Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Remember" - A Thanksgiving Sermon by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013.


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “Much of what the Bible demands can be summed up in one imperative: Remember!”

This remembering we are commanded to is not misty nostalgia; it is remembering with great power. It is the remembering of the Passover. Not just fondly looking back, but remembering with such force that the past literally becomes present. This is the night. As if the events of the past were happening to us right here, right now.

Remember as an imperative. Remember – exclamation point!

In our reading from Deuteronomy this morning, Moses is giving this commandment to the people. They are not yet in the promised land. In fact, they have been wandering in the desert for so long that for many of them slavery in Egypt is just a story told by their parents and grandparents. And the promised land is just a story, too. A hope they cling to in deep faith that a better day and a better place is coming.

But the journey is almost over. They are about to cross the Jordan into Canaan, and though Moses will not make that journey with them, he knows that when they do, things will get better. The promise will be fulfilled. The people will get comfortable. And he knows that when we get comfortable, we forget.

And so in some of his final words to the people he has led for forty years of wandering, he relays God’s instructions to them for when things do get comfortable. And those instructions can be summed up in one word:


When you till the land and it produces abundance, remember! Remember that it is not just your toil and skill that caused it. Your toil and skill would be nothing without the land God has given you. So remember. Remember and give the first fruits of the land back to God in thanksgiving.

When you possess the land and become people of power and privilege, remember! Remember that you were and are refugees. Remember that a wandering Aramean was your ancestor. Remember that you were once afflicted and oppressed, and God’s response to you was compassion and deliverance. Remember and bring the oppressed, the aliens who reside among you, to your table to share together in all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

To quote Sly Stone, the word Moses gives to the people then and to us now is “Remember who you are.”

Remember when we are tempted to think too highly of what we have accomplished that we stand on the shoulders of others and of God.

Remember when society gives us privilege because of our race that if you go back six million years or so, we’re all Africans anyway.

Remember that being born on third base doesn’t mean you just hit a triple.


150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation, and for 150 years, we have observed this fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving to God. It is a call to remember to look around and to notice, in Lincoln’s words that

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

In many ways, Lincoln is our nation’s Moses. In fact, if you look at this window above me, you can see that our ancestors here at Christ Church Cathedral saw fit to put them side by side in stained glass – Moses leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and Lincoln freeing the slaves.

And Lincoln’s call to us as an American people today is the same as Moses’ words to the people of Israel once they crossed the Jordan.


Remember that everything you have comes from God.

Remember that no matter how impressive our toil and skill, the primary sources from which these blessings come is the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

But just as Moses said his words to a people still in the wilderness, Lincoln said these words to a nation that was still divided. It would be more than a year and a half before the Civil War would end and the painful work of reconstruction would begin. And like Moses, Lincoln would be granted a glimpse of that reconstructed Union but he would not get there himself.

As Americans, our founding document talks of us forming a more perfect Union. When Lincoln made this proclamation, the Union was about as imperfect as it could be. But even today, it a work that has not yet been completed. And as in Lincoln’s day, it remains a work that belongs not just to a few but a work that belongs to us all. And like President Lincoln’s call to a national day of Thanksgiving, it is a work that has its roots in Moses’ call to remember.

To form a more perfect union, we must remember. And so on this National Day of Thanksgiving, that is what we do.

On this day, we remember that we were sojourners, aliens in a strange land and we were taken in with hospitality … and as long as there is one sojourner and alien among us, we still are that sojourner and alien today.

On this day, we remember that we were homeless and at the mercy of the elements, and we suffered and died because we had no place to take shelter from the cold … and as long as there is one person struggling with homelessness among us, as long as there is one person sleeping on the streets , we all are that person today.

On this day, we remember that we were kicked out of other nations, that we were kidnapped from our homes and put into slave ships, that we were herded onto reservations and made to walk the trail of tears. That we had these things happen to us and we inflicted these things on one another. And that as long as one person is oppressed among us, we are that victim of oppression today.

