The First Fruits

So if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, "There's no resurrection of the dead"? If there's no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn't been raised either. If Christ hasn't been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless. We are found to be false witnesses about God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, when he didn't raise him if it's the case that the dead aren't raised. If the dead aren't raised, then Christ hasn't been raised either. If Christ hasn't been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what's more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He's the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (CEB)



So you didn't fall asleep and miss out on a few weeks, we didn't suddenly arrive at Easter, but it is something that we probably do need to be reminded of more often that we sang a year or two ago, I believe, that him... By Avery and Marsh, every Sunday is Easter Sunday from now on that every Sunday should be a little resurrection, every Sunday should be a day in which we are reminded that Jesus died and rose again. Because that is the foundation of our faith. Now, why does this matter so much, because in some ways, these theological conversations sometimes can make us think, Who cares, and why does it matter?


Out of the Middle Ages, there were debates that would go on between scholars and theologians about really kind of absurd things. Like how many angels can dance on the head of a needle? Well, they had their arguments, but at the end of the day, so what... How does that impact us in the living of our day-to-day lives? And to say that Jesus died and rose again. We know it is important. But why is it so important? That really was kind of the crux of the issue that Paul was dealing with as well. For that matter, there really was no question about the fact that Jesus had died and risen again, in verse 12, he says, Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, He's stating that a fact, one that we can assume, his audience that were struggling with some other things... Had no questions about that Jesus died and rose again. If we proclaim Christ is raised from the dead, he goes on and says, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? No question about Jesus dying and rising. But some of these prophets and the talk of those who follow Christ, people of faith, you and I, being raised to new life.


Well, for some of that audience that Paul was speaking to their saying, That's just silliness. And Paul begins kind of making an explanation of why he thinks that, No, you can't have it both ways. You can't say that Jesus died and rose again. And people, they just die. They don't rise again. He says, If Jesus died and rose again, then we die and rise again as well, he said, if it's not that way, we're preaching this in vain, and he says, for that matter... How did he put it in? Verse 19, pitied are those whose only hope is in Christ, for if this life is the only thing that we have, that hope in, we're to be pitied more than anyone else. He says it matters. So how do we get to that point of understanding how and why it matters, we don't necessarily need to know the mechanism and how all of it looks and plays out, but... Why does it matter from Paul's perspective? Well, like Christmas. Yeah, we're talking about Easter and Christmas all in the same day. At Christmas, we proclaim Christ was God, incarnate, God in flesh and blood. As I mentioned before, I believe that Eugene Peterson and his message, the paraphrase of The Bible, he says in 1 John are John O rather, the word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood that it's through the incarnation that God came near to us.


God came so near to us that God put on flesh and blood, God was clothed in... Well, the very stuff that makes us us, that God cared enough about us, that God entered this world. Now, for some people, this idea of dying and going to heaven is more of an escapism, that it's almost as if we have to be separated spirit from body, so that we can float up into the clouds and giving our wings in our harp and halo and drift around on clouds for all of eternity. But God became flesh and blood in Christ. And in doing so, I think God said, Flesh and blood matter, this world matters. I'm not gonna grab people and yank them out of the world I... God of all creation, I'm going to step into and enter this world with and alongside of them, that's the depth and the extent of God's love, God got up from the throne and entered this world and became like us. Now, Jesus, throughout His life and ministry, taught us a lot of things, a lot of people didn't like that. And ultimately, that led to his crucifixion.


Which brings us from Christmas to Easter, that Jesus died, was buried but on the third day, He rose again. He didn't have float up into the clouds as a ghost, the tomb was empty, the body that was laid there was no more, because Christ was raised to new life. Again, God is saying This world and the stuff of it, and the people of it, and their flesh and their blood matter, we're not trying to escape and get away from all of this. It matters. They matter. And Paul picks up on this idea of this new life that is possible, that just as Jesus died and rose again, and in Paul's words, he was that first fruit, that first fruit of the resurrection, demonstrating that sin and death hold no power over God, over God's son, or over God's people. When Jesus died and rose again, those powers were defeated, and yes, there is that future hope that we have, that there is life beyond this life. We're not in a hurry to escape from it and get away from it, our bodies aren't walking, breathing potatoes that just need peeled so the good stuff on the inside can go to wherever else it goes.


