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09.25.16 Vanishing Point 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Sermon Summary

by on September 26, 2016

soybean-fieldWe know how this is going to end. The question we have to answer is, Will it make a difference in our lives today?

Summary Points

  • Out of sight, out of mind? Not with God.
  • Rejoicing when we find something that was lost
  • The vanishing point according to Paul
  • Christ’s resurrection, our resurrection, and the labor of our lives
  • How the Older Son’s laboring in vain kept him from rejoicing
  • The choice we have to make

It feels sometimes that we are so far from home, it’s hard to imagine we can ever get back. By looking out only for ourselves, through our runaway consumerism and neglect of the needy, when we judge and condemn one another, we have scattered ourselves to various “distant countries.” We are so far from Eden, from the imago Dei (image of God) with which we were created, we wonder if even God can see us.

But like the Father in Jesus’ most famous parable, God keeps his eyes where his heart is, with us, scanning the horizon of our distant countries, searching until we are found.

And when we are found, there is in the heart of God a profound sense of relief and thanksgiving, just like when we find one of our lost treasures. We are profoundly grateful for averting what might have been. Time stands still, everything comes to rest for a moment, and we celebrate.

This helps to understand how the parable ends, with the unresolved estrangement of the Older Son and the Father. The Older Son cannot understand why the Father is rejoicing. And the Father cannot understand why the Older Son is not rejoicing. The reason is the Older Son doesn’t fully appreciate what could have happened. The Younger Son may have been lost forever! But he is not.

The Father feared the worst, but kept hope. The Older Son assumed the worst, and lost hope. Those with hope look to the horizon, to the vanishing point. The vanishing point is that place where everything appears to be pointing, which makes realism in painting possible. The vanishing point reveals what is most real in the spiritual sense also.

Paul knew where the vanishing point was. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul saw that God’s Kingdom had come, or at least it was arriving. Jesus’ resurrection revealed that the cataclysmic event known as “the general resurrection” had begun. In the general resurrection, God would make everything right.

For Paul, now that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, it was only a matter of time before everyone else experienced the general resurrection. But “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” so some people in his churches asked Paul, “How can those who have already died, and we who are waiting for the Kingdom, both experience it?”

Paul’s answer is that the “dead are raised imperishable,” and that the living, “will be changed.” Both must take on imperishability, for like flesh and blood, the perishable cannot inherit the Kingdom either.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul could no longer assume the worst. Death was not the final word. In resurrection, death was “swallowed up in victory.” And Paul invites us to thanksgiving, for “God has given us the victory in Christ.”

What is more, because we share in this victory now, because we can now see the vanishing point of God’s Kingdom, our labor is not “in vain.” Think of a field with row upon row of crops. Our lives may be a long row, or they may be a short row. They may end up being shorter than we expected! But they all end in the same place. They all arrive at the vanishing point of God’s Kingdom.

The Father in Jesus’ parable feared the worst, but like Paul, he kept hope. So when the lost was found and the dead returned, he rejoiced. The Older Son didn’t rejoice. He resented. Why? Part of the reason is because he had been laboring in vain. Those many years he labored in his own strength, for his own reward, out of duty instead of thanksgiving.

Unlike the Father, the Older Son assumed the worst. He assumed the worst of his brother (notice how he adds details about the Younger Son’s profligate life). And he assumed the worst of his father, that he would never show him the same generosity. So when the lost was found and the dead returned, instead of being generous and rejoicing, with his laboring in vain and assuming the worst, the Older Son could only be resentful.

Today we have a choice to make, because we can see where this is going. In Jesus Christ, the lost will be found and the dead will return. The party has already begun. Will we maintain hope, rejoice with the Father, and labor the rest of our lives not in vain? Or will we assume the worst and remain outside with the Older Son, complaining of the Father’s grace and generosity?

Will we who are lost, be among the found?

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