1 Corinthians 15:19–26 (NRSV)
19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler 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.
Christ has risen!
This day of resurrection is the most profound of all days, the day that is filled with the greatest hope as well as the most confusion. Christ has risen from the grave.
There are no other words more profound. They totally baffle nature, and along with that cause many to turn because who could possibly raise from the grave? But that is the greatest thing about faith. Faith is having hope when and where everything else seems hopeless. This is why Paul wrote in the ancient days that if for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. He says this because to become a disciple, a follower of Christ, or a Christian there is a sacrifice that must be made in this life. That sacrifice is call repentance. If we were to study what repentance truly is it can be boiled down to on simple word, turning. Turning from our current path of understanding and beginning to walk with Christ.
This past week I have reflected on this idea deeply. I read a book recently that challenged my understanding of pretty much everything. That might scare many of you but it was as if I looked at life from a very different perspective. I began to see with renewed eyes what death, sin, and repentance is. It all goes back to understanding human nature, which is seen in its most basic form in the lives of Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve, our first parents, lived in full communion with God. There was nothing that kept them from the love of God and they lived together in creation totally unashamed. Just consider that for a moment. They lived together in creation totally unashamed. They were free to laugh, free to cry, free to eat, run, swim, swing, dance without any shame. They did not care because they lived together fully accepting and embracing life together: man and woman, all of nature, and God. Do we live like that? Do we live without shame, without the threat of shame? I can prove that we cannot say we live without shame in one simple example: how many of you clapped or danced as sang praises to God? If you did not why? I will answer, I am too embarrassed of my lack of rhythm to clap, and no one really wants to see me dance, it might cause you all to seek counseling. I do not dance because of shame. I am not free to dance because I have put limits on myself, because I am concerned with a perceived image.
How did we get to this point? How did we move from shamelessness to shamefulness? Sin!
Most of us think of sin as being a transgression of God’s laws, breaking one of the big Ten Commandments and therefore incurring the wrath of God. That is a form of sin, but each of those commandments are just indicators of something much more serious and deeper than being right in the eyes of the law. This is why the book I read this week was so challenging, it questioned what the first sin was and when it occurred. If we again go back to the story of the beginning we would see that God progressively created everything that is seen and unseen over the courses of time. Light, sky, oceans, land, plants, animals and birds, and mankind all were created and God pronounced it all to be good. Then scriptures revisit the creation of man and speak of it in more detail saying that, after God said let us created man in our own image, God formed man out of the very dust of creation. Molding man out of the clay of the earth, forming him, and then breathing life into his nostrils. After this God began to bring all the various animals to Adam so that he could give them a name, but none of those being were suitable to be a mate for Adam. So God created Eve. Unlike Adam, Eve was not formed out of the dust of the earth, but she was pulled out of Adam and formed out of his rib. And God and Adam both pronounced that it was very good.
If you continue to read the narrative of the beginning of life, we will soon meet Adam and Eve in the Garden speaking to a serpent. And this is where Eve begins to get a bad rap, and Adam seems to fade into the background. Eve is deceived by this crafty serpent and takes fruit from the tree that God commanded them not to eat from. But I have long wondered if Eve had been given a harsh judgement by mankind for her part in the fall, because God gave the command to Adam alone before Eve was pulled from his side. And Eve while speaking to the serpent did not report to the actual words of God but added words to the first commandment. “God said do not eat of the tree of knowledge or you will surly die.” Yet when Eve speaks there is an addition to the command, “Do not eat or even touch the tree or you will die.”
I bring this up because there is an indication in that statement that there was the beginnings of sin prior to the breaking of the law. There was a lack of trust between the two people that lived without shame. Adam did not trust Eve enough to speak the truth, and as a result opened the door for Eve’s failure. Adam began to turn from the light of God, and because of this a shadows emerged. Man was no longer facing God directly in the light but instead began to block the light with his own understandings. Adam, because he withheld truth and attempted to dominate Eve cast a shadow on her which lead to actions that separated humanity from full communion with God. Death enters the world. Not through Eve, but through Adam.
Our nature from that moment on has been distrust, domination, and shame ever since. Adam turned away, causing Eve to misunderstand, the serpent spoke, and Adam remained silent. Blame was cast relationships hindered creation groans. Paul tells the Corinthians if Christ is only our hope in this life we are pitied because to turn to Christ without hope beyond this life would mean that we turn to follow Christ and lose everything. We might be well liked by others, but we are still left in the shadows.
Christ calls us to repent to turn, to turn back, or return to the light. He calls us to stop looking in the shadows but instead head directly toward the light. If we are to walk directly toward the light without turning in any other direction it is impossible to see any shadow. The shadows will always be behind us. If the shadow is always behind us we are unaware of any darkness. And if we are surrounded by the light of Christ there can be no darkness.
