Make a mental list of two or three things that are good in your life, community and the world. Now make a list of two or three things that are bad in your life, community and the world. Imagine a world where all things on that bad list are gone - wiped out - never existed, and only the good remained? What kind of world would that be? Utopia? Paradise? Heaven? What if it was the other way around, and all things on your “good” list were gone and only bad remained? What kind of world would that be? A nightmare? Purgatory? Hell? We know that life is not just good stuff or just bad stuff. What kind of world is that? That, church, is our world - the real world.
What about death? Which list do we put death? Certainly those who have lost loved ones to suiced, tragedy, or acts of violence would put it on the bad side. Yet those who have watched someone they care about endure the effects of Alzhiemers, or be the caretaker for a loved one battling a terminal illness, or ride the gut-wrenching roller coaster of some mental illnesses, might consider death a good thing.
In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Corinth is that there is a new order under the rule and reign of Jesus. The order of the Roman Empire or the order / rule of the many different pagen religions is no more. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was established a new world order...an order rooted in God’s ultimate desire to reconcile, not punish, humanity and restore our original goodness. To restore us from death to life. An order solidified by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is a new world order that takes what seems impossible and somehow makes it possible. What seems bad and somehow transforms it into something good. It is a world order that seeks to bring about the goodness, beauty and truth of God amidst the bad, ugliness, and lies of a fallen, broken, divided, and dysfunctional world.
God is in the business of bringing order out of chaos. We see it the creation account when chaos hovered over the deep.” We see it when the Israelites flee Egypt and in the chaos that ensues God provides rules / order to live by known as the 10 commandments. Time and time again God steps in and brings order. Jesus, in the New Testament, brings emotional, physical, and spiritual order and healing. This is Paul’s way of telling the Corinthians that in the chaos and uncertainty of death, God, through Jesus, brings order and life.
When our own lives are in a state of chaos and flux and we face any kind of death or disruption of life like the death of a relationship or a job. Death of the church as we know it. Death or disruption of how things used to be or of a dream or idea. And yes, the death of a loved one, we have the assurance through resurrection there will come order. We may not see it. We may not understand it at the time. We may be caught in a whirlwind of anger, fear, uncertainty, despair and grief, and we may not agree with or fathom what possible good will come, but we have the promise of Jesus, the one who conquered it all, that life will prevail. That life, healing and resurrection may look different than we expect, anticipate or want, but we put our faith in Jesus and trust that God really does work for good in all things.
I do not say this lightly church, nor do I pretend that it is not sometimes the hardest thing to do to put our faith and trust in Jesus. I know it is. I know as I look out at those gathered here, there are families struggling with terrible loss and grief, terminal illness, and difficult family circumstances. I know many have walked are are walking challenging paths in life. My heart breaks at the pain you have endured. And at the same time, I cling to the promise we are reminded of by Paul’s words and Jesus’ example. In that promise we have hope and sometimes, hope is all we can do.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine