Sermon for Sunday, November 10, 2019 – “Love in the Present Tense”

November 10, 2019
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, IA|
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

When a loved one dies, it’s so hard to hear others refer to them in the past tense. As people say all sorts of kind things: “she was so generous”, “she was so funny”, it hits you again, “She was”, means she is no longer alive.

It’s also hard to know which tense you want to use when referring to a loved one. After the death of a spouse do you say, “today is our wedding anniversary,” or “today would have been our wedding anniversary?” Do you say, “we have three children,” or “we had three children and our son died ten years ago?”

Referring to our loved ones in the past tense is so painful. We want them to be present in our lives and we want our speech to reflect that.

Jesus says that God uses the present tense when speaking to Moses about his ancestors who have died. In the story Jesus is referencing, God says to Moses, “I AM the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God doesn’t say, “I once was the God of your ancestors back when they were alive, and I remember them fondly,” but rather I AM the God of your ancestors.

Jesus says God doesn’t have to use the past tense for those who have died for they are alive to God. The dead are raised and live now as children of God, children of the resurrection.

Jesus’ words here raise many questions and don’t offer any easy answers. Instead, they give us a glimpse of a beautiful mystery beyond our comprehension: Those who have died do not only the inhabit the past. They live now in the presence of God, in the heart of God.

This means we can still think of our relationships with our departed loved ones in the present and future tenses: We were together here. We are each now held in God’s heart, so, in some way, we are still together. And we will be together in God in the age to come.

The end of life here is not the end of love, of connection, of intimacy with God and one another. We still have a future together.

The good news is that this future is not just a continuation of life here on earth with all its sin, sorrow and brokenness. As Jesus says, those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage but in the age to come everything will be different.

All of our relationships, all aspects of our life together will be transformed. We will know new ways of being in relationship, new ways of being together with all the children of God.

For instance, in the age to come, women won’t be the property of men as they were in Jesus’ day. So, no one will need to wonder what will happen to a woman who had many husbands and no children. She, and all those who’ve suffered oppression, will finally share in the fullness of life that God longs for them to know. We will all share in that fullness of life in the heart of God.

And, beloved, if you wonder if you are worthy of a place in the heart of God, if you wonder if death will separate you or your loved ones from God, hear the promises we are given in the book of Romans and the Gospel of John. It is Christ Jesus, who died, who was raised, and who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us, who prepares a place for us in God’s heart. And now nothing, not even death, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do not be afraid. Nothing in the past, present or future will separate you from God. Christ Jesus has opened up this life-giving relationship with God for you, for all people, now and always. God is present for you here and now, not only in the age to come.

Here and now, God is working for us all to know abundance.
Here and now, God assures us we need not fear.
Here are now, God asks us to be about the things that bring life to God’s world.

We aren’t to fixate on what happens when we die but rather, to join God in working for all people to know fullness of life now and always.

We are all held in God’s heart. You are held in God’s heart now and forever.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.