Raised in Glory

But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come back?" Look, fool! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn't come back to life unless it dies. What you put in the ground doesn't have the shape that it will have, but it's a bare grain of wheat or some other seed. God gives it the sort of shape that he chooses, and he gives each of the seeds its own shape.....It's the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won't ever decay. It's degraded when it's put into the ground, but it's raised in glory. It's weak when it's put into the ground, but it's raised in power. It's a physical body when it's put into the ground, but it's raised as a spiritual body. If there's a physical body, there's also a spiritual body. So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a sprit that gives life. But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one-the spiritual body comes afterward. The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. We will look like the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust. This is what I'm saying, brothers and sisters: flesh and blood can't inherit God's kingdom. Something that rots can't inherit something that doesn't decay. -1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50


So the Sunday is probably gonna seem a little bit like deja vu when we talk about resurrection, 'cause that's what we've talked about the last two Sundays, and yet it bears the conversation because, well, everything, everything about our faith is rooted in an established upon resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus, the empty tomb, is the beginning and end of our faith, that all of it matters because Jesus died and rose again, and Paul has spent a lot of time trying to explain this, if all, spent a lot of time, particularly to that community, trained to address some of the concerns that they had, because even in Bible study, we talk about it and we think, Boy, these weak, frail, frail, flabby bodies that we have now, who wants to spend eternity with this? But yet God has a plan for it. Paul tells us that these bodies will be raised again in some fashion, and so he continues his conversation, and many of Paul's conversations follow the practice of the Greek philosophers and orders where he proposes a question and it doesn't say that... Well, John came up to Paul and said, Hey, Paul about that. But he speculates and says, Well, someone will ask, how are the dead raised? And what kind of body do they come with, and Paul, and see if I can muster all of the compassion and pastoral care that he had in that moment, looks at this hypothetical person and says… DUH


Well, some of you will ask, How does this happen? What do they look like? And Paul's first word is fool, but then he goes on to explain it to the best of his ability. And he begins using that image in that metaphor of a seed, he says, You all know how seeds work, right, the seed isn't complete... The seed isn't the end result, it has to die, it has to be placed in the ground and buried like we do with bodies before it can emerge to new life. And I think Paul would even admit that analogies and metaphors often have shortcomings and that if you pick at them enough, you'll find flaws where they don't exactly line up, but he spends a lot of time talking about this, look, this substance and the stuff that we're made of isn't the same stuff in substance exactly we're going to be made of in the next life or in God's kingdom, He says something's going to happen, there's gonna be a transformation and a change that takes place. He's also adamant about it, that God also is not giving up on this stuff that he has created us of, he's not gonna throw it away and start over, and he talks about how Adam, the first, was a man of dust, and he alludes back to Genesis, to that creation story, where we're told that God formed humanity from the dust of the Earth and breathed the breath of life into humanity.


And part of that has reinforced that idea that there's physical dust and Spirit, God's breath, and that somehow God brings them together and that beyond this life, those get separated again and go their different ways, and yet Paul says No, what God created and what God brought into being God declared it to be good, but that good that God declared isn't quite ready... to enter into God's kingdom. And so something needs to change, something needs to happen, and again, Paul makes his best attempt at explaining this.


A little bit later, at the end of chapter 15, Paul says, listen, and I'll tell you a mystery, he spends all this time explaining, and then he comes back to the point, Okay, here's the mystery, and mysteries are those things that we just can't quite put our finger on it. So through all of his best attempts to explain and answer these questions that are being raised, he still says it's still a mystery, it's still something that we trust and believe God is doing, even though we don't begin to understand the how and the why and the what of what God does in those moments. One of the things that we use as a symbol of new life and resurrection, particularly around Easter are butterflies.


And that life cycle of a butterfly, they begin as an egg that hatches and grows into this little wiggly caterpillar and stuff, and after it goes around and eat a bunch of food that cater power forms its cocoon, or in the case of a butterfly, it... It forms that chrysalis. Now, once it's inside that chrysalis, there's some pretty amazing stuff that happens, there are enzymes that basically digest the entire body of that caterpillar melted down into its basic components, and then it's reformed and reshaped into something different.


Instead of this wiggly many-legged caterpillar that went into that Chrysalis me as a beautiful butterfly with antennas and fewer legs and a whole different body than it started with, and I think that that's a very apt metaphor for what God possibly does with us, that what we are matters enough that God uses that transforms it, redeems it. It makes it holy and right and appropriate for the kingdom and the life that is to come.


So why does Paul spend so much time on this because again, it seems like a lot of speculation, there's no way that we could go to a laboratory and have a scientist test and go through the steps and make this happen. So why does it matter to Paul? Now, I think it goes back to what I mentioned about that creation story, that understanding of what God is doing, that all of those things that took place in creation, when God was creating the earth and the stars, and the moon and life, trees and plants and animals, and human beings, through all of those steps, God is declaring This is good, and as humanity we were and are the crowning gem of that creation, because when God created Humans, God paused and said, This is very good. And so in some ways, we have been set apart from the rest of creation. But even Jesus says, I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. Jesus declared for God so loved the world that He sent His one and only son. God so loved the whole world, not just the human beings, not just the good people, not just certain ones, God loved all of the world, and because He loved the whole world, He sent His son, Jesus, that the world and everything in it could be redeemed.


