Whenever I read and reflect on the reading from the Maccabees I always pause and ask the question of myself, "How would I have acted in that situation?" Here we have the story of personal torture and subsequent death. Reflect on the line, "We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors." We see the same scenario in the early Christian Church when many suffered Martyrdom rather than deny their new Christian faith. Thank God we do not have that in our lived experience today. However we see some radical factions of certain religions who seem intent on killing those who do not follow their interpretation of their religious laws. We see the savage killing of those caught in the Rwanda war between the Hutu's and the Tutsi's. Men women and children all slaughtered. There seems to be a history in the human race of fringe radical movements to take over select populations and bring about terror and destruction.
About 150 years before the birth of Jesus the Pharisees began to accept the concept of a resurrection and a life after death. However the Sadducees did not accept the concept of resurrection and life after death. In the Gospel from Luke this morning we have the story of the Sadducees bringing their concern for the continuation of their individual family heritage to Jesus for his opinion. Jesus uses this story to relate how in eternity life is radically changed. In eternity there is no marriage. We are left with the challenge to use our own "earthly language" to try to describe what "eternal life" is all about.
Last Tuesday, November 2nd, we celebrated All Souls Day. All Souls Day is the one day in the year when we as Christian people reflect on and remember our loved ones who have gone home to Jesus and now live in eternity. Some of us have a more personal experience with this than others. Jesus describes the life of those who have died in this way, "They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise." So the dead are like angels. Our scriptures are filled with passages concerning angels-especially around the Christmas season. They reveal themselves to us; they teach us; they direct us; they communicate with us.
From time to time we have a glimpse of what eternal life is all about. In the Book entitled "90 minutes in heaven". A man who was clinically dead for 90 minutes before being revived relates what his experience was for his 90 minutes in heaven. At the moment of his death he was immediately in heaven. All his family who had died were there to greet him. One person, when she had died had been crippled and elderly; had poor dental hygiene and was in need of dental care. She was there to greet him. However she was young, walking un-assisted and had perfect teeth.
I have tried to reflect on death and find earthly language to describe my understanding and belief. I believe life can be divided into 3 stages or cycles. The first stage of my life was when my father's sperm fertilized my mother's egg in her uterus on June 18 1942-my life began. I lived 9 months in my mother's womb; in a totally dark place; warm with the ambiotic fluid about 98 degrees. As I developed I could begin to hear sounds of music and laughter. Life was good. Life was secure. Life was loving. I was conceived in love and I knew I was loved. This was the first stage of my life.
The second stage of my life began March 18, 1943 when I was born into this world. How can one describe the wonders of this world to a child in his mother's womb? The beauty of the fall colors; the sunset and sunrise; the fresh snow; the vast landscape of the mountains; the ocean shores. This life is so totally different words can not be found to describe it from life in the womb. I still live in this second stage and continue to marvel at all God has created. My life is not yet complete as I have more to learn; more to share; more ways to live the wonders of relationships in my life. I was blessed to share in the intimacy of human love; to share in the creation experience with God; to have fertilized the egg in Jean's womb 3 times---to have 2 living :beautiful children; our first pregnancy ended after 4 months---her name is "Angelica".
Jean was my life partner for 36 years and lived on this earth for 69 years until Jesus called her home. Jesus reminds us again this morning, "Jean can no longer die, Jean is like an angel; Jean is a child of God." I can only reflect that just as this life we live today is so radically different from my life in the womb that eternal life must also be so totally different from this life. What is the life of an angel like? What is it like to be totally in the present where there is no yesterday and no tomorrow-only eternal present? The Sadducees in the Gospel had questions about eternity and we have questions about eternity. Jesus told them they were asking the wrong questions. Are we asking the wrong questions?
All of our loved ones who have entered eternal life live on in our life. We see them in our relatives; we hear them in laughter; we feel their presence in our life as they communicate with us and reveal themselves to us in very private and personal ways. As Jesus tells us, "They are like angels".
As we celebrate their lives this morning, I ask you to bring to the altar a picture or remembrance of those whom have died into eternal life. Take a small candle and place it in front of the picture and light it.