Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What about the Woman?

In seminary, I wondered how I would stay connected with colleagues--those who helped make me a better pastor, preacher, teacher, and Christian. How would I prepare a sermon without a dozen or so friends to bounce ideas off of? How would I handle pastoral crises when if I didn't have anyone to process the situation with? Well, blogs to the rescue.

I truly love the clergy colleague relationships that I have through blogs. On Monday, I scribbled out something on this Sunday's gospel lesson about the Sadducees and not getting sucked into their question about marriage in heaven. Steve Pankey then wrote an hilarious and helpful piece about Jesus resisting the Sadducees' trap. When I read his piece, which you can (and should) read here, it brought something else to mind: the woman.

What about the woman who gets married seven times and loses all her husbands? Sure, she's a hypothetical figure made up for illustrative purposes, but her pain is real. Right? We know people who have lost their spouse and then lost another spouse and even lost another spouse. The Sadducees toss her around like she's chattel. Our heart should break when we hear her story. But I must admit that I never stop to think about her. She's just an example. And her pain--and the pain of those we know--gets lost when we talk about the details of the resurrection.

What do you say to a woman who has just buried her husband? What do you say to a couple whose child has been killed? Pastorally, in those moments, I forget just about everything I learned about the Judeo-Christian tradition of resurrection and afterlife. The hows and the whens and the wheres don't matter--at least coming up with the "right" answer doesn't. In those moments of real heartbreak, the only things that count are hope and love and faith.

Yes, resist getting sucked in by the Sadducees' question. It is a silly question. They aren't really looking for an anwer. But don't ignore the pain of the woman depicted in their rhetorical test. Her pain is all around us. What will we say to those who are hurting? Will our doctrine triumph over our sensitivity? Where will hope be found? How will we talk about resurrection when it really matters--not in the classroom but in the hospital room?

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