God's Got This

By Pastor Teddie McConnell                                    November 6, 2022
Skeptical people liked to question Jesus in ways that they assumed would make him look bad. The Sadducees were no exception, asking Jesus about the resurrection when they didn’t believe in it, had already made up their minds. They thought the soul ceased to exist along with the body, which meant that all we humans have is the life we experience on the earth. When we die, we disappear as if we had never been. Leaving your name and a legacy were the only things that would keep you alive in other people’s memories. Being the male chauvinist culture of the time, their question was all about the men and their lack of children to inherit the estate. But it wasn’t serious. Seven brothers marrying the same woman in turn? It was a sarcastic attempt to trip Jesus up.
The Master refused to be baited. He patiently explained the idea of there being two places, one place where we live now and another place or age where those who are worthy will live after they die. The Sadducees were concerned with each person’s individual legacy, their own small view of life and the world. Jesus was talking about God’s legacy, being the children of God who live on eternally, as the most important thing. We are resurrection people, living joyfully and faithfully in the now because we believe in the promise of being raised to heaven after we leave this life.
Jesus went on to explain that when God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” God spoke in the present tense, referring to the prophets as still alive. Like a modern day preacher, Jesus interpreted the Scriptures for his audience. God will always keep his precious children alive, close to him and to our loved ones who have gone before us. God raises the dead! We are inheritors of God’s resurrection power. God’s got this.
The Sadducees started from the point of their own understanding, what they thought was important, a common human mistake. Jesus used God’s revealed word to make his point, what God thinks is important. This is a great example of Jesus being our role model. When we have questions or when others question us, we need to look to God’s Word for answers, not just assume that we know what we’re talking about or base our understanding on limited human experience. Then we can speak in our own limited way about what God thinks is important?
I visited my son Randy recently, and he told me he thinks that only crazy people claim to hear actual words from God, so the words in the Bible cannot be from God. He was basing his belief on the assumption that scientists are capable of discerning the whole truth about the human brain and experience. But experiments don’t work when it comes to God speaking through prophets. We know less about the deepest parts of the ocean than we do about outer space, because we can’t get our instruments to work in the crushing pressure of those depths. Why would we assume we have instruments that can measure the influence of the Living God? And since scientists are supposed to start from a position of skepticism, how can they objectively measure something that is based on belief? Where does the discernment of the heart come in?
I didn’t argue with him or quote God’s word, because he’d already discounted it. I told him that God gives us free will, to believe or not to believe. I said that I believe because it makes me a happier and better person, and let it go at that. Jesus didn’t keep arguing with the Sadducees. Much as it saddens me to know that my son doesn’t share my faith, arguing further might have damaged our relationship. We have to pick our battles. Our loving ties with family and friends are more important to God than trying to win an argument. I pray that God will send someone else to talk with Randy about Jesus who doesn’t have my level of involvement with him and can help him see what he’s missing.
As Christians, we know that resurrection power is already alive in us through the Holy Spirit. We can do our best to follow God’s will in this life based on God’s word and the Spirit’s leading, while we rest assured that this world is not the end of our existence. Life will go on in a way that we can’t even imagine, but will be glorious and beautiful because God will be the center of it. Marriage won’t exist, but love will go on. God’s got this. Our belief in a supreme being who loves us intensely and has our best interests at heart needs to be so deep, so profound, that we can put aside our worries about how this world really works or whether God will take us to heaven. Worrying is a waste of the precious time God gave us. When we catch ourselves worrying, we need to stop and pray, sometimes over and over. We still have trouble, heartache, and pain, but we know Jesus is here with us. Like the song says, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
It would be fun and exciting to know exactly what heaven will be like or when Christ will return. Inquiring minds want to know. We’re curious creatures, and we don’t like surprises. But why do we want to know? Could it be because we don’t really trust the God of heaven and earth to take care of us in a new or different way? What are we worried about?
The author of 2 Thessalonians, probably Paul, wrote about the end times. People have been speculating about when and how the world will change or end when Jesus finally returns ever since he left. “But Paul, when will he arrive? Is he here yet? Did we miss him?” The group in Thessalonica had wound themselves up based on rumors. They had concerns and questions related to the idea that Christ’s return was supposed to follow quickly on their own great suffering and persecution.
The writer reassured his fellow believers, telling them not to believe false prophesy, rumors or even letters that pretended to be from Paul saying that the day of the Lord had already come. Apparently what they had heard was believable enough to agitate them. False rumors are like that, right? They don’t sound so weird or fantastic that we can easily dismiss them, but they hook us by stirring up our deepest desires or fears.
Back in 1843, members of a church on the east coast were fooled by a Millerite pastor into believing the rapture was coming that very day. They wanted to believe that Jesus was on his way so desperately that they gave away their homes and farms and stood on a hilltop in white robes waiting for Jesus’ return. When they came to their senses, they had to sheepishly ask for their property back.
Some people still speculate that Christians will be raptured, taken up into heaven directly and leave all the non-believers here, like in the Left Behind series. One child who was raised to believe this became separated from his mother in the grocery store. After looking everywhere for her, he was absolutely terrified, thinking that God had raptured her to heaven and left him behind.
The writer of 2 Thessalonians then describes “the lawless one” who must come before the return of Christ. Translators aren’t sure just what or who restrains the lawless one, since the original language is ambiguous. The lawless one is a Jewish expression that doesn’t identify the man so much as describe his behavior. Many historic figures have been labeled this way in a mistaken belief that he is one identifiable person. But he is part of the cosmic forces of evil, probably symbolic of things like selfish leaders, nations, economic systems, unfair laws, and armies that are bent on destruction.
Although the lawless one is described as having many powers, he’s no match for Jesus. God will win in the end, and we will be vindicated. It’s easy to let evil frighten us, forgetting that God is in charge. We question why God hasn’t stopped evil yet, why bad things are still happening, why people still mistreat each other, why the planet is in danger of ruin from the forces of commercialism and the exploitation of its resources.
To worry about what the lawless one may mean in our own context is to miss the point. The author was trying to get his listeners to calm down and carry on, to faithfully work for God by doing what they could to make their part of the world a better place. We must practice discernment, study the Word of God, sift rumors carefully, and not let ourselves be easily deceived. The writer of this letter was concerned that this group of believers would work themselves into a frenzy, so he sent loving words of encouragement, reassurance, and prayer their way. This is our job, too. We need to encourage, reassure and pray for each other that we won’t be deceived by the evil in the world. God’s in charge. God’s got this.
Congregational divisions, rumors, and worries are nothing new. I wonder how anxiety about the future of St. Andrew may be stealing our energy and healthy purpose, what possible scenarios, real or imagined, may be undermining our faith and belief in our calling in this church, in this time and place. Gratitude and mutual encouragement are the antidotes to fear and anxiety. We need to focus on what’s already working and what we can do differently to make our church thrive. Let’s not play Chicken Little. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Remember that we are called to be the daughters and sons of Christ. God can make a way where there seems to be no way, just as when the waters of the Red Sea parted in Exodus.
When I’ve worked as an artist, I’ve learned that creative solutions are only available when my mind is calm and open to new possibilities, when the Holy Spirit can whisper in my heart, inspire me to do something I hadn’t thought of before. Fear is from the evil one. It puts us into fight or flight mode and shuts down creativity. It’s counterproductive.
Among the many promises Jesus made about life after his death and resurrection is this from John 14:27,  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
We need to remember what an awesome God we serve, and who wins in the end. We need to keep in mind – God’s got this.

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