On this day, we remember. We remember that our ancestors, all of our ancestors, were wandering Arameans. That the “us and them” language we use to describe each other – “the homeless,” “the business owners,” “the city,” “the county,” “the blacks,” “the whites,” that all that language only serves to help us forget our common ancestry and our common destiny.

On this day, we remember God’s dream for us is not us being a people where some have privilege and some have not. We remember that God’s dream for us is painted clearly in Moses’ words this morning:

Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

God’s dream for us is to remember.

To remember that as we have power and privilege our joy is to use it not to increase the bounty of the powerful and privileged but to show the same compassion and hospitality to the aliens and oppressed among us.

To remember that we can be that more perfect union of which our ancestors dreamed and for which so many have given that last full measure of devotion, but only if, in the words of one Passover haggadah, we remember that “the story of freedom begins when we join together with all the needy and oppressed.” Only if we remember that “our redemption is bound up with the deliverance from bondage of people everywhere.”

Much of what the Bible demands can be summed up in one imperative: Remember!

Remember who we are. Remember where we came from. Remember that all we have comes from God and remember that our ancestor was a wandering Aramean.

Remember that in God’s Kingdom there is no us and them. That we have not only a common ancestry but a common destiny. That together we shall all celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD our God has given to us and to our house. AMEN.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A new thing, a new ministry, but taking the old with me!

A sermon preached by the Ven. Mark Sluss at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, November 24, 2013.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King. The last Sunday of Pentecost.
And while it is a day that is set aside to celebrate the kingship of Jesus. The gospel reading for us today is that of the Crucifixion. It seems an odd way to celebrate the lordship of Jesus, with a story about his death. In a way however it is very fitting. We look at Christ dying to an old life in his ministry and being reborn through resurrection into lord of all. His Coronation as it were.

It is a transformation. Christ from one ministry to another.
And so we are here as well at the end of one ministry and the beginning of another.

I have been with you all here at Christ Church Cathedral for almost 11 years now. For the first five years as a Layperson, I was an acolyte for the cathedral, subdeacon, acolyte master and Head Verger. After I investigated a long time call to ordination, I then became your deacon. For almost 7 years I have served here, by the permission of the bishop as your deacon, and his Archdeacon.

I have loved my time with all of you. As a lay person you all made me feel so welcome.

When Todd and I first moved to St. Louis, we were very nervous about joining a church. We knew Chicago, where we moved from, was progressive that the church was welcoming to Gay and Lesbian persons, but we knew Missouri to be let’s just say a little behind Chicago in the acceptance of gays in the church. When we got word that I was being transferred to St. Louis, we got online and looked up Gay and Lesbian ministries in the Episcopal Church in the diocese of Missouri. And we found the Oasis Missouri.
Ahhh ha! A resource to help us choose our church. We moved into the Soulard Neighborhood and downloaded a list of Oasis congregations. And off we went to Church Shop. I am reluctant to tell you all, that the Cathedral was last on my list. I had attended St. James’ Cathedral in Chicago, and I really didn’t like the manner of worship there, and I painted you all with that same brush of corporate worship that, St. James’ had practiced. So we first went to Trinity in the Central West End. It didn’t fit us. Then I attended St. Mark’s. And I liked the people there. I liked the atmosphere, I liked the preaching. But after attending Todd stopped going with me. It turns out that the architecture there affected the acoustics of the space, and it really bothered Todd and his hearing issues. He finally confided in me that he would come out of St. Mark’s with a horrible headache due to the sound bouncing all over that huge high ceiling, and he begged me to at least try the Cathedral.

So reluctantly I agreed to try the Cathedral. The first Sunday we attended. We were greeted at the door by Sherry Gatlin. Now Sherry and her husband Harold, have been gone for a while from the Cathedral, but I am sure that many of you remember her. Sherry pushed bulletins into our hands. And demanded that we sit next to her, and Harold. The second Sunday we were invited to one of Sherry’s infamous pot lucks. We couldn’t say no, and we never left. What I learned from that experience is never go with preconceived notions, don’t assume something will be a certain way. You will be surprised.

