Many today, like me, are convinced that our shared lives with God continue in some unfathomable way after death. But many are convinced of just the opposite: this life is all there is.
It was the same in Jesus’ day. In fact there were times when Jesus’ ancestors gave hardly any thought to what might happen after death. They believed that life with God now was engaging enough to put questions about afterlife on the back burner. That’s a healthy outlook to live by, whether in their day or in ours.
Belief in the resurrection or any other form of afterlife was a more recent development in the first century. But there were still more traditional Jews who had no interest in the idea. They were known as Sadducees. Believe it or not, they were the conservatives. They considered Pharisees and others who believed in an afterlife to be liberal innovators.
In today’s Gospel lesson some of these Sadducees offer Jesus a riddle: if you’ve been married more than once, to whom will you be married in the resurrection? Jesus answers that risen lives are utterly different from life as we know it now. A risen life is life in terms that we cannot fathom. He finds their question irrelevant.
But he ends the exchange with a pronouncement that might have been more acceptable to the Sadducees: God is God not of the dead but of the living, for to God all are alive.
That saying recognizes what the Sadducees held dear. God is indeed the God of the living, and life with God now can be so engaging that we might forget to wonder about what happens at death.
But for God all are alive. Indeed, not just us, but every past moment lives in all its liveliness everlastingly for God and in God. For you and me, my past and your past fade away in comparison with the liveliness of the present. But nothing fades for God. And growing in communion with God here and now includes growing in communion with all that you and I and those before us have ever been. Jesus believes that this growing in communion never ends. Not even death can shut it down.
That’s what his followers discovered about him! As we say in an affirmation we have sometimes used, “neither death nor rejection could end or contain the common life he has begun with us.”
I have no idea what that means in the far future. But I believe we catch a glimpse of what it means when we celebrate God’s common life with us here and now.
Here and now we share in a life that never ends.
God is God not of the dead but of the living, for to God all are alive.