Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 30 January 2022

by Rev Jacky Quarmby 30 January 2022

Welcome to our worship this morning which continues our exploration of the Apostles Creed.

Opening Hymn:  To God be the glory (great things he has done) 
Please add your voice to this instrumental version

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Opening Prayer
Loving God, 
we join with all your saints in heaven and on earth
To thank you for our Lord Jesus Christ.
We thank you that he shared our earthly life, our needs and anxieties, our pains and our death.
And we thank you that he has conquered sin,
Was raised from the dead 
and has ascended into heaven to pray for us.
We thank you that he who lived among us is now above us:
Above us as our Lord and our Guide
Above us as our great example
Above us as one who is worthy at all times 
To receive our praise and our worship.
Today, loving God, we offer ourselves to you in Jesus’ name
May we always strive to follow his example, to obey his commands and to worship him, with you and the Holy Spirit
All the days of our lives and throughout eternity
In Jesus’ name we ask it, Amen

Two weeks ago, Raymond explored the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Today we are looking at the resurrection and why that matters so much to us as Christians.  The readings today are taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which Paul sets out what Christians believe about Jesus’ resurrection, why it matters and what it means for us in our own lives.

First Reading:  1 Corinthians 15: 1- 11

Talk:  Why is the resurrection of Jesus important?
In our passage, Paul sets out the Good News … that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day and that he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve …

But why is the resurrection of Jesus so important?

Well, firstly, because if we believe Jesus is raised from the dead, then God has power over death itself.

If we think for a moment about the struggle between good and evil.  The strongest weapon that "evil" has is death itself  -  the threat of total annihilation.  Human beings don't want to die, we want to live.  And we are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do just that.  We are willing to go on strange diets, to have incredibly complicated surgical operations and horrible chemical treatments, because we want to go on living.  We don't want to die.  And so those who are evil, those who want to exercise power over us, use the threat of death to shut us up and to get us to do the things they want us to do.  

Now Jesus was threatened with death, because he kept speaking out, he kept disrupting the status quo and upsetting the powerful, but Jesus ignored those threats and he was murdered.  And on that Friday, as Jesus died on the cross, it looked as if evil had won.  But on Sunday, God raised Jesus from the dead  -  God broke that power of death  -  decisively.  Through the resurrection, God declared that even death could not defeat his purposes.  Paul writes,

"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."

The second reason that the resurrection matters is given in verses 20 – 22 of 1 Corinthians 15 … “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

 Jesus was raised from the dead.  Paul says, he was the first fruits of those who have died.  The image of “first fruits” comes from the Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus.  Leviticus 23: 9 – 14 says this …“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.  He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord, so it will be accepted on your behalf …  You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain until the very day you bring this offering to your God.”

The first fruits of the harvest were a sign of the harvest to come.  In the same way, the Resurrection of Jesus was a sign of the resurrection of all believers which was to come.  Just as the rest of the harvest could not be gathered in before the first fruits had been offered, so the new harvest of life could not happen until Jesus had himself been raised from the dead.

So it is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we believe that there is life after death for all who trust in him.  It is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we believe that death is not the end – that God continues to work out his purposes in my life and yours even after our earthly death.  It is because of the resurrection of Jesus, that we believe that Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in God’s heavenly kingdom - as Jesus says to his disciples in that lovely passage from John's Gospel,

"I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."

And that’s why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.  

I want to finish this section with some words from Brother Roger of Taize.

If you were not risen,
Lord Christ, to whom would we go
to discover a radiance
of the face of God?
If you were not risen,
we would not be together
seeking your communion.
We would not find in your presence
wellspring of a new beginning.

If you were not risen,
where would we draw the energy
for following you
right to the end of our existence,
for choosing you again and anew?

In a moment we’re going to look at the question what happens when we die – but first we are going to sing …

Song: All Heaven Declares the Glory of the Risen Lord

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Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 35 – 44    

Talk:  What will happen when we die?
The first thing to say is that Christians do not believe in reincarnation.  We do not believe that when we die, we are reborn as someone new – and that as a result we have a whole trail of past lives that someone can take us back to.  We don’t believe that.  Nor, do Christians believe that if we make mistakes in this life, then we will come back as a snail or a worm or some lesser kind of organism.  Nor do we believe, as the Greeks believed at the time that Paul was writing that we have an immortal soul that departs from the body at our death and drifts off into the ether to be reabsorbed into God’s Spirit.

What Christians believe is that we have one life on this earth.  We are born, we live and we die. And if God chooses then we will be raised from death, as Jesus was raised from death, to a new heavenly existence.  

