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Thursday, October 24, 2013
Today’s Reading | 1 Corinthians 15:51–58
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 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. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (NRSV)
Some weeks after my mother was diagnosed with a very rare form of breast cancer, I overheard a conversation she was having with a friend. Using the kind of dark humor that can bring momentary relief, she said to her friend, “Yeah, I think I’ll start smoking and drinking and having affairs.” If you had known my mother, you would know how funny the statement was.
Paul’s words in this passage are meant to convince those who heard them that their lives mattered and were therefore imperishable. His words aren’t focused on a proof of the eternal afterlife. Our perishable bodies put on imperishability when we realize that our lives are gifts that can be used for good purpose, for God’s purposes. That’s when the sting of death is taken away. That’s when death is swallowed up in victory.
We all know we will die. I don’t look forward to it at all. But the realization of my death would be far more damaging to me if I thought my life had no use. I know my life is valued, not because of my own efforts or my own striving, but because somehow God has broken through my thick head and once hardened heart and given me “that victory” of knowing I’m loved and valued. That’s what keeps me moving forward. And that’s what gives me courage when I slip up. Paul says it this way: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Gracious and ever-generous God, don’t let me forget that you love me and value my earthly life. Don’t let fears and death-producing thoughts delude me into thinking that nothing matters, that life is pointless, that faith is a hoax. Instead, O God, fill me with such gratitude that I may remain steadfast, immovable, and always excelling in the work of the Lord. I ask this in the name of the One who has given us victory. Amen.
Written by Judy Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care
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