Readings: Lectionary Year C, 3rd Sunday before Advent
Job 19:23-27a Job’s belief in bodily resurrection, despite his physical frailty.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17 Christians urged to stand firm in spite of fears.
Luke 20:27-38 Jesus refutes the Sadducees’ argument against resurrection.
Moses at the Burning bush. Glass by Clayton & Bell in St. Remigius’ church, Water Newton
Jesus references this incident in Luke 20:37. In this depiction, God in the bush is shown with the crossed halo normally used to indicate Jesus. How does this inclusion of Jesus in an Old Testament narrative strike you?
Some thoughts on the readings – engaging deeper
– The book of Job is an extended theological exploration of how to respond to suffering, especially ‘when bad things happen to good people’. At the centre of the book is Job’s great declaration of faith that God will eventually bring him to salvation and new life.
– Job wants his experience to be recorded and available for others: not just his suffering, but his faith.
– The Thessalonian church has been a victim of what we would call ‘fake news’ – in this case a letter with false claims and a spurious air of authority by misusing Paul’s name. Such falsehoods are easier than ever to spread through new technologies, so we need to always be on our guard against being taken in.
– We don’t know what Paul was referring to as “the lawless one”. There’s general agreement that it’s “the antichrist”, though this term is only found in the letters of John (see e.g. 1 John 2:18) where it doesn’t seem to refer to a single individual, and also symbolised by “the beast” of Revelation (see e.g. Revelation 13:1-2). At various times, this “lawless one” has been identified with different Roman emperors, the papacy, or as a figure who is still to come.
– Little is known about the Sadducees apart from the New Testament record, perhaps because later rabbinic Judaism grew out of the Pharisees’ traditions. Their opposition to the idea of resurrection is the best known of their doctrines.
– Jesus refutes the Sadducees by pointing out that God is “God of the living”. Those who have died in this world are alive in God, but that doesn’t imply anything particular about how they now relate (or don’t) to the living here.
Suggestions for further Bible reading – engaging wider
Ezekiel 37:1-14 In the famous vision of the Valley of Dry Bones the physical ‘fleshly’ nature of this resurrection is graphically presented.
Psalm 5 Here as in many places in the Bible, God condemns those who deal in lies, deceit and flattery – a sin which the psalm ranks with bloodthirstiness.
Mark 9:2-8 At Jesus’ Transfiguration, Moses & Elijah appear, talking with him, which reinforces his comment to the Sadducees about “God of the living”.
What other Bible passages come to mind when you read today’s readings?
Points for Prayer – engaging with God
• Give thanks for all who are prepared to put their lives in danger in order to protect others from harm, military or civilian, in war or in peacetime.
• Pray for a new spirit of honesty and integrity in the media, and against those who spread fear and division with fake news and fake arguments.
• At this Remembrance time, pray for an end to war everywhere with its devastating personal, social, economic and environmental impacts.
Points for Action – engaging with the world
• As you prepare for Christmas, choose cards which benefit charities, and look for gifts second hand in charity shops – there are many bargains!
• As the general election approaches, engage with your candidates and ensure they are aware of local issues as well as (inter)national ones.