And if it is the case, that in God’s grace and mercy, we are raised from death, then we will be raised with a body, just as Jesus was raised with a body.  But not a body made of flesh and blood  -  a spiritual body  - something entirely different  -  a body which doesn't wear out -  a body which doesn't have a "Best Before" date.   Paul says in our reading,

“The earthly body is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable.  The earthly body is weak, but the new body is raised in power. The earthly body is physical, but the new body is raised a spiritual body.  Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. For this perishable body must put on imperishability and our mortal bodies must put on immortality.”

This should come as a great encouragement to those of us who are getting frustrated with the limitations of our age.  In heaven we shall once more be able to walk and run and skip if we want to, without everything aching and creaking.  

There's a lovely story called "Water bugs and Dragonflies" which tries to explain death to young children.   It gives a wonderful picture of the resurrection body.  Let me share it with you.

Once upon a time there was a pond - and down below the surface of the pond there was a big family of water bugs.  They were very happy living in the wet and the dark far away from the sun.  For many months they would scurry about in the mud  - being very busy.  But they did notice that every once in a while one of their family seemed to lose interest in running about in the mud - and it would start climbing up and up the stem of a pond lily - until it was lost from sight - and no one would see it anymore.

“Look,” said Tommy, one of the water bugs to his friend Sally, “Old Bob is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think he’s going?”  They watched Old Bob as he climbed up and up and up - until he just disappeared.  Tommy and Sally waited and waited but Old Bob did not come back.

“That’s funny,” said Sally, “Wasn’t he happy here?”

“Where do you suppose he went?” said Tommy.

The water bugs could not work it out.

“I know,” said Tommy, “I have a great idea.  The next water bug that climbs up the lily stalk has to promise to come back and tell us where they go.” All the other water bugs agreed.

Time passed – and Tommy was getting older and older.  Then one day Tommy found himself climbing up and up and up to the top of the lily stalk.  Before he knew what had happened Tommy had broken through the surface of the water and had fallen onto the broad green lily pad above.  And there, Tommy fell asleep.

When Tommy awoke - he felt different somehow - he looked down at himself with surprise - he wasn’t a little squidgy brown bug anymore - he had four beautiful silvery wings and a long tail.  He had become a dragonfly.  

Tommy shook his lovely wings and suddenly found himself flying high above the water.  He swooped and dived through the air.  It was amazing - he was so excited.  But as he flew he noticed deep down under the surface of the water his old friends the water bugs.  There was Sally scurrying about in the mud and he remembered his promise to go back and tell them all that had happened to him.  Without thinking, Tommy darted down towards the water, but he simply hit the surface and bounced away.  

Now that he was a dragonfly - he couldn’t go down into the pond anymore.  “Oh no,” he thought, “I can’t keep my promise to Sally and the other water bugs.  Still even if I could go back, I don’t think anyone would recognize me with my beautiful new body.  I guess they’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too.  Then they’ll understand what happened to me.”
And with a fond farewell, Tommy flew off happily into his beautiful new world of sun and air.

When we are raised from the dead, we will have a new body, a new life.  But we will still be the same person, with the same history, the same memories, the same thoughts as before - a person in relationship with God and with those who have gone before us.

But where will we go when we die? Well, of course nobody knows for sure, but the Bible is full of wonderful pictures of heaven.  Isaiah talks about a place of peace where there is no death or killing, where nations do not go to war and where the wolf lies down with the lamb.  John in the Book of Revelation talks about a beautiful city, full of the light of God.  Jesus used a number of different images – once he talked about heaven as a wedding banquet; another time, when speaking to the thief on the cross, “he said today you will be with me in paradise”; and when speaking to his disciples he talked about heaven as his Father’s house, which has many rooms.  

We don’t know what heaven will be like – but we do know that it will be wonderful … because God is there.  So that’s something to look forward to.

Song: All my days I will sing this song of gladness

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Prayers of Intercession and Petition
Lord of life, hear us as we lift to you our hopes and prayers for the church and the world.

We pray for the church here at Newmount.
Let your grace empower us as people of faith to better serve you in the common places of our lives, and in the people we meet on our faith journeys. 
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for people who are in special need this day. May we be generous with our time and resources as we pray for and work with the poor, the hungry, the sick and the bereaved. 
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for those we know who are sick or anxious or grieving.


In your resurrecting power, lift them up and give them renewed strength and hope;
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for ourselves. 
In raising Jesus from the tomb you have given us the sure sign of your power to deliver us from sin and death and to renew your whole creation.
We are sorry when we give in to doubt and fear and doubt your power to make all things new.
Forgive us our lack of faith, have mercy on our weakness and raise us from the death of sin
that we may live with Christ in the joy of his resurrection.
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

For we ask these prayers in the name of Jesus, our risen Lord. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: Thine be the glory, risen conquering son

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The Blessing  
May the God who raised Jesus from the dead  grant you strength,
the Son who gave his life for you give you peace,
and the Spirit who is with you day by day, inspire you to greater service both now and forever more. Amen

And the blessing of God,  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever.  Amen.