Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 27 November 6, 2016
Haggai 2:4b-9 Psalm 145:18-21 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 Luke 20:27-38
As I read the readings for this Sunday (which is a Sunday that may be substituted as a time to recognize All Saints and All Souls, with the readings today often overlooked), I saw how it could be presented in something like a Shakespearian play, with characters acting out the Biblical verses.
The characters in the play are performing the roles as prophets: David (the Psalm), Haggai (the Minor Prophet), Paul (the Apostle), and Jesus (the Son of Man). In addition, there is a pretend character, one not too different from the ghost character in Hamlet (his father), as there is in this play the Holy Ghost. He is like a floater among the human characters, who is a voice of explanation (holy reason) that the other holy men can hear. Finally, there is a Sadducee who speaks for a group of Sadducees, who represents those who are not so holy as the other characters.
The setting is on a balcony overlooking a street, which could be Jerusalem; but for flair, the stage could be decorated to look like a balcony on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, only after all the pageantry of Mardi Gras has long past.
On the balcony one finds David sitting in a chair strumming his harp (with that substituted with a guitar, if the New Orleans set is chosen). Next along the balcony is a small round table, where Haggai and Paul sit in chairs, with cups of red wine before them. To the right one finds Jesus standing, with his hands on the balcony railing, looking down onto the street, while listening to the conversation brought forth by his friends in God.
As the act develops, the Sadducees will come up the street and call up to Jesus. He will answer from his second story position.
Here is the playbill or theater program, which acts as the handout for today’s performance. Please read along as the lights go dim and the theater quietens.
The curtain opens.
David (strumming and singing): The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving in all his works. Haggai: Says the Lord; work, for I am with you [Ghost stating the meaning] An Apostle does the works of the LORD. David (strumming and singing): The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully. Haggai (after sipping his wine): My spirit abides among you; do not fear. [Ghost stating the meaning] Possession of God’s Holy Spirit means one ceases selfish thoughts and thus is free from doubts and fears. David (strumming and singing): He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and helps them. Paul (setting down his chalice of wine): As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. [Ghost stating the meaning] An Apostle’s devotion to God’s desire will calm all inner disturbances, regardless of outer turmoil. Haggai (setting down the cup of wine): Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. David (strumming and singing): The Lord preserves all those who love him, but he destroys all the wicked. [Ghost stating the meaning] Only the soul of a devoted Apostle will be preserved in the house of the LORD, when all earth trembles and shakes. Paul (raising up his chalice): Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. [Ghost stating the meaning] Satan will always try to lure an Apostle away from God, but the servants of Satan’s evil will declare themselves gods and demand obedience and devotion to them. The revolution of an Apostle is to reveal these godless ones so others will not follow them blindly.
[Ghost pointing] Speak of the Devil. Look who comes near. Sadducees (arriving on the street below the balcony).
High Sadducee: Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her. Jesus (looking up as he speaks): Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive. [Ghost stating the meaning] Resurrection, which the Sadducees did not believe in, did not mean the return to a physical body. The story they made up reflects upon Reincarnation, which was not addressed by Jesus. Jesus addressed the error of their conclusion that Moses wrote the Law for both heaven and earth. The Law of heaven is there is no sex, as all are like angels, thus immortal souls, having no need to reproduce. Thus, when Jesus said “He is God not of the dead,” the dead are souls born into bodies that are mortal and temporal, assured of death. “The living” are the souls that came from God, with the Law designed to create a straight path back to the LORD in heaven.
The curtain closes.
In the full reading from Haggai, we Christians read, “The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai.” Haggai was told by God to summon Zerubbabel (son of Shealtiel), governor of Judah, and Joshua (son of Jozadak), the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Those leaders were (in essence) the same as were the Sadducees, because they were not connected to God. None of them could hear the Holy Ghost speaking. Thus, they needed a prophet to speak the word of the LORD to them.
Today, on the verge of a presidential election, with the control of the House and Senate also at stake (not to mention the future of the justices that will take seats on the High Court of the land), none of those politicians are connected to the voice of the Holy Ghost. None can speak the word of the LORD.
Haggai was called by the LORD to ask those leaders, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”
Haggai then said his lines in this play (speaking for the LORD as His servant).
David told the same thing to the Israelites in song. Paul said the same thing to the new Apostles he had touched, so those new Apostles could hear the voice of the Holy Ghost speaking explanation. Jesus told the same thing to the Sadducees. All of these holy men could hear the voice of the Holy Ghost, even if they could not see that character.
All of those holy men could then be seen as different masks for the word of the LORD, where the LORD plays all the roles of prophets and Apostles.
After all, there are only two characters in the play that constantly goes on in the theater of the world: The blessed and the wicked.
They are those who are led by the Holy Ghost and the voice of God, or those who are led by the enticements of the world, who do not believe in a Resurrection to a heavenly hereafter.
Are you a political pawn?
Does the entertainment of a play make you more interested in the religion you claim as your own; or do you prefer a leader to preach a sermon that will wash spirituality over you, as you sit mindlessly in a pew?
Or, are you hearing the Holy Ghost call your name? Do you speak to others what the word of the LORD says through you?
Are you responding to God’s call by acting as He wills, to summon the leaders and tell them they have become evil?
These are the questions pertaining to the reality of being a Saint or just a Soul in a dead form.