God is redeeming our whole being, all that we are. And so just as Jesus died and rose again, Paul would say is saying, that promise holds true for us as well, but that promise isn't just that future promise, that promise has implications here and now that promise makes a difference in how we live the lives we're living in this moment, that we're not standing around wording or thumbs tapping or waiting for that moment to come. But rather, because Jesus died and rose again, it changes things in the present...


It changes things in the present in a number of ways... One of those ways, from my perspective, is that I don't have to worry about what comes next. Because Jesus died and rose again, and is that first fruit and has gone before me whenever that time comes. Well, he's the one that blazed the trail, he's the one that will be our guide, he's the one that will make that journey with us each step of the way, so I don't need to fear or be anxious because all of that future stuff has been taken care of and when that time comes, it will be attended to.


But what's more... What the Resurrection demonstrates is that sin and death have no power. If life can be redeemed, if that which is declared to be dead can be restored and made new, then there is no amount of brokenness in this world that can't also be overcome by the love of God. You see, we live in a world now that is quite frankly broken and we know it. We hear of the numbers of hundreds of thousands of lives just in the United States that have been lost in this pandemic, and yet I hope that we can see the hope beyond that. But for is all consuming and as all focused as things have been on that. There are still children dying from gun wounds in our schools.


There are still families that go to bed hungry at night, there are still places in this world where people don't have... A place to call home. And we look around and we see all of these things and think, what's the use? And yet, the fact that Jesus died and rose again demonstrates that there is something greater at work in this world, that these things don't have to be the final answer. That new life can enter into those situations, to the hurting individual, to the broken relationship, to the person who lives in fear each and every day, there is hope because there is a God who has defeated even the greatest of all things.


In our community we don't have to look very far and see where new life needs to spring forth. Where does that hope and that possibility need to be proclaimed? I would suggest that even within our church, we know when we look around that we're in older congregation, I've had many of those conversations with a number of you over the vibrancy and the youth and the other things that were once a part of this congregation that aren't at the moment, that doesn't mean it's the final answer. Because we have a God who is all about new life, breathing new life into things that others would say That's just dead, but it's not. But that's where we need to trust and walk alongside Jesus. And know that while we might not see where the path is leading us.


Well, if we're walking with Jesus, it is leading to new life, Jesus the one who is the first fruits. Isn't the only fruits? He comes first. And by faith, we follow along. The English language has done a disservice to this word faith in the Greek, the word faith as a noun and as a verb, have the same root. But when we talk about faith, faith is a noun in English, and the verb is believe... We don't say, I faith you when you've just shared some information with me, we say, I believe you...


And the problem with the English language when it comes to this word is that believing that implies that there's a set of facts and information that have been accumulated and it's based upon those, that we then act upon those and say, I believe. Faith on the other hand, yes, in English is a thing. I believe in you, but faith is still a thing. I rather, I have faith in you. But faith is still a noun in that context, faith is most certainly a thing, it's a thing that God has given us, it's the thing that God has made possible. But acting upon that and using that same root in the Greek... Well, faith, faith is a noun, faith is something that we do, and while I'm not suggesting that we necessarily change the English language, we can say, I faith you, I faith God, but our actions can make faith that verb...


That action that we do because faith at the heart of the matter, that thing that it is, is a deep and abiding relationship with God, a trusting God and a trust in the promises that God has made to us through Jesus Christ, that God has given us, His Son through the incarnation, declaring that this world and every living soul in it matters, that when Jesus died and rose again, God once again declared that people matter in the flesh and in the blood, they matter in this life and in the life to come, and when faith is that relationship that we have with God that confidence, that assurance, that peace of mind, that our relationship with God is good and right, and all is well... Well, faith becomes the verb when we choose to walk with God in that certainty... In that right relationship. And so it is through Jesus that God has made newness, new life possible.


And it is through Jesus, the first fruits of that plan, that purpose that God has for this world, that we walk by faith. We walk in faith. We faith God, that kind of faith is the one that breathes life into us into our church, and through us into this world. Jesus may have been the first fruits of this resurrection, but friends, I think part of God's plan for this world for this church and this community around us is that through us, we, In Jesus footsteps, would be the roots of new hope and new life in this congregation and the community just outside our doors as Jesus was. So may we be the first fruits of God's love in this neighborhood.


Amen


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