And continue as a part of that grand plan that God has for all of His creation, Paul says, we're not quite ready for that as we are, but God wants to move all of us into this new life and into this new creation. Now, unfortunately, I think sometimes people see this journey of faith, that we're on the salvation that we're moving toward as a race that each of us run to the best of our ability, and it's a winner-take-all endeavor, it was kind of a fatalistic view, really… We're not in competition with one another. There's not a limited number of prizes waiting at the end, and we better hurry up and get there and get ours. But if God's intention is that all of creation is to be redeemed, that if all of us are to be raised to new life, then we're in this together.


But the reality is, we live in a world that has a lot of disparities, that there are people who are still treated differently because of the color of their skin, that there are economic disparities that continue to widen. In the January edition of Newsweek, they had an article that said that throughout the past two years of the pandemic, the net wealth of the 10 richest men on the planet doubled for all of the hardships that everybody has endured the last two years. If you're one of those top 10 billionaires, it's been a good two years. Their wealth has doubled. The article said that if those 10 individuals lost 99.99% of their wealth, well, they would still be wealthier than three billion people collectively on this planet, that the amount of wealth that they have is six times the combined wealth of the poorest half of the globe's population... Now, this isn't a bash on a billionaire day, but it's to show that these disparities that we live with and maybe there's nothing we can do about it, but yet we seem to think it's OK.


So often the policies of our elected officials favor those at the top and not those at the bottom, that while those 10 individuals double their wealth every four seconds, somebody on this planet dies from the lack of food. Clean water or healthcare, every four seconds, someone dies from the lack of resources, while fewer and fewer amass more and more... This is where Paul would say, resurrection matters. Because of that person who just took their last breath right now, their life mattered as much as everybody else's, and we can't just look upon situations like that and say, Well, they're in a better place now...


Well, they could be in a better place right here, right now, if we were serious about making changes. Don't all of those answers. But Paul is emphatic about the fact that what we do here and now matters for all of us sitting here and gather together, but for every human being on this planet, it matters, because God's plan is that all of us would be raised to that glory, to that imperishable life, to that life that is redeemed and transformed and made right and ready to be a part of God's Kingdom. And so we begin that work here, and now we begin that work of recognizing that what we do in this moment, in the next, matter, it matters to you, and it matters to the person next to us, and the person down the street. And the person on the other side of this planet, it matters when we think about this world that we live in, that while climate change and global warming are still debated and controversial, we can look around at the amount of pollution and know that there are things happening that are not good for life as we know it, we can look around and say, There are things that support our way of life, and it may be coming at a cost to the life and well-being of others.


And so being responsible and conscientious to be the people that God called us to be is to be mindful, and yes, even to be reminded of what we talked about with love in 1 Corinthians 13, we’re to love everybody with this radical crazy love that Jesus has demonstrated. So what does it mean to be raised to newness of life? Well, it means to participate in what God is doing and to encourage and support and love and bring along the people who are in this with us, being raised to glory means that God is in some way going to take the stuff of who we are and refine it, and make it holy. And make it right for his Kingdom. In our Christmas Carol Away in the Manger, the reflection question at the end of your bulletin, there's a line in there that says, and fit us for Heaven, to live with thee there... Some of the newer translations or renderings of that Carol for kids, say, take us to Heaven to live with you there, but I like the idea expressed in that word to fit us for Heaven.


When we go to the stores today, if you still shop in a store, they have fitting rooms, but most places, it's not really a fitting room anymore, it's trying on a room, fitting rooms are a throwback to those days when you would try on something and go into the fitting room and the seamstress or tailor would come in and measure in pin and mark and then take it and make those necessary adjustments. So it was just right for you. Pipe fitters are those people that are industrious and handy it take and work with and make pipes fit together appropriately to perform the task and the function that they're needed to. And so this idea of being raised to new life in and through Christ is that God is fitting us for heaven. That God is somehow in some way transforming and bringing about that work that needs to happen in our lives


So that we are the beings that God had in mind to live in harmony and unity with him. That mystery that Paul was proclaiming. He says, I'll tell you a mystery, we will not all die, but we will all be changed. Paul anticipated that that time would come when all of those people who had died, now all of those who were yet living would all be transformed by the power of God's Spirit proclaimed and given to us through Jesus Christ, that we would be raised in glory. To work with and alongside God in his eternal kingdom, the stuff that you are, it should matter immensely to you, because it matters to God and the stuff that you are, now that's what God will be using to make you, “you” in the life that is yet to come.


Amen


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