Growing New Life - Sermon for the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany (February 20, 2022)
Scripture Readings: Genesis 45:3–11, 15 | Psalm 37:1–11, 39–40 | 1 Corinthians 15:35–38, 42–50 | Luke 6:27–38
“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)
The story of Joseph we heard a bit of this morning is one of the most dramatic reversals in all of Scripture. Sold as a slave by his jealous brothers, Joseph faced years of misery: at first he did well as a slave, gaining respect and honour from his master, only to be falsely accused and thrown into prison. Years pass with him waiting, as good as dead, and then through a miraculous twist, Joseph is set free and raised up to the right hand of Pharaoh in Egypt. It is not the story of someone overcoming life’s obstacles alone. No, it is a story revealing what the Living God is up to even in the midst of human betrayal, misery, and hopelessness, God is at work raising up the lowly, overturning treachery, bringing about reconciliation, and life to those as good as dead.
Today we also heard a bit of St. Paul’s reflection on the resurrection… reminding us that the reality of the new life in Jesus, though it begins with our everyday earthly life, has a very different and glorious destiny. Speaking to some sceptics that deny that the dead will be raised, and who were asking for details about what life will be like after we are raised, St. Paul points us to a seed: it has one form, one shape, which is humble, lowly, seemingly insignificant, but after it has been buried in the soil, it’s time for the new life within it to be revealed. As an acorn grows into an oak, which seem so different to our eyes, God will raise us up to share in His eternal glorious life. We can only imagine now all the details of what God has in store for us, but we do know that it won’t be limited by the shape of the life we have known so far.
What’s more, we know we don’t have to wait until we are raised from the dead to share in God’s new life. United to Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, the Living God is at work in us even now cultivating His holy love within His children, beginning to bring the life of heaven to birth in us today.
This life, though it does not look like life as we know it naturally, is reflected in commands Christ Jesus gave to us in our Gospel passage this morning: not as a list of duties in order to get us into God’s good books, but as the beginnings of God’s heavenly new life taking root and growing.
“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:27-38)
Looking back on his life… on all the sufferings and hardships he endured as the result of his brother’s envy and betrayal, Joseph caught a glimpse of the Living God’s hand at work, transforming even his pain into the soil for new life to blossom and grow: new life for himself, raised to Pharaoh’s right hand… new life for his community, and country… and a new life reconciled to his enemies, who had become his brothers once more. “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; [Joseph tells them,] for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)
As those who would follow our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died, was buried, and who has been raised to new life, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father to bring God’s new life to the world, let us take heart, trusting that the LORD’s gracious hand is at work in our stories and lives even now, cultivating His heavenly new life of holy love in us through the Holy Spirit. And let us take Christ’s words to heart, as He calls us to nurture this blessed new life by putting it into practice: by loving our enemies; doing to others what we would have them do to us; giving and forgiving; merciful to all… just like our Heavenly Father. Amen.
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Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School