As we got to know the people of the Cathedral like most people we had trouble meeting all of you, and remembering your names. I hate to admit it, but Todd and I had a little game to help us identify some of you. One parishioner attending here reminded us of a character on the British TV show “Keeping up Appearances” we called her “Our Rose”. I’m not going to admit who “Our Rose” is, but know that you were referred that, with love, because you made a big impression on us. We also had Loud Guy #1 and Loud Guy #2. Because of the volume in which you both sang. It is how we identified each of you when we were too embarrassed to admit that we couldn’t remember your names. But we eventually learned all your names, and we fell in love with you. You see relationships, as everything, require time. And it wasn’t until we accepted the risk of being embarrassed and admitting that we couldn’t remember names and just ask, that we finally felt like we belonged. (Well ok the new name tags probably helped as well). The Cathedral was a place where you could be vulnerable.

I wanted to get involved with the Acolytes, it was nice that the Cathedral allowed adult acolytes. St. Mark’s had children and they did not really want adults as acolytes. So that was one thing going for the Cathedral. I joined the corps under the direction of BR Rhoads. I made my way through the ranks. Torch, Cross, Server, Subdeacon, I was happy to serve. Then an ordination was coming up and someone, asked if anyone had ever been a thurifer. (The person who swings the incense pot called a Thurible). I was one of the licensed thurifers in the diocese of Chicago, and raised my hand, and I was recruited for that role. And I gained some notoriety for my 360’s, and Queen Anne’s, and figure 8’s. I was given that role for most diocesan ordinations. You see the Cathedral always gives you a place to use your gifts. Singing in the amazing Choir or Lay Reading, usher, greeting, acolyting, pastoral care, altar guild, everyone can find a way to use their specific gifts in this space.

I then started doing something that was not unique here at Christ Church Cathedral. After spending a year with you, I spoke with the Dean about forming a discernment committee to look at a call for ordination. I had felt a tugging ever since I had completed the Education for Ministry coursework, while in Chicago. I finally felt I needed to devote some time to seriously investigating my call. And you were all wonderfully supportive. You challenged me, you pushed me, we delved into some things that were tough, but the result is me standing here with you today as a deacon. Some people mistakenly think that ordination is the end point of discernment. But discernment goes on, and on with people. There is no end. The community of Christ Church Cathedral gets that. And creates a space where those conversations can occur. The risk of ongoing discernment is that people take those steps and they move on. But you here have those gifts, and you equip those discerning members with great education and gifts to succeed in their calls! Remember Rob Rhoads, Renee Fenner, Tom Heard, and now Joe Thompson is at Seminary, you all do wonderful work at bringing people to their next labor in Christ’s vineyard.

It was earlier this year, in my role as Archdeacon that the Bishop asked me to gather the deacons together during Lent he wanted to speak with us. You see the order of deacons is getting larger. (It is expected that at next convention we will ordain 6 new deacons for the diocese) We are finally reaching a critical mass of people working and living as Deacons here in Missouri. And the bishop wants to investigate new ways of deploying deacons in the diocese. You see Deacons serve in a special ministry directly under their bishop and the bishop is responsible for where we serve. And Bishop Smith had talked with bishops of other diocese. (Let me tell you, you usually know trouble is coming when two bishops talk). He wanted to try a new thing. Deployment not necessarily back to the parish where deacons were raised up. But maybe to a specific ministry, (hunger, senior citizens, Deaconess Anne House). Or say deployed to a convocation. Deacon of Metro II serving maybe 3 parishes of Metro II. This would reinforce the concept that Deacons are ordained for the diocese and the bishop not for a specific parish. We were asked to think about this. I gave this some serious thought and prayer. And decided that as Archdeacon I could not ask the rest of the deacons to submit to this obedience unless I was willing to do it myself. So I asked for discernment into this new method of deployment. The Bishop in conversation with me, and with the leaders of ministries that he was contemplating for deployment, finally made his decision. But he wanted to wait until a replacement deacon could be named to take my space at the Cathedral. And so that is how the timing of the announcement came to you. And why it took from Lent to the end of Pentecost for this to occur. We were waiting for Cathy to finish her field education.

