Death has been swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15
God of new life, heal us from our fear of death, that we may no longer participate in the deathly swirl of greed and violence. Give us liberty to do your good work in the world. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)
Did you know Easter is just getting started? We are only now finishing the first of seven weeks! Just as there are 12 traditional days of Christmas for me to unwind in the midwinter quiet and light, so too I have seven weeks of Easter sunshine.
In this Covid-19 crisis, I’m thinking more about the serious side of Easter than the straight-up sunny side. Perhaps in Aprils-past, I’ve not fully appreciated Easter’s power over death, nor thought too much about my role in the ongoing mystery of overcoming death in every-day life. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I am a little more aware today.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Paul makes a powerful Easter statement followed by an imperative call to action: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? 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.
Walter Brueggemann comments: Paul’s claim does not announce that we will not die. It announces, rather, that we do not need to live our lives in response to the power and sting of death that wants to negate our life, because death has been disarmed of its power to hurt us. This is defining news for us because we live in a society that is largely propelled by the fear of death. The outcome of that fear is anxiety, greed, and violence, all grounded in an elemental fear of scarcity; death specializes in scarcity and parsimony. (I looked up “parsimony”; it means tight-fistedness.)
Here is the JOY for those whose hearts are renovated in Christ’s Love: Though we are fighting a threatening disease, and though there is fear-driven anxiety, greed and violence in our society, those forces are obsolete and irrelevant to your life. Why? Because such a negative spirit has lost all its authority over your actual/real life in Christ.
Because of this Good News, Paul turns the corner with “therefore”: Be steady and constant without anxiety; Above all, excel in your performance of God’s work.
I realize this Easter lesson adds responsibility to our lives. It’s not the typical way of thinking about Easter freedom. But where else will we go with our thoughts? This is the actual Message of Life. You carry in your very body, and within your household, and in your relationships, Christ’s Presence, which cannot be negated by anything going on in the world around you.
This Easter Friday reflect on your importance in the ongoing Easter story. How can you be hope and life to some part of the human family this weekend?
Come Monday, we get to keep learning Easter.