Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57

god wants your heartI know a number of you heard me on CBC radio the other morning. I’ve been part of their rotating panel who are invited to come and be part of a discussion on the topics of the day. Funny thing is, it’s been two years since I was last on. I thought they had let me go after I turned 40!

Any way, this past week I was given the list of potential topics. We don’t always get to them all, but we were invited to share some thoughts on each topic so the host, Steve, could put together a plan as to how the discussion would flow.

Last week our topics were Mike Duffy and his return to the Senate, Assisted Dying legislation and the phenomenon of men sending misogynistic messages to female reporters and celebrities over social media.

Only one of these topics was one I was wondering about as I always go to these panels with the intent of letting my own understanding as a follower of Jesus Christ be seen by the wider community.

The topic I figured would be the most divisive of the three was Assisted Death, mainly because I knew I would be the lone voice speaking against it. I firmly believe that as a society we have decided life can exist when it’s most convenient for us. When someone becomes infirm in our lives: not able to care for themselves, when they become a burden on us, when we’ve deemed their existence is too inconvenient, we’ve decided we should allow them to die.

I seem to remember God saying a couple times in the Bible, “Thou shall not kill.” I’m pretty sure he took it seriously.

Jesus said many times that we need to love one another, we need to take care of one another. He even said in Matthew 25: 34-40,

“‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

And then Jesus condemns those who won’t do those very things.

When we are in our deepest need, we must take care of each other. This was what Jesus told his followers. And I would say that as a church we do our best to keep this going. Do we get it exactly right all the time? No, but we do our best.

The problem is, society in general has moved past this. We have become a people who seek solely to satisfy ourselves and our own needs and desires.

We’re greedy and self-centred.

We’ve walked away from the church, Jesus, and what he has asked us to do.

The church exists to help people see God in our lives and our community. Why? Because we think it’s important.

Don’t we?

I love our reading from 1 Corinthians 15 this morning.

Honestly, if we really hear the words from 1 Corinthians 15, then we wouldn’t need a sermon this morning.

Paul explains the importance, he explains the gift, the grace, the love, the life of Jesus Christ and what he has done for the world. What he has done for me, you and everyone on this planet.

Paul recounts the death of Jesus and his appearances following his resurrection. Over 500 people saw Jesus after he rose from the grave. Incredible isn’t it?

We sometimes like to think Jesus only showed himself to a few people, primarily a few women and his disciples. But Paul tells us Jesus was far more public than we think. Jesus was seen by over 500 people before he ascended to heaven.

And then Paul says, Jesus even showed himself to me.

Paul gives us a hint of the struggle he faces with his past. As one who persecuted the early church, he says,
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”

Paul, once an enemy of the church, has been redeemed by God, and in God’s grace, Paul has been allowed to become a builder of the church.

Paul sees his work, and the work of the apostles as to share the story of Jesus Christ with the world, and to bring more people into relationship with God through Christ.

What Paul has to say to the Corinthian church is as important and as challenging then as it is today. Today we live in a world which has rejected God. Today we live in a world where my generation has been told, “Make your own life. You want it, go get it yourself!” We have been taught to be selfish.

Who’s fault is it? Well, I could stand here and blame my parents. I could go around blaming all the baby boomers who raised us. But I won’t do that.

I am willing to take my share of the blame as one who bought into this mindset of self-sufficiency and greed. I also once rejected God in my life, for a very long time.

Why did I reject God? Because I didn’t believe the stories as the truths they are. I didn’t believe Jesus lived. O sure, I thought it was a great story, but I didn’t believe, I didn’t understand he died for me, and that he rose from the dead so that I may be with him forever.

It’s true. And this something we hear from the world over and over again, as it rejects God each and every day. They don’t believe.

I’m sure we’ve all heard these things said, and maybe even some of us have said them ourselves. I know there were times when I did.

“No one can come back from the dead.”
“Jesus never existed. It’s just an old story.”
“Jesus was just a man. He isn’t God.”

Any of this sound familiar?

Paul has a great response to those who have been saying these things. He says,
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Paul is passionate about this. Remember, Jesus has been witnessed by over 500 people, many of whom are still alive when he wrote this letter to the church in Corinth. There are plenty of eyewitness accounts who say, “Jesus is alive!”

In Paul’s day, this had to be a weird thing for him to face. People say Jesus died and that is was impossible for him to be alive… yet, he is, and many, many people have seen it.

Now today, today’s a little different. No one has seen Jesus face-to-face like back then. But, the facts remain. People saw Jesus. We can choose to ignore this, but the facts still remain.

Jesus IS alive!
And people saw him!

The famous author of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, wrote, “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.”

People saw Jesus, that should be more than enough evidence for us. If 500 people were lying about what they saw, then the story would have been lost long ago. The Bible would have never been written. Lives would have never been changed.

People saw him. We have the written accounts of those who saw him. We have their stories and the stories of those who also believed in the stories.

Through their stories we learn about God’s love for the world. We learn how He changed the lives of those whose stories have been captured in those pages.

And in learning their stories, we begin to see how God loves us too. And in experiencing God’s love in our lives, we begin to see changes within ourselves when we realize we can trust in God far more than anything else on this earth.

At our Cruxifusion conference a few weeks ago, one of our speakers gave an interesting interpretation of the first line of the 23rd Psalm. You know the words.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”

Ed Searcy gave this interpretation.
“The Lord’s my shepherd, I don’t need anything else.”

How true this is! When we trust in God and His provision in our lives, we don’t need anything else.

Jesus has done it all for us. In his death, he took all of our sin upon himself and he took it to the grave. It has been dealt with when we acknowledge he did this for us. Because when we acknowledge it, when we realize the depth of his love for us, that he would take all of this pain, all of this suffering upon himself for us…

… The Lord is our shepherd, we don’t need anything else.

What can we possibly do in response to such a sacrifice? How can you possibly repay someone who gave their life for you? And he did it without you even asking, or you even realizing someone needed to do it for you.

Paul said it plainly, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then there’s no hope for us. We would be doomed to live in our sin. We would have no hope. We would just be here for a short time, birth to death for what?

Jesus showed there is much more offered to us than a few days on this planet. Jesus showed us there is eternal life with God for those who follow him and his teachings, and have a relationship with him as Saviour and Lord.

God wants us to be holy. After all he created us in His image, as a people capable of love for this beautiful earth He created and everything that lives on it.

But like Adam and Eve, we have fallen short. We keep falling short. Yet, Jesus makes all things right. He makes them all new.

He clears a debt we can never repay.

Tony Campolo once said about the cost of following Jesus,
“He gave his life for us, we repay him by giving our life to him.

“What does the old hymn say?
I surrender all, I surrender all.

“It’s not
I surrender 1/10th, I surrender 1/10th.”
What else can we do? When someone gives the ultimate sacrifice of their life for your’s, we can only live our life for them. And no one has done more for me than Jesus Christ on that cross.

And he’s done the same for you.

So how do we serve Jesus?

Well, let’s go back to the beginning of this message where I talked about dying and the sanctity of life.

There have been many studies that show pain and suffering are two different things. The amount of pain a person has in their life does not have a direct relationship to their suffering.

More pain does not mean more suffering.

When I go into the hospital room of someone who is dying, those who suffer least are those who have a room full of people who are caring for them. And I don’t mean nurses and doctors. I mean friends and family. People who are close. People who have shared their life. People who know the stories and have a great, close relationship. People who love them deeply.

Those people would not say they are suffering. They might say they are in pain, but they don’t say they are suffering.

Sure there are exceptions to this, but in my general experience, this is what I see.

Remember what Jesus said about caring for those in need. The naked, the lonely, the sick, the hungry… whatever we do to them, we do to Jesus.

If we take the life of Jesus seriously, and I mean all of it. From his birth, to his baptism, to his teachings and his example, all the way to his death and resurrection, then we have no choice but to take up his ministry for ourselves.

That is, we give our life to him.

That is, make him Lord and Saviour of all our life. Every second. Every piece of it. It’s all his.

“I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”

I’m going to give the last words this morning to Paul, because he sums it up so well when he says this at the end of 1 Corinthians 15…

“For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Christ IS our victory. Our victory over sin and death, our victory over the evil of the world as we seek to be faithful witnesses of God’s love to a world in need.

We are the hands and feet of Christ, who died for me, who died for you, and died for all this world so that we may be a people of love, a people who serve him as our Lord and our Saviour.
Amen and amen!