Last Sunday in the Church Year [Proper 29, a] November 22, 2020
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
In the Name of Jesus.
The Lord sees the timeline of the world differently than we do.
Our world sees history as a timeline which started out low and then keeps going up, progressing.
As our world looks at it, we started out as brutes, as illiterate, underdeveloped beasts, and then the history of mankind is a line of upward progress. Each generation, through the centuries, we improve, we become more developed, until we arrive at today, and we are more developed and sophisticated than all generations before us. Everything is progressive.
And we all know that that’s nonsense. We have no progression. We gain improved techniques—better farming, better building processes; we accumulate knowledge and research—better chemicals and medicines; we live with more technology and production; our lives are certainly more convenient than our forebears.
But can anyone actually say we humans are progressing? Have we progressed ourselves out of hatred in the heart for neighbor? Or progressed ourselves out of covetousness or lustfulness or vanity or arrogance or deceitfulness or anything else that plagued our forefathers?
As soon as we look in the mirror, and as soon as we look in the streets, we know, there is no progression for mankind.
Our Lord sees our timeline of history differently than we do. Our Lord sees, we might say, two days.
He sees a beginning. Man and woman created in the Image of God. Man and woman joined as one-flesh to bring forth life—”be fruitful and multiply,” said our Creator. Then the man and the woman bringing it all into death by sin.
That’s the beginning of the time line, the first day, we might say.
Then our Lord sees the Last Day, when he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
So, it’s a day of beginning at one end of the timeline; a day of finality at the other end. Between these two ends of the time-line? That’s what we are in now as we wait for the Last Day.
But this time between, this middle of the timeline, these are no days of progress. They are days lived in sinful flesh; days awaiting the final judgment. They are days, then, of sinners being called on by God not to claim some imagined progress, but to repent.
For Scripture gives us no view of progressive man, but a realistic view of fallen man. We are sinners living among sinful people.
And all these days would be time lived in an arrogance of human progress and in the despair of knowing that that progress is lie, except that, between the beginning day and the last day, there was one particular day, one historical fact that redeemed the entire timeline.
On a certain day, under Pontius Pilate, as the Apostles’’ Creed puts it, the Son of Man, Christ Jesus stood in for every sinful man and woman from the first day until the last. And standing in for us, he took the sin of the world upon himself and put it all to death in his body on the cross.
By his blood he redeemed every sinner. He redeemed every day lived between the first day and the last. The death that came by the sin of the first Adam in the Garden, he took upon himself and suffered its punishment in fulness.
So he now stands as the new Adam for us. 1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
As our father Adam brought us into death by sin, so the new Adam, the Son of Man Christ Jesus, has made us alive by his resurrection.
In purchasing us out of sin and death with his own blood, he has redeemed all our days.
These days, as we live in sin, in which it all can seem so mundane, it is all redeemed by his blood.
So now we live in faith. We live as those belonging to him, as those having no false hope in the progress of man, but having the true hope of the redeemed, forgiven life and the resurrection of the body.
For he who died in our stead, has been raised from the dead. But his resurrection was not without consequence for our lives, our bodies. His resurrection impacts us every day. 1 Corinthians 15:20:
In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
Which means, our lives are now lived in him.
And that means, even as we live in our sinful flesh, awaiting the day of judgment, we live in faith knowing that he has made us his own and we are his servants.
Which means, that these little mundane works we do every day, these tasks we are given to take care of family and care for neighbor, they are not mundane at all. They are holy works given us by God.
The changing of the baby’s diaper, the washing of clothes, the going to work in the morning, the welcome given a stranger, the help given to a neighbor in need of food, the clothing provided to one in need, the visit made to the one in the hospital, the note sent to one in prison, these seem like small, inconsequential works. They certainly don’t look like works to add to the progress of man. They are mundane, daily, common. And they are holy.
Because they are works of love toward neighbor being done by one who’s life has been redeemed by Christ Jesus.
They are works being done by people who live in sinful flesh, and yet who daily live in repentance of sin and in faith toward Christ Jesus.
And in this life of faith, despite everything we see around us, despite all the falsity of living in a world which preaches the progress of man—in this life of faith, we look at Christ Jesus, and in him we see the One who has redeemed us from sin, and having redeemed us has now been raised up from the dead, so that, as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, he is the One by whom the resurrection has come also to us who belong to him.
He now reigns at the Throne in Heaven.
From the Throne in Heaven, he sends forth to us the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Word.
The Holy Spirit keeps us in the Word, cleansing our lives by the Sacraments, so that we wait in faith for the Last Day, when Christ Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead.
For that Last Day is the day of the resurrection of our own bodies.
We now hear him in his word of Gospel, seeing him by faith. We will then see him as we stand up in our flesh; with our own eyes we will see him.
In the Name of Jesus.