"They are like Angels", A Glimpse of Heavenly Light
November 7, 2010
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Luke 20: 36
36 Indeed they cannot die anymore,
because they are like angels
and are children of God,
being children of the resurrection.
My dear friends, last week we experienced a remarkable event right here in our church. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced in my ministry. I invited anyone who wanted to remember a loved one this All Saints Day to come up and light a candle on the rack of candles we have up here. I thought that people would drift up here and there slowly throughout the service, but little did I know what would happen on that day. It was as if the whole congregation got up during the choir's anthem and formed a line all around the church and came forward to light a candle - so powerful was the love that filled their hearts.
We are in a season of All Saints. This is a special season that happens every autumn when we remember those who have gone to the Lord.
Now you donít have to respond to this if you donít want to. But let me ask anyway - if you have experienced the loss of a loved one in your lifetime, could you raise your hand? (Pastor Tony looks around the congregation) It looks pretty unanimous to me. Everyone's hand seems to be raised.
A Glimpse of Heaven
Letís talk about Heaven today, shall we? Let's remember our loved ones as we do. Letís talk about what Heaven is like. Letís talk about what we believe about Heaven as Christians.
I love the Gospel that is before us this morning. You may wonder why. On one hand, it seems to be a rather dry argument between Jesus and the Sadducees about husbands and wives and relationships in Heaven. Well, there is a hidden gem in the gospel, a gem of an idea that gives me great hope. Even though the Sadducees were confronting Jesus, it gave Jesus the opportunity to open the door of Heaven just a little, and let some of its light shine through for us. He gave us some remarkable insights here. There is one in particular that I would like to lift up this morning. Letís explore it together.
Who Were These Sadducees?
The Gospel tells us that the Sadducees came to Jesus with a question. Now, who were the Sadducees? We sometimes hear them mentioned along with the Pharisees in the Bible. But actually they were very different groups of people in Jesusís time. The Pharisees were the ones that thought they could please God, and God would love them, if they followed the letter of the Law exactly. They followed it to some crazy extents.
The Sadducees, on the other hand, were very different. They were a group in the Jewish community that really didnít believe in very much. They were very rich and very comfortable and only believed in the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the "Law of Moses" as they called it. They didnít believe in the Resurrection, they didnít believe in spirits, they didnít believe in angels or in an afterlife. So you get the picture. When they came up to Jesus it wasnĎt with a straight intellectual question; there was an air of cynicism about the whole thing. It was as if they were teasing Jesus about his proclamations of Heaven and the Afterlife. You could almost see the bunch of them having a little bit of a giggle on their faces as they pose their questions.
ďSo Jesus, they said, suppose a man is married to a woman and he dies. The Law of Moses says that in order for the bloodline to continue, the brother must now marry the woman. This is written in the book of Moses. But what if he also dies? Then the third brother has to marry her. And what if he dies, then the fourth brother must marry her.Ē
Well they could have stopped there, couldnít they? But they went on and on and pushed it to the seventh brother (seven was like an infinite number), all of whom died before the woman. You can see them practically snickering. And finally the woman dies. ďSo, Jesus, in Heaven, whose wife will she be?Ē They are probably outright giggling at this point. But Jesus takes this seriously. It gave him an opportunity to open the door to a bit of Heavenly light.
Jesus Tells Us Something About Heaven
Jesus doesnít talk much about Heaven in the Bible. I wish He did. However, in this passage He did tell us this about the Afterlife and some interesting things about those who have crossed over.
The first thing he says is, ďLook, Sadducees, you have got it all wrong. Heavenly ways are not like earthly ways. In Heaven, love is more pure and more universal, like the love of God. As far as the details, let God work it work. Trust the love of God for the details. But just know that things are different in Heaven. Love is there, but the form is different.Ē
My friends, may I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I have some very clear and firm beliefs about Heaven. One of the things I firmly believe is that when we cross over, we will once again be united with those whom we love. I deeply believe that we will be reunited with them in remarkable, joyous bonds of love.
When I was in England a few years ago, I met a very dear person. Her name was Mrs. Grace Gwynne James. Mrs. James was in her eighties when I knew her. I had rented a room in her house, when I went to the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford. It was a wonderful time. I noticed one morning a little plaque on a table in her living room with the following poem written on it:
There is an old belief,
That on some solemn shore,
Beyond the sphere of grief
Dear friends shall meet once more.
Beyond the sphere of Time and Sin
And Fate's control,
Serene in changeless prime
Of body and of soul.
That creed I fain would keep
That hope I'll ne'er forgo,
Eternal be the sleep,
If not to waken so.
John Gibson Lockart (1794-1854)
I believe deeply that we will see our loved ones once again. The first thing that Jesus tells us is indeed they cannot die anymore. What a beautiful assurance! No more death, no more tears, no more illness, no more pain, no more sorrow.
A Gem of an Insight
Here is the gem I told you about earlier. I love this portion of Scripture because of this one phrase especially. They are like angels. Our loved ones who cross over to the other side have become like angels. Those are the words of the Lord Jesus.
Angels are mentioned in many, many places in the Bible. I would challenge us all to be more aware of them and more accepting of their presence, inviting their guidance, their presence and their protection in our lives.
What Do Angels Do?
First of all, Angels are messengers of God. Many
places in the Bible tell of them.
An angel appears to Joseph, telling him to take the baby Jesus to Bethlehem.
An angel came to Mary and told her she would have a son.
Angels announced the birth of the Lord Jesus to the shepherds.
Angels are messengers of God and Jesus says that we shall be like angels.
Secondly, angels help people in remarkable ways. After Jesus was struggling with the devil in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him. Angels are spiritual entities that we cannot see that serve as servants of God. Angels are a connection with God and Jesus Christ.
Jesus Speaks of Guardian Angels
In the book of Matthew 18:10, Jesus is defending children. In Jesusís time, children were not always valued and cherished as they are today in our society. Beware that you donít despise a single one of these little ones, for I tell you, in Heaven, their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father. The guardian angels of children are a powerful connection with the Heavenly Father, so why should we lose them when we grow older? I believe that we have guardian angels still.
In my room when I was a little child hung a picture of a guardian angel. It is a picture of a beautiful guardian angel looking over two children who are crossing a very precarious bridge, a symbol of Godís light and protection guarding us from so many dangers, most of which we are not aware of. Angels help people, angels bless people. I think we do well to acknowledge them.
Jesus Gave Us the Right to be Children of God
Through His grace of salvation, Jesus gave us the right to be called children of God. He affirmed that spirits live forever. He told the Sadducees so. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is God not of the dead, but of the living, for to him all of them are alive. The Sadducees were silenced by the brilliance of Jesus and we are blessed with the gem of knowledge that Jesus has given us about the afterlife.
A Remarkable Personal Experience
About 16 years ago I was celebrating Holy Communion and in the midst of the prayers of Consecration I had a thought. Look around, Anthony, look around. There are more loving souls in this room than your eyes can see. It was a remarkable moment as we all celebrated the sacrament of the Lordís presence together. It is a moment that has blessed me. You will hear me use in the Service the phrase, Thank you God for our beloved dear ones who have gone on to be with you. They surround us like so many angels. That phrase was born of this experience that has blessed me, and of the words from this scripture passage.
From all this, I think its fair to once again affirm that there is more to life than meets the eye - much more. Send your love to your loved ones on the other side. Be open to the remarkable blessing of their love. Please know that, like angels, they also have much more understanding than we do, and much more understanding of us than they did when they were with us here on earth. They want to bless you, love you, and help you. I invite you to be open to that connection. Indeed, they are like angels.
May this insight bring you comfort and insight and peace. God loves you; I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski