Service of Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.
Reading: 1 Cor. 15:12–28
1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV): 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Responsory: p. 263
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A couple months ago someone said it to me again. I'd heard it a thousand times before: "I just don't know how those without faith get through it." And I remember that it hit me rather like a ton of bricks that I don't believe what that implies. I don't believe that our faith makes facing death easier. In fact, I think our faith makes it harder.
We are surrounded by people who are convinced that death is simply the last stage of life. That it may send you off on a journey or it just may be the end of you. Either way, it's fine. To have lived and loved and breathed and known others and been loved, hey, what more could you ask for? Like Socrates sipping the hemlock in complete equanimity, like those who have been catechized by John Lennon's song Imagine. Death happens. It's natural. It's all good. That's NOT hard. That's easy.
You want hard? You stand by the coffin of someone you love and you look long and hard at that body which no amount of makeup from the undertaker can disguise as being, to quote the Munchkins, not just really dead, but really most sincerely dead. To stand by that and say: Nevertheless this body will be raised again. And to believe that. That's not just hard. That's impossible. That's crazy.
You want the proof? Read the New Testament. That entire collection of documents is about a bunch of guys having their minds blown by seeing a man they knew and loved die, really die, dead and buried dead, and then encountering him again. Not his spirit, not his mind, but his body. Yeah, doing weird stuff with that body that they couldn't begin to fathom, but THE fact that just seemed so impossible was that it was his real body, the one with the prints of the nails and the hole in the side. His body, not just animated like a zombie, but incorruptible. Alive forevermore. Yeah, they KNEW it sounded crazy. They KNEW it sounded impossible. They KNEW it was hard, not easy. And none better than the man who wrote the words of our reading today.
He was convinced it was all fraud. Pure and simple. A lie. But then he too had the experience. Saw him. Heard him. Alive, not dead. In that body. And everything he'd ever thought about God, himself, the world, it flew out the window in that instant when the formerly dead Jew, in shining glory, knocked him off his high horse and made him with the others a witness to the resurrection.
Okay, so Jesus is raised from the dead. But what does that mean? What are its implications? What it mean for the dead body of the one you love? What does it mean for you in your failing flesh? That's where the Corinthians were. Apparently the idea had even taken hold that those who died before the glorious Appearing of Christ again, they were just lost. Too bad, so sad. As though there were no resurrection of the rest of the dead. Paul's like: No, No, NO! Look, if there is no resurrection, then Jesus Himself is not raised and the witness we've been giving about God raising Him from death is a LIE and we are then of all men most to be pitied, going around lying about God. Heaven's sake! No resurrection of the dead, no resurrection of Jesus. That's Paul's point.
And then BUT. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. So sins forgiven, death destroyed. And he's just the first fruits. The start, there's more to follow. Cause just like everyone died in Adam, everyone's going to live in Christ. But we won't see it until that appearing, and then we'll see. Christ, those who died in Him alive forevermore, and the generation alive at that moment changed, as the "last enemy" is destroyed forever.
Not easier. Harder. Crazy! Who can believe it? Even the Apostles struggled. Don't you love that bit in Matthew 28. When they saw Him, they worshipped, but some doubted, right before sending them out to make disciples of all nations with the news of His resurrection and all it brings? Wrapping your mind around the resurrection IS the New Testament. The Apostles and Evangelists, they are not writers of fairy tales. They didn't shed their blood for some silly story they concocted after too much wine. They shed their blood in the conviction that they had encountered the supreme instance where truth was stranger than fiction. Christ lives. In His body. Forever. You will live. In your body. Forever. Death has been destroyed; death will be destroyed.
Their proclamation still resounds. No, our faith doesn't make death easier. Won't let you make it easier. Death is never your friend. Don't try to make peace with it. It's not natural and not a part of life. It's the invader, an enemy but an enemy that Christ has already destroyed in Himself and will destroy in you on the day of His appearing. The New Testament proclaims something like this: Christ's resurrection has chopped the head off Death and it's running around like it's still got a head, but you'll be there when it keels over. And you'll see it. With the eyes of your body. For yes, it is true: alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Hymn:486 "If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death"
Prayers: Ruth, Roger, Allen, Jan, Military Chaplain Paul Weber