So I am going to Deaconess Anne House to serve as their deacon. And Jon and I have worked on my letter of agreement and we have some great ideas of what my ministry there will be. It is exciting. And to be honest, this is the ministry I hoped I would be assigned to.

But I tell you I am not going to this new ministry alone. I am taking you all with me. I am taking Christ Church Cathedral along. You all were such a big part of my discernment and my formation, as a lay person and as a deacon. That there is no way that I cannot take the things I learned with me to the young adults at Deaconess Anne and to the persons living in Old North St. Louis. Your love and support go along with me. The memories of you go with me. And while I cannot worship with you every week, as I did as your deacon. Because of the diocesan guidelines regarding former clergy who take leaves, this is not goodbye forever. As the Bishop’s Archdeacon I will be with you for Diocesan Events. (Ordinations, Confirmations, the Great Vigil of Easter). Cathy will be your deacon. A word about Cathy I am sure you will love her as much as I do. I am telling you she is a wonderful deacon. She has an amazing prophetic preaching voice. That I know you will enjoy. She WILL motivate and inspire you. The only bad thing I know about Cathy is this: She cheers for the University of Tennessee, but perhaps we can overlook her fondness for the color orange.

I thank you all for the lessons you taught me. I thank you for letting me be your deacon, and most of all I thank you all for your love and your support. I will miss you all. But you have a new responsibility, to help Cathy to become an even more amazing Deacon for Christ and his church here in St. Louis. I know you are up to the task. And I know you will do an amazing job.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"In my life, I love you more." - The Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, November 17, 2013.

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

When John Lennon was working with Paul McCartney on the songs that would become the Rubber Soul album, a journalist remarked to him that he should write a song about his childhood. So Lennon took up the challenge.

But “In My Life,” the song we just heard, did not come easily.

John’s first attempt was a rambling poem based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool naming several sites along the way that would make their way into other songs – places like Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.

He finished the poem … and immediately hated it.

It was “ridiculous,” he said, and called it “the most boring sort of ‘What I did on my holidays bus trip’ song.”

That it was pedestrian wasn’t the only problem. As John thought about his childhood, he realized that the song was just wrong. That as much as he loved the places, things and even people of the past, there was a present love in his life – a love with which none of them could compare. And though he’d never lose affection for those people and things that went before, in his life, it was that love that was most important.

Attachment to things and places comes naturally to us, and it’s certainly nothing new. When we have an experience that has been meaningful, we naturally want to hold onto it … share it with our friends, even bequeath it to our children. And because we are physical creatures, that holding on often takes the form of wanting to preserve and embrace the place where we had the experience or the thing that gave us the experience.

Think of what it is for you. What are the places you remember all your life, though some have changed? What are the places and things that are holy for you because of how your life changed through them?

It’s natural for us to hold onto those places and things, but when we do, we forget that even though they were important conduits, almost always, it wasn’t the place or the thing that changed us – but an experience, an encounter.

But we forget. And so often, we end up holding onto or even worshipping the place or the thing rather than the reality behind it. And then when we’re faced with those places or things changing or even passing away, we can even feel like the encounter or experience behind them is dying, too.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about the temple. The Temple has a long history. It began way before the people of Israel were even building things out of stone. It began when they were still wandering in the desert.

Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 commandments and while he was, the people melted down their jewelry to make an object to love – a Golden Calf. And they invested this object with all of the saving power they had experienced in being delivered out of slavery, forgetting that it was God, not this hunk of gold, that had done the saving.

We make other gods. That’s why the first commandment that Moses brought down was a reminder – “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

But God also realized these people God created and loved were physical people, and they needed something physical to hold onto to remember God’s presence. And so God gave them instructions for how to build the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant – the physical place where God would always be present among the people. Because the people were still wandering around, the tabernacle wasn’t a permanent structure. But when the people got to the Promised Land, they built a permanent one, the Temple.

But an incredibly ironic - and incredibly natural - thing happened. The people began to forget God and instead to worship the Temple. They filled the temple with other gods, believing it was the place that was most important and not the presence of God. And so God reminded the people, tearing down the temple and sending them into exile … sending them back into the desert, away from any physical evidence of God’s presence. And then God came to them in the desert and said, “don’t you see … it never was the building. It was always me. And even here in the desert I am always here with you.”

And so God sang the song we heard in Isaiah today.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

God said, I am doing something new. Do not remember the former things. Do not let the power of nostalgia and idolatry overcome you. Remember that it was always me and not the thing or the place. I am creating new things and new places. Be glad and rejoice forever.

And so God delivered the people out of Israel and built a new Jerusalem and a new temple. Only to have the same thing happen again. And so Jesus walks up to the Temple, and notice what the people are saying – they are not talking about how wonderful God is, but about how wonderful the Temple is – how it is adorned with beautiful stones and gifts.

Edmund Burke said, “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it,” and the people did not remember their history. So Jesus says, “here we go again” and reminds them that it is not the Temple that matters but God. That in fact the Temple will be torn down stone by stone, but that if they cling to God, every little thing, every hair on their head, is gonna be all right.

The wonderful Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr talks about what he calls the five M’s – how churches ... and really any organization … evolve if we do not remember this history and strive not to repeat it. Forgive the sexist language, but the five Ms he talks about are Man-Movement-Machine-Monument-Museum.

Man. Movement. Machine. Monument. Museum.

We start off with a man, a person. In our case, Jesus. This person is the vision bearer. In our case, he is our savior. Jesus is the embodiment of the truth. Jesus is who we worship, follow and adore. And that person Jesus attracted a crowd. And that crowd is the movement.

Movements are dynamic and creative. People flock to them and join them and that’s what happened with Jesus. They are high-energy and almost all of that energy is directed outward. But movements cannot sustain forever. And so if a movement lasts long enough it needs to structure itself for longer-term survival or it will die out. And that’s where movements inevitably institutionalize and become machine. And that’s what we did as the church. We organized and structured. We built buildings and hired staffs and we have meetings and budgets and five-year plans. None of these are bad things. In fact they can be good because they can ensure the living truth that began with the person Jesus and spread into the movement continues on and on and on.

But here is where the fall happens. Here is the history we need to know lest we become doomed to repeat it. Human nature is for the machine itself to become the object of attention. To worship the structures and forget the original person behind them.

The temptation for us is the same as it was for those people in the desert and those people with Jesus in Jerusalem. The temptation is for us to believe that faithfulness is not to follow the man Jesus but to preserve a monument – the fourth M. To make sure the building and the institutional structures are running and to invest all our energy into that.

That tipping point between machine and monument is the critical moment for us as the church. Because when we tip over from devotion to Jesus to devotion to the structures of the church, we move from machine to monument and the next step becomes inevitable … the step to museum. Where the church becomes a fond reminder of what used to be, a place that people remember all their lives but not one where God is continually breaking into the world today.

As Christ Church Cathedral, we struggle mightily with this tension. We have a glorious building – a national historic site even, with all the trappings of monument. Which makes it even more crucial for us to remember that it is not the building or the institutional structures that matter but the one around whom we gather, the living presence of God in Christ.

It’s why our mission statement begins “we seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ” and the other stuff – celebrating the sacraments faithfully, proclaiming the Gospel boldly, embracing diversity joyfully and serving all passionately as a Cathedral --- those things are just means to the end. But our mission is to be the movement that follows Jesus.

Here’s one example. For the past several months, we’ve been having conversations about how we lead our children and youth into following Jesus. And they have been hard conversations. They are conversations that should not just be for a few people who happen to have children but for all of us. Because all of us at every baptism promise to “do all in our power to support” each child “in her life in Christ.” Forming our children as disciples of Jesus is ALL of our job … but more than that it is all of our joy.

But part of what we struggle with is separating the structures and experiences that have been meaningful to us in the past from the reality that made those structures and experiences so meaningful – the reality of the living presence of God in Jesus Christ.

The temptation is to ask the question “how do we staff Sunday school” instead of “how do we draw our children and youth into deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ … and let them draw us into those relationships, too.” realizing that Sunday school very well might be part of that answer, but that it also might not.

Not being so attached to one form that we close ourselves off to God breaking through in new ways. And how can we do it together – realizing that just as Black history month is not just for our black parishioners and that pride Sunday is not just for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, that Christian formation for children and youth is a ministry to which all of us are called.

This is one example but there are so many others. We have a glorious history of outreach ministry in this Cathedral – but how are we being called not to be a museum of past accomplishments but a movement and a machine centered in seeking and serving Christ in the most vulnerable among us?

God is singing that song from Isaiah right here, right now.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

The former things have been wonderful, but that is not where our gaze should be trained. God is creating us anew each day, each moment as a joy. God is creating us anew each day, each moment as a delight. Think about that … we are a delight to God!

The past is powerful and full of meaning and there is a place for honoring it. There are places we’ll remember all our life. And though we know we’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before. Though we’ll often stop and think about them, our song to God this day and every day is: “God, in our life, we love you more.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"We are Fearless Children of the Resurrection" - The Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral at 10 am on Sunday, November 10, 2013.

Bernice Bell
John Good
James Hayashi

A week ago we stood in procession and read their names. We remembered them. But it was more than just memory. We solemnly offered them to God in thanksgiving and in hope.

And each name had a face, a story, a life lived that compelled us to remember them. Each name, each life had shaped us in some way. Some profoundly. Some subtly. Some were known but to a few. Some seemed bigger than this grand space itself.

Priscilla Allen
Michael Allen
Gussie Feehan

And many, many, many more.

And as we read them, we sang

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

We read the names of the dead and sang Alleluia, Alleluia. In the eyes of the world, it has to be one of the more peculiar things that we do. We stand at the grave and yes, we weep. But that is not all we do. Even at the grave we sing our song:

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

We sing Alleluia because we are people of trust. Of trust in something more than this life. We trust that on each one of us there is an imprint of the divine that can never die even when our mortal bodies pass into death. We trust that in death, life is changed, not ended. We trust that we are bound together – the living and the dead – in a great communion of saints.

And we trust that every time we gather at this table we join with that heavenly chorus – with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – in singing God’s praise. That we do not sing alone. That those who have gone before are singing with us still.

We trust that there is something more than this life. And we don’t claim to know what it looks like. Artists, poets and theologians throughout the centuries have given us images – most of which look like the kind of opulence we aspire to here on earth. Heaven as reclining on a cloud or something that looks suspiciously like a retirement villa in Coral Gables. But the truth is we don’t know. We have no idea precisely what happens to us when we die. But we trust that Jesus was not lying to us when he said he was going to prepare a place for us. We trust that Paul was not lying when he said that nothing, not even death could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We trust that when this life is done, there is more. We have, as we say when we lay the ones we love into the ground, a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. And we have it together. And that means even in moments of extreme personal doubt, as a people, we are people of that trust, we are people of that sure and certain hope.

This sure and certain hope. The hope that leads us to do something so bizarre as to sing Alleluia at the grave. It is not just a safety net. It’s not just the flood rider on our insurance policy that lets us breathe a little easier when the rain comes down. Nor is our sure and certain hope just for consolation in the midst of grief -- that it really isn’t that bad because we’ll all be together again some day.

Our sure and certain hope of the resurrection is an assurance and it is a consolation, but it is not merely those things or even primarily those things.

Our sure and certain hope of the resurrection is our defining characteristic. It is what makes us who we are. And far from just a promise of a heavenly rest, it holds in its hands an invitation to shape the way we live every moment of every day of our lives on earth.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is confronted by a group of Sadducees, a sect of Jews who said there is no resurrection. They looked around at this life and believed that this was all there was, and when it was done, it was done.

And they tried to trap Jesus with an absurd question – designed to make him admit what they believed, which was that the resurrection itself was a pretty crazy thing to trust in.

They said:

“Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be?”

