"To Not Taste Corruption"

Thanksgiving Eve Sermon, 2003

 

1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

1 Cor 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1 Cor 15:5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

This season of personal heaviness and sorrow, this valley I am passing through following the sudden death of my father, has quickened in me a keen desire for comfort in the face of death. God has spoken into my sorrow His Word of comfort as He has for all believers in every generation. That comfort is what makes the gospel received by Paul a "matter of the first importance." The gospel is the principal thing, the primary thing--the beginning point, a matter of the first importance. The "good news" has four principal parts: Jesusí mission (He came to die on purpose for our sins); Jesus died; Jesus was buried; and Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, our Sunday observances celebrate that resurrection. Yes, no matter how mundane and commonplace Sunday worship might become--no matter how ordinary and unspectacular it may be in the practice of it, Sunday worship celebrates the fact that according to Scripture Jesus died BUT His body did not taste corruption. There was a man once who died but his body did not suffer corruption--his body did not enter the grave and decompose like natural bodies normally do. What are we to make of this? Must we not conclude that resurrection has a corporeal aspect, that our physicality, so central to the Hebraic understanding of soul, is subject to Godís redemptive action-- we shall be raised incorruptible in the great and terrible Day of the Lord. We, who are so earth-bound in our imagination, are stooped to by God in this. Our physical bodies, dust that they are, must and will be raised up, and glorified and suited for eternal existence if we hold fast to this "matter of first importance."

Psa 16:10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.

Psa 16:11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.

This resurrection, this profound disruption of the ordinary and the natural, is to our comfort. The absence of Christís body, the presence of an empty tomb, the appearances of the risen Lord to His anguished disciples all point in the same direction, lead to the same conclusion. And we must yield to the power of truth of this great, good news which Paul and you have received. There is, according to Scripture, a state of recompense, a hereafter--a heaven to be gained, or lost.

I am comforted that after death certain believers heard the Lordís voice, some felt His touch, many experienced His bodily presence. The very absences that frame our losses to death are countered in Christ. And what is manifest in Him will be also manifest is us in the fullness of time. We may be orphaned in this life, but we will be re-united with all believers in the age to come. That is, we will see, touch, hear and experience each otherís presence again.

These things are the sum and substance of our faith; they are essential, not negotiable. They are primary, not secondary. These things are true truth, not sentimental fluff and wishful thinking. Therefore these things distinguish us from all other faiths, all other religions. They are also the core of our thanks-giving. That is to say, we do well to be thankful for health, for friends, for our necessities and even for our prosperity but all these things pale before the great thing that God has done for us in sending His Son, in allowing Him to die to reconcile us and in raising Him from the dead--the first fruits. Let us thank God that He has gone before us and that where He has gone, we shall surely follow.

Amen.