Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2024

Posted on May 14, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

May 12, 2024

Seventh Sunday of Easter

1 Corinthians 15:1-22
Mark 12:26-27a

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’ve spent the last couple of Sundays in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We’ve learned that the Christian community there was deeply divided and not as it should have been. So, when he wrote this, in a manner of speaking Paul went back to the basics. Sort of like a Christianity 101.

He wrote to them about the importance of unity in Christ, of lifting each other up and supporting one another. That each one of them had been given a gift by God’s Spirit and that one person’s gift was better than another’s. That God’s love, agape, is the foundation of who they are and what holds them together as a community.

Today’s reading is about resurrection. And we noted in the bulletin that we used a different Bible translation. Normally, we use the NRSV. But in the NRSV these verses go in a lot of circles and get confusing. So, today, we used The Message because it simplifies the language without losing the depth of meaning.

At the time Paul wrote this letter, the common understanding of salvation in Greek religion and philosophy was that salvation was considered to be an escape from the body. That when a person physically died, their soul was free.

So, for the Christians in Corinth, the idea of a bodily resurrection was difficult to come to terms with because it was so radically different than what they’d been taught.

So, what Paul reminds them of here is that resurrection is about the transforming power of God to bring life out of death. Not just out of physical death, as what happened with Jesus and that we will experience on the last day. But the power of God to bring life out of the kinds of death that rob people of life, health, and dignity.

Paul uses his own life experience as an example of this. The transformation that he experienced from being a zealous persecutor of the church to becoming one of its most passionate apostles. And that that reality wasn’t a one-time moment of conversion, but rather one that led to ongoing growth and transformation for him that was rooted in God’s grace.

Taking together God’s power to bring life out of physical death, and bringing life out of the other kinds of death that people experience, Paul helps the Corinthians – and us – to understand that resurrection is a transformation of the whole person.

A transformation that is an ongoing process, that can be experienced throughout life. And a transformation that gives us hope for the future, and the confidence to proclaim that death doesn’t have the final word. God does. And God’s word is life.

For us as Christians today, resurrection is at the heart of our belief in Christ – it’s the core of what we believe. We celebrate it every Sunday when we gather for worship, regardless of the season the calendar tells us we’re in.

And we recognize that resurrection – the salvation it brings to us, the transformation it produces in our lives, the hope that it gives us – means that we’re called to live differently. You’ve heard me talk a lot about embodying our faith in everyday life. And that is important.

But we know what we know about God’s life-giving power of resurrection because of the stories people have told about it. Going back to the beginning – to creation, to Exodus, and the prophets.

The stories that the apostles told about Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The stories they told about their experiences of sharing Jesus’ teachings, the miracles that they performed. The transformation of their own lives.

These stories have been preserved and passed down as reminders of the possibilities that God provides for all people and for all time. People proclaimed those stories throughout history because they saw resurrection at work in their own time, in their own lives, and in the lives of others around them.

And those stories didn’t end when the Bible was bound together as the book we now have today. Because resurrection didn’t end; people still tell stories today about God bringing life out of death.

None of these stories talk about doctrine or theology. They are simply the stories of people’s experiences of God’s life-giving power of resurrection in their lives. Giving us hope that this same transformation can happen for us now, and giving us hope for the future.

[1]Several years ago, I read the book Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle. Are any of you familiar with it? Father Greg is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in LA. And Tattoos on the Heart is one of his memoirs about the time he spent helping young men and women transition out of gang life.

A large part of Fr Greg’s ministry was helping gang members imagine something more than the life they were living. And one of the stories he tells is about a young man named Joey. And this story has a happy ending.

When Fr Greg met him, Joey was doing enough just to get by. Even when he sold drugs, he sold just enough to eat at McDonald’s and then hang around and do nothin’.

Fr Greg stayed in contact with him, trying to point him in a different direction. But Joey always politely brushed him off. Life for him was fine the way it was.

But one day, Joey showed up at Fr Greg’s office smiling more deeply and confidently than usual. “Get ready to be proud of me,” he announced.

“Okay, I’m sitting down – fire away.” “You are talking to an employed man right now.” “Seriously? Congratulations! Where you workin’?”

Joey looked around to make sure no one was lurking nearby. “Here’s the thing,” he said, “You gotta promise to not tell the guys.” Fr Greg agreed. “I’m workin’ at Chuck E Cheese.”

Fr Greg said, “Well – that’s great! But what do you do there?”

“You can’t tell the guys!” Fr Greg nodded. “I’m the rat” – meaning he was Chuck E Cheese, the mascot.

“Well, that’s great…,” Fr Greg said, trying to convince himself as much as Joey. And Joey said, “No, it ain’t…it stinks! The rat suit is aaaallll hot, and it’s loud in there, and the kids are pushin’ you and puttin’ gum on you.”

“But son, I’m proud of you. What woke you up enough to go apply for a job?”

Joey got serious, and it was clear that there was no doubt for him how he ended up applying for that job. “In two months, my son’s gonna be born. I want him to come into the world and meet his father – a workin’ man.”

Joey’s story always comes to mind for me when I think about resurrection. It’s a story of hope. There’s no complicated doctrine or theology. It’s simply about the power of God that brought life out of a place of death.

When we tell stories about resurrection in our own lives, people want to know our experiences of it. They want to know our experiences of God bringing life out of death. Whether it’s a diagnosis of NED (no evidence of disease), or healing in a relationship that has been broken, or being in recovery, or finding the right combination of meds, or life finally falling into place.

When we share our stories about resurrection, people want to know how it has transformed you. They want to know about the hope that it brought to you.

Because when we tell our stories about resurrection, we proclaim hope. Not just hope for the life to come when we are raised with Jesus, but hope for our lives today.

And as we close out this season in the church year, we remember that the hope of resurrection gives us the confidence to proclaim that death doesn’t have the final word. God does. And God’s word is life, today and always. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Tattoos on the Heart, pp117-119