Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters,[a] is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die,[b] but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved,[c] be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Our scripture reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the earliest biblical reference to Christ’s resurrection, written just twenty-three or -four years after the event. In this chapter, Paul is reminding the Corinthian Christians what is—to use Paul’s words—“Most Important” in the gospel message: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (another name for Simon Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
I encourage you to read the whole chapter.
The Good News in the lives of those early believers, the Good News throughout the intervening years in the lives of people of faith and the Good News, and the Good News in the present is that we can experience resurrection today. The resurrection experience comes to us as a gracious gift from God and that gift has several facets:
It is a new way of seeing. It isn’t hard to see that ours is a world with war, violence, cruelty, injustice, hatred and greed—not to mention the global pandemic. But, it is precisely in this world that the Risen Christ meets us. In the midst of our despair, Christ comes, not like some Superhero to right all the wrongs, but rather as a strengthening presence who opens our eyes, and lets us glimpse life from a different perspective. It is the Living Christ who lets us see the possibilities in the midst of our problems, hurts and struggles, and who reminds us, “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”
It is transformation of life. Nothing short of the resurrection experience could have made the difference we see in the lives of the women at the tomb, the other disciples and the apostle Paul. In fact, the most telling evidence of the resurrection is not the empty tomb but the transformation of the disciples.
From fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from timidity to trust, and from confusion to clarity—that pretty well sums up the transformations we see taking place in the lives of the earliest believers. That pretty well sums up the resurrection experience.
It gives us the assurance of eternal life. It is the assurance that death does not have the final word. A week ago I had a graveside service for a faithful member of the church. We remembered and gave thanks for his faith and his faithfulness and among the passages of scripture that I read were some verses from the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
Resurrection is about life overcoming death! In Christ, we experience the overcoming of death. When our time comes to walk through the experience of death, the Good News of our faith is that death never has the final word—resurrection does.
Earlier in this same 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Then, Paul writes, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died…” (15:19-20) This harks back to the Jewish harvest festivals. The first fruits of the harvest were brought as an offering to God—the early returns on a harvest that would come later. Jesus is the first fruits. Our resurrection to new life follows, Paul is saying. The resurrection experience gives us the assurance of eternal life.
The resurrection experience gives us the assurance that death is not the end of a person’s story. It is, of course, true, that a day will come when we will all die and enough time will ultimately pass that no living person will speak our name. But the resurrection affirms that God will always know our name and that God will never stop loving us. Simply because our hearts have stopped beating, does not mean the last chapter has been written. To use Paul’s words, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster