Apostle's Creed - The Ending is Just the Beginning
Girdwood Chapel Sermon, 23 July 2017
“The Ending is Just the Beginning”
1 Corinthians 15
2 Corinthians 5:1
John 11: 25-26
John 14: 19
1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17
2 Peter 3: 8-10
*BEGIN WITH RECITING APOSTLE’S CREED
Our bodies are simply amazing. Better than any mechanical system on the planet, they are able to run on bio-fuel efficiently and effectively. When broken, they have the ability to regenerate new cells to repair the brake; often making it stronger than it was before. More complex than the new age nanorobotics that are being explored, is the body’s ability to use cells in a coordinated defense against disease and foreign invaders in the system. With regards to all of these systems and advanced coordination, is an adaptability to the environment, a heating and cooling system that is energy efficient and self-contained...well, there can be some fluid loss. In the early years of the body’s development it grows at a high rate, not just in size, but in knowledge and in strength. At some point, the ability to communicate becomes available and is utilized by different means. Interestingly, there are no two bodies alike on the planet. Even identical twins have different things going on at different times in their bodies. Each body is beautifully and wonderfully made, unique in design, and inspired in purpose.
But, whether that body has been masterfully taken care of throughout a lifetime or has been abused and mistreated through a lifetime of difficulty, there is a single commonality that simply cannot be deterred. Those systems will begin to shut down and the cells will no longer be able to do their work. Death will occur and the body will decay.
We are completing our work with the Apostle’s Creed today with the statement, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
What wonderful words those are to say, but what a complex thought to encompass such one brief sentence. There are an amazing amount of avenues that can be explored as we consider those words and what they mean to us collectively as Christians and individually as children of God. It is important to understand that these words do not stand alone. They comprise the closing statement to a grand and detailed Creed about our faith and our understanding of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting is not available to us without the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Because we believe in those aspects of God’s grace and mercy...because we believe in Jesus Christ….because we believe in the Holy Spirit, we can believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Let us consider for moment the resurrection of Jesus Christ as we walk through this final statement of our belief. Jesus, born an infant and raised in the care of Mary and Joseph, grew through the developmental nature we discussed earlier. His body became stronger, his mind learned new things, and he was taught the ways of life on earth, for in his divine nature, Jesus was also human. His body broke. His wounds bled. His nerves fired and he experienced pain. With each element of abuse and being affixed to the cross, Jesus’ human body began to shut down. It began enter into the phase that all human bodies will enter some day. Until, he was able to muster enough strength for one final breath and hanging limply from the nails of the cross, he died.
His lifeless body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen, and carried to a tomb. The women who followed Jesus went away to prepare oils mixed with perfume and spices. Why? Because like all human bodies, Jesus’ was going to break down and decay, releasing the odor, the stench, associated with death. But, when they returned to apply the oils and the perfume, something amazing had happened. They were informed by a messenger of God that Jesus had been raised. Not, just in Spirit, but in body.
We know that he is in his full body because when Jesus appears to his disciples he says, “Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” (Luke 24:39). Jesus stood in front of his disciples in the flesh and blood. In doing so, he did something amazing! He conquered the grave, the decaying of the flesh and the return to nothingness, and in conquering the grave he also defeated death, opening up the path to eternal life for all of us, “Because I live, you will live too.” (John 14:19)
Bodily Resurrection for Us
The bodily resurrection is one tough concept to grasp. There are so many things that come to mind with this understanding of the state we are to be in as continue our eternal life. Whenever I think of this state of being, the passage from Luke concerning the Sadducees question to Jesus comes to mind. (Luke 20: 27 - 40) The Sadducees are introduced to us as officials who denied there is a resurrection. So, they try to combine Mosaic law with the promise of eternal life to stump Jesus. The law states that if a man dies and his wife does not have children, then the brother must marry that man’s wife to carry on the man’s legacy. The Sadducees state to Jesus that this happens seven times with the same wife and seven different brothers. Therefore, they ask, “Who’s wife would she be upon the resurrection?” Jesus offers a response that is not easily discernable, but offers us insight into our exploration. He states, “Those that are considered worthy to participate in that age, that is, the age of the resurrection from the dead, won’t marry nor will they be given in marriage. They can no longer die, because they are like angels and are God’s children since they share in the resurrection.”
