Devotions for May 2-8, 2016
1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57
Monday, May 2, 2016
“Last of all as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Little Suzy Johnson climbed up onto her parent’s bed. “I saw Jesus,” she announced. “Last night, when it rained so hard and the wind blew, I got scared. I was going to come to you, but I heard a voice and saw a boy standing at the foot of my bed. Right away I knew it was Jesus. He told me I didn’t need to be afraid. He would protect me.” Juan Ramirez saw Jesus as he sat with his wife when she received a bag of chemotherapy. Jesus stood in the corner of the room and looked right at Juan. From that moment, Juan knew that he and his wife were in God’s hands.
Jesus appeared to many people on many occasions after his resurrection. He did so in ways that convinced the people that he was more than a vision or a ghost; he was real. Thomas touched his hands and side. The disciples ate with him at Emmaus and on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Paul was riding to Damascus when he was blinded by light and heard Jesus speak to him. People experienced Jesus in their lives and knew that he was alive. Jesus was with them and in the world.
There comes a time in our lives when we realize that Jesus is alive. Jesus becomes more than a historic figure and faith is more than a belief in a doctrine. There is no set pattern to encounter Jesus; we experience Jesus in our lives in many ways. When we do encounter him, though, we know that God is real and we are loved.
Living Lord, open our eyes that we may see you and our ears that we may hear you today. Amen.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
“By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Carlos and Bonita Ramos were proud of their accomplishments. They had worked hard and grew their family business. They lived well—had the nice house and cars. Their three children had graduated from college and had promising careers. The two of them started to brag about their lives at their high school reunion. A former teacher who was bent over from age but still had a sharp mind and a strong faith brought them up short. “Remember.” she said, “It is true that you have worked hard, but what you have is a gift. You have been blessed by a loving God.” Carlos and Bonita were subdued the rest of the evening as they reflected on the old teacher’s words.
Paul could have bragged about what he had accomplished (and occasionally he did) but in this letter to the Corinthians he saw his life as a gift. Though well-intentioned, he had traveled down the wrong path and persecuted followers of “The Way.” God intervened, though. Paul met Jesus. Experiencing God’s love and forgiveness, Paul changed the course of his life. God used him to touch the lives of people and Paul’s experiences, both good and bad, shaped his life and made him who he was.
Paul looked back on his life and said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” We can do the same thing. Seeing how God has moved in our lives, enables us to put away our pride and cultivate the characteristics of humility and gratitude.
Thank you Lord of abundance. You have poured out your love and grace into our lives. Amen.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some say there is no resurrection” (1 Corinthians 15:12)?
The resurrection is one of the most, if not THE most, difficult Christian doctrine to accept by faith. We cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection does not seem logical and we only have the Biblical accounts on which to place our belief. We see the resurrection as an exception rather than a rule of life.
Later on in chapter fifteen Paul illustrates his argument by writing about a seed falling to the ground and being “resurrected” as a beautiful plant. If we look around we can see resurrection in a myriad of places. The death of night is resurrected by the life of a new day. The death of winter is resurrected by the new life of spring. The death of suffering ends with the new life that is brought about by the resolution of our problem. Our dead lives once lived apart from God have new life breathed into them through Jesus’ cross and a new relationships with God.
Embraced by God’s love we are able to proclaim the reality of resurrection to a broken and dying world.
God of life, thank you for breathing new life into our lives and into our world. Amen.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
“If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Imagine life without Easter. The story of Jesus ends with his body being placed in a tomb. There are no songs of celebration in our worship services. The only Psalms that we can recite are the laments and Holy Communion is only a mere remembrance of a life lived and sacrificed. Hope becomes illusive and purpose is removed from our days. Our lives would be hell on earth.
But, Jesus lives! Jesus has been raised from the dead and Jesus has established God’s kingdom on earth. As the lyrics of a song proclaim, “[We] serve a risen savior, he’s in the world today!” Our faith is vital and the guilt and shame of our sin has been shed.
“Thine is the glory, Risen, conquering Son; Endless is the victory Thou over death hast won!” Amen! (LBW #145)
Friday, May 6, 2016
“For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:23).
We see ourselves in the mirror of Adam and Eve’s story. Created and proclaimed good, they shed the perceived confines of their lives with God. They valued freedom more than relationship. They exchanged care free lives for the burden of living a part. What Adam and Eve did we see ourselves repeating in our lives on a regular basis.
Adam and Eve, however, are not our destiny. In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we see what life is truly meant to be. We catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said that he had come so that we might have abundant lives (John 10:10) and be truly free (John 8:36). In Jesus we see who we are and who we are becoming.
God of creation, work your new creation in us and use us to bring your new creation into the world. Amen.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Binh lay in his bed reflecting on the “scars” of his life. He had many. He had fled his war-torn country with his family when he was only a few years old. In their new country they had suffered through hunger and poverty. Binh had experienced the bigotry and hatred of closed-minded people and had risen above the obstacles that had been placed before him. Though the path was a difficult one, Binh’s journey had led him to a good life; a life filled with family, friends, laughter and accomplishments. It was a good life even if it had also included bruised and broken relationships, sickness, dashed dreams and unfulfilled visions. Through it all the Lord had been with Binh. The Lord had given him the victory and Binh felt truly blessed.
Binh lay in bed surrounded by the antiseptic smell of the hospital room and annoyed by the insistent beep of the monitor. His body was wearing out. Soon he would slip away from the family and friends that filled the room. Binh was sad yet filled with hope. The Lord had gone before him and had overcome the last obstacle—conquered the final enemy—death. Binh was blessed and at peace.
The tomb is empty. Jesus lives. As disciples of Jesus we live each day of our lives and the final day of our lives, in this truth.
Victorious God, we thank you that though we are battle weary you have enabled us to win the battles of life. Continue to fill us with hope so that we fear no enemy. Amen.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
“Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3a)? He expresses a commonly held belief. We try so hard to make a mark and to leave an impression. Our fear is that we will not be remembered; after a generation we will be forgotten. Our lives will be swallowed up in our deaths.
The sentiments of the writer of Ecclesiastes would be true if it were not for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus we live for something bigger than ourselves. We live to touch others with the love and grace of God. Our purpose is lived out in a life of service to others. The meaning of life is found in our ongoing relationship with God—even beyond death. No longer is life swallowed up in death. Because of the resurrection death has been swallowed up in victory.