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Without Name

Luke 20:27-38

The Rev. Jon Roberts

6 November


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

27 There came to him some Sad′ducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man[a] must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”


The Question of the Sadducees, Harold Copping, 1863-1932

To be a saint of God things will never be the same.
To be a saint of God, when we leave this place,
What will happen to our name?[1]

Our procession this morning came in triumphantly with the traditional hymn, “For all the Saints.” This, being the day that we recognize those Christians who gave their lives to proclaim the good news of our Lord in so many different and sacrificial ways, it would be a good exercise if we investigate the meaning of each of the five verses.[2]

The song is a four-part adaptation of a beautiful hymn from Ralph Vaughn Williams, called Sine Nomine, which means “Without Name.” The first verse goes, “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, they name, O Jesus, be forever blest; alleluia! Alleluia! When the last trumpet blasts on earth, the blessed dead who have gone before will be resurrected in Christ and our hope is that we will join them for all eternity. This is our confession of faith, believing that all those who we have named will live forever. Yes, they have names.

The second verse goes, “Though wast their Rock, their fortress and their might; Thou Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou, in the darkness dear their one true light; alleluia! Alleluia!” This reminds us that we are in spiritual warfare and here is what we have for our defense. Jesus is the Rock in 1 Corinthians (10:4); Jesus is our mighty fortress in Psalm 18:2; Jesus is the captain of our salvation in Hebrews 2:10).

The third verse goes, “Oh, may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold, fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, and win with them the victor’s crown of gold; alleluia! Alleluia!” For the faithful believers, they are promised something. They are promised a crown in Revelation 2:10; Their salvation is sure in 2 Timothy (4:8). With this promise, we too will live to the end, lest we lose our salvation because we are unrighteous.

The fourth verse goes, “And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong; alleluia! Alleluia! We are to find encouragement from long suffering; a long-waged war where casualties take place. There will be a final trumpet blast and then we take comfort, being reminded that the ultimate victory goes to those who have fought bravely. For as long as we keep fighting, we win.

The final verse relates directly to the resurrection, that goes, “But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in a bright array; the King of glory passes on His way; alleluia! Alleluia!” This refers to the Feast of Trumpets, this is what it’s all about when Jesus comes on the final day to deliver judgement and salvation. The war is over, and this is what we fight for and what we hope to come.

There is a church that is quite traditional and has many commemorative artifacts in it. There are stained glass windows, wood carvings, tapestries, and under many of them, a small brass plaque commemorating the person to which it honors. One who reads them may get the impression these were saintly fellows, but there was one that stood out. Almost all churches have a plaque and it usually reads, “To the Glory of God, in memory of ‘so-in-so.” There was one inscription where they wrote it backwards. It read, “To the Glory of ‘so-in-so’, in memory of God.” When these people left this place, how concerned were they about what they left behind? How many of us do?

In the Gospel today the Sadducees confronted Jesus on the topic of the resurrection.[3] They gave him a scenario of a woman married to seven brothers and each died. “Who would she be wed to in this alleged afterlife”, they asked Jesus. Jesus gives detail that in heaven we are married to Christ. There is no separation from those who we married here, but we take on a new understanding when we die and live a resurrected life in the new place to which Jesus lives eternally.

The Sadducees believed in a triumphant and victorious Israel and that the Hebrew people should live and die in the hope of God, the Messiah, who will come and deliver salvation. They believed in passing along tradition and law, but after they die they would simply be a memorial. They believed they were in succession to their saints of Old: Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, yet they killed the prophets. They felt everything depends in the present and that there was no future. That is why the prophets must die. Yet Jesus said that when you take me into your life, you will live through him for all eternity. In the name of Jesus there you will find life.

If you believe in Jesus, then you believe in the sainthood of all believers, for they were all kinds of people yet proclaimed the good news. They lived for the good news and they prospered after death in the good news. Many of their names remain part memorial, but their lives became immortal when they glorified the Son of God.

What will happen when you die? Who will you be married to and where will you be in history? Who will remember your name?

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[3] Luke 20:27-38

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