are sitting still watching the world go by or caught in the fast lane, we are more likely to experience the sacred essence, the marvelous things of life, when we pay attention, live in the present, have gratitude, and experience the wonder outside of ourselves! Godliness ‘now’ (or awareness of the sacred in our lives) is an energetic and committed response to opportunities and challenges that come our way and fill us with abundant life in meaning, not things. Yet, it takes a little work! We have to bring ourselves to an awareness that comes through the regular practice of devotion. When we are committed to justice, when we have a faith relationship with the Sacred Spirit, and when we see life as a quest. Our lives are filled with the sacred essence, paradoxically, when we are passing on love and acceptance to others! When we are, as the choir’s song said, grateful for each hand we hold in loving kindness. When we are gathering with those we love. When we are giving of ourselves we are most connecting with others!
In today’s world, for most of Christianity, there is the same preoccupation with the after-life that Jesus, in the passage from Luke, criticizes. God, that awareness of the Sacred that resides through and in us all, and is expressed for others through us, is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Here and now, we can find the abundance of life!
Here and now, we find the gift of wonder in the hand of a friend or the smile of a child!
Here and now, couples find the expression of love through one another, regardless of gender!
Here and now God is doing marvelous things! Not as some distant, distinct, overseeing being – but through each and every one of you!
You are part of the joy, part of the gift, part of the abundance of life for others!
You are making a difference by being here!
You are making the world a better place!
Blessings, friends! For you make HOPE CHURCH what it is!