I’m sort of used to hearing the phrase, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” It gets used as an affirmation to those who are going through some sort of crisis, and I think I’ve even heard it thrown around as a part of the whole “Mainline Decline” conversation. As in, “We need not focus on what we once were that is no longer because our God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Which is, I suppose, a good sentiment, but as I read and reflect on the tail end of Luke 20 this week, I’m realizing that it is a terrible isogesis of the actual quote from Jesus.
Not only does simply saying, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” remove the saying from its larger context in a debate with the Sadducees over the resurrection, but it even removes it from the rest of the sentence. There is no period after living, but rather, Jesus goes on to say, “for to him all of them are alive.” Our comfort in the fact that the old ways are dead is a false comfort because in God, who exists outside of the constraints of time and space, they are not actually dead.
As one who is living in a transitional epoch, I find this to be particularly helpful. As I insinuated in my Bradley Byrne piece on Monday, I’m not interested in a world that is black and white. The world is just too damn beautiful to believe that God didn’t create tone and depth and nuance. So to those who reminisce about modernity as “the good old days” and to those who look to the future as “the great days to come” all the while ignoring, or worse yet, actively fighting against the other, I say, “to God, all of them are alive.” That is to say, we must live as the bridge between the past and the future. We much old on to what is noble and good from days gone by, while opening our hands and our hearts to what is inspiring about the days to come.
I’ve been accused of not caring about tradition, which is a challenge I take very seriously, and this week’s lesson is a reminder that tradition is alive, in the same way that the promise of the future is alive, in the eyes of God.