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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor


Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
Series C

Option #1: "Four Words of Hope in a Sea of Despair"
1 Corinthians 15:12; 16-20

Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.A., M.Div.

Christians have always lived on an island of hope surrounded by an ocean of despair. No more clearly is that despair indicated than in the face of death. Paul navigated this ocean of despair as he lived among skeptical Greeks, Romans and Jewish Sadducees.

In his well-known "Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard," English poet Thomas Gray (1716-71) writes: Each in his narrow cell forever laid the rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep. ...The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, no more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

Paul gives God’s people today:

FOUR WORDS OF HOPE IN A SEA OF DESPAIR

1) CHRIST (PROCLAIMED)

 Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries: Christos--anointed, that is, the Messiah, a title of Jesus: Christ

 kayrussoo: to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): preach, proclaim, publish

2) ASLEEP

G2837 koimaoo: to put to sleep, that is, to slumber; figuratively, to decease:  sleep, be dead--Matt 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 1 Thess 4: 13-15

3) RAISED

G1453 egeiroo--probably akin to the base of G58 (through the idea of collecting one’s faculties); to waken, that is, rouse (literally, from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, from death--Matt 11:5; Luke 20:37-38; 1 Corinthians 4:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18-21

4) FIRSTFRUITS--aparchee

Thayer definition: 1) to offer firstlings or firstfruits; 2) to take away the firstfruits of the productions of the earth which was offered to God; the first portion of the dough, from which sacred loaves were to be prepared

Holman Bible Handbook: 15:20-34 RESURRECTION FOR BELIEVERS: The resurrection of Christ carries with it the promise of resurrection from the dead for all believers. Just as the firstfruits presented to God on the first day of the week following Passover guaranteed the coming harvest (Lev 23:9-11), so Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of believers (1 Cor 15:20-28). The hope of the resurrection encourages people to become Christians. The same hope provided Paul with boldness to proclaim the gospel and endure the suffering that accompanied his calling (15:29-34).

Charles H. Spurgeon: "Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit." -Romans 8:23: We have the first fruits of the Spirit. We have repentance, that gem of the first water; faith, that priceless pearl; hope, the heavenly emerald; and love, the glorious ruby. We are already made "new creatures in Christ Jesus" by the effectual working of God the Holy Spirit. This is called the firstfruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the spiritual life, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first operations of the Spirit of God in our souls. The firstfruits were the pledge of the harvest. As soon as the Israelite had plucked the first handful of ripe ears, he looked forward with glad anticipation to the time when the wagon should creak beneath the sheaves. ...The firstfruits were always holy to the Lord, and our new nature, with all its powers, is a consecrated thing. The new life is not ours that we should ascribe its excellence to our own merit; it is Christ’s image and creation, and is ordained for his glory. But the firstfruits were not the harvest, and the works of the Spirit in us at this moment are not the consummation-the perfection is yet to come.

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Children’s Message

Visual aid: a container of strawberries

I have something in this bag and I want you to guess what it is. I will give you some clues: 1) It’s something you eat. 2) It is a fruit. 3) You might slice them and put them on your cereal. 4) This fruit is red. 5) This fruit is a picture of the hope we have in Jesus. Do you know what it is? STRAWBERRIES!

There are some words in the Bible that we don’t really understand because we don’t do things the way God’s people did a long time ago. Paul says that when Jesus rose from the dead, he became the "firstfruits" of those who have died. When God’s ancient people harvested the first sheaves of grain, they dedicated them to God. They thanked God because they knew there was much more to come.

Same thing with our favorite red fruit here. When my wife goes strawberry picking very early in the season, she brings these home and we will be having shortcake that day. I can look forward to more of those fresh strawberries for shortcake and on my cereal because strawberry season has come.

That’s what Jesus gives us: something to look forward to. When he died on the cross, he died to pay the bill for our sins. When He said "It is finished," it meant that your sins and mine were completely paid for. When Paul says that Jesus is the "firstfruits" of those who have died, he means that because Jesus rose from the dead, those who trust in him will also rise from the dead. The Bible says: As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)

That’s why we call our graveyard a CEMETERY. It is a "sleeping place." It’s a big bedroom until Jesus comes back and wakes us up. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, he will awaken those who trust in him and take them home to be with him forever. Now that’s really something to look forward to!

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Option #2: "Transplanted!"
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.

 
The Point: human alliances ultimately result in loneliness and blindness to God's presence and blessings
 
The Problem: dependence on flesh, material things; unrepentance, godlessness
 
The Promise: God aligns us with Himself, through Jesus taking the loneliness/heat for us, and through the Holy Spirit "watering" us, resulting in fruit for Him 
 
Notes:
 
1. The status of the blessed person is compared to a tree... While most translators prefer the translation "planted," the better translation is probably "transplanted." The tree's situation is described. It has been transplanted alongside water and sends out its roots by a stream. The verb that follows may indicate a wordplay (double-entendre): the tree will not experience the effects of heat and/or the tree will not fear heat. The leaves of the tree are continually green. ("Green" is the color of eternal life.) In the year/time of dearth it will not be afraid and will not cease to bear fruit. (Arthur Graudin)
 
2. The best things in life are not things!
 
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