“Indeed they cannot die anymore” (Luke 20:37)
We Episcopalians are used to looking for and seeing God’s “hand at work in the world about us” (Eucharistic Prayer C, BCP p. 372). More precisely, we know through experience that God mediates love to us through material things and through certain types of human relationships. We’re all aware of the grace which we receive through the sacraments, yet sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they’re given to prepare us for death and for our entry into the kingdom.
In baptism, God pours out his love upon us through the medium of water. The relationship thereby established with him, as well as with our fellow Christians throughout the world and throughout the ages, is irrevocable. It is, in fact, the very basis for our true citizenship in heaven. Likewise, in the Eucharist we’re regularly nourished by the very nature and substance of Christ himself — a preparation for our feasting forever at the Lord’s own wedding banquet. Baptism and the Eucharist prepare us for that day when we can joyously accept God’s love directly — when mediation will no longer be necessary.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus isn’t condemning our own growing custom of serial monogamy, much as one might wish that he would do so. Instead he’s teaching us something far more basic. “[T]hose who are considered worthy of a place in that age,” Jesus tells us, “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” His reason is clear: “Indeed they cannot die anymore” (Luke 20:36-37). The sacramental commitment of one Christian to another, that is, is far more than two people sharing love for each other. What they share is God’s mediated grace, in preparation for the time when mediation will no longer be needed.
Our life-long committed relationships, whether in marriage or through vows to a religious community, are additional ways that God prepares us for death and for resurrection into the kingdom. To the extent that we continue in unconditional love toward those whom God has placed in our lives, we become increasingly enabled to pursue eternal relationships. It is precisely to the degree that we “honor and keep the promises [we] make ” to one another and before God (BCP, p. 425) that we become more and more prepared “for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2: 13). The sacraments of this present age help to make us ready for death and for resurrection into God’s kingdom.
Think About It
What is the scriptural basis for marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition? (See Gen. 2:23-25).
Think About It
If we regularly renege on our solemn promises to God, what hope do we have that God will keep his promises to us?