That makes perfect sense right!? First, let’s take notice that the purpose of the question was to make Jesus look foolish. The Sadducees had no real interest in the answer, they just wanted to trip Jesus up so he would look bad to everyone else. But, what Jesus does is turn the tables on the Sadducees. For he reveals to them they are not thinking about God and the Kingdom of God deeply enough. The covenant of marriage is in place in the world in which we live because there is a finite time of existence. What do we say in most of the ceremonies? ‘Until death do us part?” Right. The reason is to hold that marriage that relationship together in God’s trust while we are on earth. But, in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no timeline there is no finite point so the identification of the relationship is not important. In terms of belonging, Jesus states that the resurrected life is in God, while perhaps there was a need on earth for social purposes of the relationship, now the relationship that all will share is the one with God. No other identifications are necessary. But, there is also something else hidden here in Jesus’s response. That is that the body is transformed in some way, it like that of an “angel”. Somewhat different that our body on earth.
Does this mean that the bodies that you and I have here today, right now, are not the ones that we will be risen in? Well, let me respond to that first by saying, I don’t know. Scripture never really gives us a definite answer as to what the state of our body will be in when we are resurrected. I mean, truthfully, I would hope to have the option on the 25 year old David if that version was available. But, we simply do not know the complete ins and outs of how that will work. What we do know, is that we will be transformed. Jesus mentions it in the passage above, but it is also evident in his own resurrection.
Quickly, how many people recognized Jesus upon laying their eyes upon him following his resurrection? Not one. All were not sure who Jesus was. In many cases they were fearful of his appearance at first, and it wasn’t until he revealed himself to them in ways they would recognize him they saw him for who he was, the resurrected Jesus Christ.
God, is the ultimate creator. To steal from Adam Hamilton’s analogy, the creator has the blueprint. For us we can consider the blueprint the genetic building blocks of who we are, our DNA. God fashioned that DNA and, as unique as it is, he can refashion us from those same building blocks. The flesh and bones that we are in now, may not be the ones we are comprised of later, but the essential blueprint, the foundational element, of each cell in our body will be present in eternal glory.
As if that wasn’t deep enough, we still must acknowledge our belief in this resurrected body in eternal life. But, let me make it simple for you. We read from the book of Revelation earlier. When you have a minute, take time to read the entire passage of Revelation 21. There you will find the vision of heaven which is encrusted with jewels and has streets lined with gold. The version that is relayed to us from John is one of immense beauty and splendor. His description takes the imagination to its furthest depth of grandeur. For this is likely where his words run out. Even the description that John provides us from his vision in Revelation is shortchanging the beauty and splendor of eternal life walking with God.
In the beginning of the vision, John states that, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3) That is the most beautiful aspect of this new creation, this new resurrected life, this final statement of belief. We will return to life in the Garden. We will walk with God once again.
Our walk through the Apostle’s Creed has been detailed and I hope it has raised many questions within you about your faith and your understanding of what it means to be Christian. These words that we have been studying, they have been around for hundreds of years and they comprise the most basic of elements concerning a Christian belief. These are things we must understand to be true to be faithful in our Christian walk. There are thousands of denominations. There are thousands of churches. Each one you go in will have a difference of opinion on things associated with the Christian faith. Even in our own denomination we are in debate over how certain things should be perceived in the church. The body of Christ grows in varied and dynamic ways. But, at the heart of it all is the common understanding, the common belief that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, revealing God’s love, and restoring us to eternal life with God through grace and mercy. This means the end is just the beginning.