The difficulty is to be surrounded by the light, to be saturated in the light. If there is no hope beyond this life we are pitied because we have wasted valuable time and energy walking pathways in the shadow lands. Pitied because we are walking toward the light but darkness follows close behind. It is attached to our feet we might feel we have a good life, but it is powerless and often casting shadows on others which prevent them from embracing the light. The shadow remains because the wages of sin is death.
One man turned and saw the shadow, one man left communion with God to embrace wisdom of his own, one man attempted to prevent harm by speaking an untruth. Hope was lost. But Christ lives with us in the shadow lands, because God loves His creation so much that he will does not desire separation. Mankind might turn from God but God did not turn from man. Instead he took on humanity, he clothed himself in flesh and blood, to walk with us and to remove the shadow that leaves us in our shame. One man brought death through a turning from God, and Christ by becoming man empowers us to return.
Christ empowers us to return, but from what? Paul in this passage says that the end will come when Christ has defeated all powers, authorities, and rulers, and puts an end to death. The return or the repentance is from the desire to rule over other, or control of others. If the first hint of a shadow emerged when Adam twisted the truth to control Eve, then the very idea of controlling others is rooted in sin. Adam and Eve were not created to master and slave, but help mates, equal participants in the stewardship of God’s garden which is all of creation. Mutual encouragement, equal submission to one another. Death came through Adam not Eve, it came through a lack of trust, and a desire to control the actions of others. Sin is anything that comes between us and a right relationship with God.
I hope that this is causing us to skerm a bit. Because so often we read scripture and see that we are to rule, that men should be over their wives, that we should dominate and cause creation to submit to us humanity the rightful ruler of creation. We read these but often we forget that we are also to be light in the world and among nations. Actual light cannot be carried by us. We cannot reach out and grab ahold of light. We can however carry potential, we can reflect, and manipulate light to bring awareness and beauty to the world around us. But we have to be aware of where we are standing.
This is the hope we have in Christ. Christ is the light that can remove the darkness both today in our current lives and for all eternity. He has risen from the tomb and conquered death which is the ultimate darkness of mankind. If he can remove that, we have nothing to fear if we are in him and he in us. We have the great potential to change everything around us if we were only to return or repent of our domineering ways. But how does this actually help?
In the creation story the most striking comment about the dawn of mankind is that they were naked and unashamed. They were vulnerable, weak, and uncovered. The community provided their strength, Adam was alone and Eve was brought to provide the assistance Adam needed. And Adam was unashamed that he needed the assistance. The shadow that emerged changed that relationship not only within humanity but between humanity and their Creator. They ate of the tree because they thought that maybe God was holding back, and they wanted to assert their own dominance over creation. And once they did that they began to blame God for their short comings, even if those shortcomings were conceived in themselves. When Jesus came to live among mankind, he came to restore humanity into a right relationship again. He made it his custom to worship with others in the meeting places for worship, he withdrew to the isolated places to pray, and he served others. There is a reason he lived this sort of lifestyle. The reason is that it reflects the lifestyle we were created to engage. We were created to worship together, to commune together with God and humankind. We were created to have personal relationships with God, to embrace the interaction of God’s spirt with our own through a lifestyle of prayer. And we were created to help each other in our weaknesses.
We ourselves cannot carry the light, but can only have the potential to reflect light. But even if I stand before you with a great mirror reflecting light from God some could be trapped in the shadows. This is why we need each other to help. Each of us, reflecting light around each other will eventually surround and bath one another in the light. But even then we all might be bathed in light but what about those that are not in our circle? We can often cast a shadow over them leaving them in the darkness. Which is where prayer is important. As we seek the spirit’s directions and follow the path the spirit leads it will allow us to fine tune our mirrors so that light will fall on someone else and then another. And as we see the light spreading we can then surround them as well encouraging them to come into the light and rest. Each of us turning, listening, and encouraging each other in our weaknesses to reflect the light to others in our own ways. But also being aware of our place and the shadow we cast.
Our hope is not in a dark tomb filled with death but our hope is in a risen Lord clothed in light. Our hope is not in powers and dominion but is in submission to one another willing to help one another so our weaknesses are not our shame but mirrors reflecting the light and hope found in Christ. Let us this Easter this day of celebration of hope and life, reflect on what is being restored through the risen Lord. The hope that we do not need to be ashamed but instead empowered to embrace life with Christ. Eternal God and Eternal Man, our hope, our light, and our salvation, in whom is no darkness or death, but Life.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!