[#pictureLent] March 9: FIRST

By Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist Church    
Tampa, Florida    

First, read 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

During my first year of college, I entered what I can now best categorize as a prolonged wilderness period of doubt in my faith. I was alone, without a community of fellow Christian students to support me, and taking numerous courses that challenged much of the foundation of my faith. It was an intense, six-month period of struggle and disillusionment, when I nearly walked away from the faith that had grounded me for much of my life. 

I remember that one of the reasons I emerged from this period of doubt was the resurrection of Jesus.  I realized that if the resurrection were not true, and if some day someone were to recover the body of Jesus in a tomb, then Christianity was a total lie. But since there was no such evidence ever found, then the resurrection was real, and the claims of the Christian faith could be believed. 

We can acknowledge that many times, we need some tangible way to believe the unbelievable, and for me that proof was the absence of a body. It was that first and most important piece of evidence that I needed to bring me back to the faith.  

Perhaps this is what Paul was thinking about at the beginning of today’s scripture reading: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus is the most pre-eminent, and most definitive hope for humanity, the “first crop” of the harvest. And it is in the bodily resurrection of Jesus that we can claim our faith with conviction and courage.

Since emerging from that period of doubt over twenty-five years ago, my faith has matured even further, to the point where such “bodily” evidence of the resurrection is not as necessary as it once was. It was the first proof, but it is no longer the only proof, of this primary theological truth: Resurrection is still happening.

If you want to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, if you are looking for evidence of Christ’s resurrection, then you don’t have to pin your hopes on whether or not people will ever find a body.  Just look all around you!    

We expect violence throughout the world.  But God, perhaps in subtle, imperceptible ways, offers peace.

We expect troublesome times to affect our lives.  Debilitating health.  Constant anxiety.  Haunting addiction.  Residual guilt.  But God offers resurrection, and we see new life emerge in surprising ways in our lives.

We expect dead things to stay dead.  Relationships that have all but ended.  Hopes in the future that are dashed.  Sinful urges that have drowned out our will.  Gloom, pessimism, and despair.  But where we expect dead things to stay dead, God offers new hope, new life, and new possibilities.

Resurrection is happening today – all around the world!  It can even happen in your own life.  And because God still resurrects today, it is proof of God’s power to raise Jesus from the dead, and proof of God’s ability to raise yours as well.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for raising Jesus from the dead, as the first crop of the harvest for humanity. Reveal to me evidence of your ongoing resurrecting work all around me and within me. And may I be an agent of resurrection for others. Amen. 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1. Have you ever experienced a prolonged period of doubt in your life? What helped you get through it?
2. How have you seen evidence of the resurrection in your life?
3. How might God be calling you to be an agent of resurrection in the life of someone else?