Monday, 18 February 2019

Raised to life eternal

Jeremiah 17: 5-10. This is an Old Testament version of Jesus’ parable “The true vine”. God is the source of all life, wisdom and insight so just like a plant we need the water and light that God provides to grow strong
1 Corinthians 15: 12-20. Paul explains how central Jesus’ resurrection is for our faith. For if Jesus is not raised then we cannot be raised to new life. That Jesus is fully human is central to our faith for this reason. Our resurrection and Jesus’ resurrection are linked. You cannot have one without the other.
Luke 6: 17-26. The Lukan beatitudes are not as famous as Matthew’s but they are shorter and they also include a list of woes which contrast them. The poor/the rich, the hungry/the full, those who weep/those who laugh, the hated/those who people speak well of. To be blessed (Makarios in Greek) carries connotations of happiness but in the Bible it doesn’t mean to be subjectively happy as to be regarded as righteous in God’s sight. People who appear to be prospering are not doing so in God’s sight. The message might be paraphrased as saying that “Things are not as they seem to be”.

When you die you will be raised to eternal life.
How can I be so certain? Because if we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, that means we are too. You can’t believe one without the other.
The importance of believing that Jesus is fully human just as we are is wrapped up in that very fact. If his human flesh and blood was raised, then our human flesh and blood will be raised.
If we aren’t raised, then Jesus wasn’t raised either and our faith is in vain– that is St. Paul’s central argument in 1 Corinthians today.
This is central to our faith so if you leave here with nothing else today I want you to leave knowing that fact in your heart.
You can tell that it was cutting deeply into Paul’s heart and mind by what he wrote that some were saying something different in the Corinthian church and he wanted to put them right.
This kind of resurrection faith gives you a different perspective on life and what are the most important things to be in yourself and to focus on.
In Luke’s Beatitudes he conveys what is important to God, and he paints a picture that is largely at odds with our earth-bound sense of what is important and desirable.
In his list of conditions that Jesus articulates as being blessed in God’s sight are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are hated.
None of those would make it onto our shortlist of blessings I’m sure, but we also need to understand the Biblical understanding of being Blessed.
Sure, in Greek, the word Makarios, carries strong associations with feelings of happiness but of course, no-one who s poor, hungry, weeping or hated are feeling happy about it.
Being Blessed in the Biblical understanding is not about feeling subjectively happy about any of that but is more to do with being regarded as righteous in God’s sight.
Given our society’s preoccupation with personal happiness and fulfilment that is an important distinction to make.
There is also a contrast between the present and the future. Those who weep now will laugh. Those who hunger now will be filled. The fortunes of people who are by earthly standards either fortunate or unfortunate will be reversed.
This brings me back to my first statement about having eternal life.
Paul was speaking of something that we will inherit after we die but eternal life, taking our cue from John’s gospel, is also a quality of life that we inhabit in the here and now.
A quality of life that both underpins and transcends our particular personal circumstances.
The joy of knowing that we are a new creation in Christ despite whatever parlous situations in life we find ourselves in.
The most startling evidence of this is when prisoners come to faith via perhaps an Alpha course. They are physically in prison, yes, but their hearts and souls have been set free.
Salvation is not a once for all event but the start of a process of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” as Paul phrases it in Philippians 2:12.
That means that whatever our situation in life is or what hand life has dealt us, we can discern through meditating on God’s word in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit, what salvation looks like and will unfold in our life.
We conform our lives progressively not to what the world expects from us but what God expects from us.
What is wise and desirable in the world’s eyes is not wise or desirable in God’s eyes.  As Paul puts it in 1Corinthians 1: 25
“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”.
To work out our salvation with fear and trembling we need to keep close to God’s spirit, as directed by Jeremiah.
He likens us to a tree planted by water, fed by the stream of God’s living water, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus reiterates that same notion by telling us we need to be branches grafted in to the stem of the vine – Jesus Himself.
We achieve this practically by attending worship, praying regularly, seeking his will through the Bible, making our communion with God and his people.
This is how we will bear fruit. Fruit that will last, which is God’s will for us whatever station we inhabit in life.

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