Hope in the Resurrection


Hope in the Resurrection

The resurrection of the body is a central theme of the Christian faith. We confess that Christ was raised from the dead and that this promise shall be ours as well. We don’t know how it will happen, what it will look like or even when it will occur. Yet, it remains central to our confessions of faith and is where we place our hope. 

In his letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul outlines a wonderful theology of hope in the resurrection of the body. Let’s take a closer look. 

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15: 12-20

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace, he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant’s horse, he flees at great speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km), where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replies, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.” (O’hara, 1953)

The Appointment in Samarra is an ancient Mesopotamian tale. It was used by John O’Hara in the epigraph to his novel by the same name. For those of you who are trivia buffs, O’Hara’s novel was named 22nd on the list of 100 best English language novels of the 20th century.

Death is that eventuality in life that we all try to out run, but which finds us sooner or later. It is frightening as it beckons the end of this life, which we consider good. As a young man diagnosed with cancer I wondered if I would have any nexts? Next birthday, next Christmas. The specter of death hung over much that I did.

Death has a way of reordering our perspectives.

Of late, this community of faith has felt death’s touch. With the passing of Maria Nowee, Henk Van Goch and David Randall. Please note, I said we have felt death’s touch, but not its sting. Later in the chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul will write, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Through Jesus Christ, death has lost its sting.

The passage Jan read this morning from 1 Corinthians tackles the subject of death straight on. We don’t know why Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth about death. We don’t know what question they asked or what issue forced him to write these words. What Paul wrote is a wonderful passage on death as understood from a Christian perspective. It deals most capably with two issues: The resurrection of the body and the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of the body is part of our confessions of faith. In the Apostle’s Creed we read;

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting.

Yesterday at David’s funeral, we read from Living Faith. Which is one of our denomination’s confessions of faith. We read from the section dealing with our hope in God.

Eternal life is resurrection life.

As God raised Christ,

So shall we be raised

Into a condition fit for life with God.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body is central to the promises we have received form God. That death has been defeated, swallowed up by the act of Christ on the cross is what our faith hinges on.

Professor Carla Works writes, “If there is no resurrection, there is no hope. If there is no resurrection, then everything we thought we knew about God is a lie. If there is no resurrection, then all we have is this life. And the so-called gospel is not really ‘good news’ at all.” (reference)

Christ’s resurrection is non-negotiable. It has to be for Paul’s gospel to work. At the heart of this good news is the resurrection of Jesus. If God did not actually raise Jesus from the dead, then God is not stronger than death.

For Paul, death is the enemy. Death is anti-God and must be overcome if creation is to know abundant life. God is a god of life, through Jesus Christ, God shatters the powers of death. In raising Jesus from the dead, God in one decisive act defeats sin and death for all creation. God chooses life and that is good news.

The gospel reading this morning was from Luke and contains Luke’s version of the Beatitudes that we find in Matthew’s gospel. This opening verse in our reading this morning was as follows, “when Jesus had come down from the hill with the apostles, he stood on a level place with a large number of his disciples.” (Luke 6:17)

He stood on a level place.

Then standing on that level place Jesus proclaimed the values of God’s kingdom. Values based on mercy, justice, grace and love. He stood on a level place and then through his death and resurrection the playing field was leveled for all of creation. God chose goodness and mercy over sin and death. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a powerful testament to the truth behind the resurrection of Jesus. It speaks to the eternal hope we place in the promises of God.

Friends, the hope we place in God is sure. We need not worry or fear. The promises of God are good, we may trust in them. We need not fear or flee from death. Through faith in Christ Jesus we are called to eternal life with our Lord, trust in that. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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