It is an absurd story – either about the unluckiest woman who ever lived or one in which by the fifth or sixth brother you’d figure they were having someone else taste their food. And of course, Jesus doesn’t fall for the trap.

Jesus said to them:

Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”

Jesus says, basically, wrong question. You are trying to take the resurrected life and make it fit into the categories of this world. In the world of Jesus’ time, one of the primary reasons for marriage was so that women – who were considered property – could be supported and not left destitute. Jesus is saying that in the resurrected life, the world is not so cruel as to require a system like that. In the resurrected life, all are children of God and all are naturally treated that way. In the resurrected life there is no fear. No fear of poverty. No fear of destitution. No fear of loss of any kind.

Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees is critical for us, and not because it gives us some hints about the life to come. Because for Jesus, the resurrection is not just some future assurance, but a present reality. It is an eternal life not just chronologically extending to the horizon and beyond after death but a life eternal in depth of meaning and abundance of life and joy that we are invited into right now, today, every day of this mortal life that we share.

Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees is critical for us because just as he invited them not to think of the resurrection in terms of the categories of this world, he invites us to think of this world in terms of the resurrection. Far from just a promise of a heavenly rest, Jesus’ promise of resurrection invites us to shape the way we live every moment of every day of our lives on earth. Jesus’ promise of resurrection reminds us that even though we live in this age, as his followers, we are not of this age. We are children of God. We are children of the resurrection.

And as children of the resurrection, we are convicted that because in death, life is changed, not ended, death is not something to fear. And could there be a belief, could there be a trust that should more profoundly shape how we live our lives? If we do not fear death, we are free to live boldly and joyfully. If we do not fear death, we are free to love and give abundantly without counting the cost.

If we do not fear death, we are truly free to live fearlessly. To listen deeply to the Gospel challenges of Christ to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves and to follow them holding nothing back. Why? Because what’s the worst that could happen? We could die! But even if we die, we are not separated from the love of God. Even if we die, we live!

Janis Joplin sang it – Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. In Christ, there is no death, there is no loss, so all that is left is freedom.

The freedom we have as children of the resurrection is our greatest gift, not just to ourselves, but to the world. It means we can be different – not only standing at graves and singing Alleluia but singing and dancing and loving and yes, even giving and spending boldly to love God and witness to the transforming power of God in the world.

The freedom we have as children of the resurrection is what can turn Christ Church Cathedral from a beautiful building and a friendly, loving group of people to a force for the Gospel that smashes the traditional categories that imprison God’s people and frees this city from the divisions and bonds that bind us in fear and scarcity. But we will never be that if we live fearfully as people of this age.

The freedom we have as children of the resurrection is what can turn each of us from prisoners to our own anxieties to bold adventurers living extraordinary lives full of love and joy. But we will never be that if we live fearfully as people of this age.

With every issue we grapple with and with every decision we make, Jesus invites us to trust in this sure and certain hope of the resurrection and to live without fear. To trust that we do not have to build up treasures on earth as insurance for the worst that can happen because if that worst does happen, Jesus already has our backs. To trust that we can live and love boldly and know that if we dedicate ourselves to following Christ faithfully, that no matter what happens we have nothing to fear.

Living like this will not be an easy road. The world around us will throw its conventional wisdom in our face and call us foolish and crazy. We will be tempted to hedge our bets at every turn and hold just a little back just in case. We will be tempted to doubt that sure and certain hope, we will be tempted to fear – and that’s why we so desperately need one another. We need one another to remind and help one another know that this kind of fearless living is not foolish but faithful. We need one another to remind and help one another in times of fear and anxiety not to shrink back but to bind ourselves even more closely to Christ and his resurrection promise.

Living not just in hope of the resurrection to come but living into the resurrection today is what made those saints before the extraordinary shapers of our life that they were. They are not just names in a litany or tiles in a columbarium. They are our living legacy, the shoulders on which we stand, and our fellow singers in the heavenly chorus. Their song is the melody that allows us to explore and create with glorious harmony. And together we create music so beautiful it can and has literally reshaped the world.

Together in beautiful harmony we make our song:

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.