Without the resurrection, faith is futile
Paul comes up with strong arguments in his letter to the church in Corinth. People there are finding it difficult to think around the next corner. “Look beyond the horizon of your understanding,” he would say today. And he’s right!
The third Sunday in November is the last Sunday in the current church year. The fourth Sunday of the month is already the first Sunday of Advent and thus the start of the new church year. For preachers this means that the emphasis should first be on consolation and fellowship, before hope and confidence become the focus of the proclamation of the word. God’s people need help and strength. In the religious context, communion and fellowship has at least a double meaning: it is not only about fellowship within the congregation, but about eternal fellowship with God. This is the declared goal of all believing Christians: they want to be with the heavenly Father.
Before this can happen, the divine plan of salvation and redemption goes through different phases. This is what the sermons in the New Apostolic congregations will be about in November. Faith in the return of Jesus, the transformation and rapture of the bridal congregation are comforting and a joyful hope for the future. Those who cling to it have God on their side and can better cope with difficult situations in life.
While the first Sunday in November is dedicated to the divine service for the departed—a special feature in the New Apostolic Church—the second Sunday is about the inner preparation for the return of Christ. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it,” it says in Hebrews 4: 1. “Entering his rest” sounds somewhat abstract and maybe even inappropriate in view of the world’s problems. On the other hand, all Christians know that God’s kingdom is neither a source of stress nor is it a prison. The kingdom of God is a place of harmony and welcome—it is a place of peace.
This Bible text is therefore a source of comfort because it speaks of God’s reliability, which is above all doubts:
- Jesus Christ will return as He promised. And just because His promise has not yet been fulfilled does not mean that we have misunderstood this message of comfort. He will truly return!
- Nothing and no one can prevent or even delay the fulfilment of this promise. It is alone God’s plan.
- The Lord’s return applies to the believer personally, no matter the situation he or she is in. Neither imperfections nor personal misfortune can change God’s love for His children.
The third Sunday is the last Sunday of the current church year. This sermon seeks to reinforce our belief in the resurrection and eternal life. Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, once born as a child, is the firstfruits of the resurrection, on whom resurrection of the dead rests. Those who experience the resurrection will receive a resurrection body, which will be like the glorious body of Christ.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tried to explain the significance of the new life in terms of how we see and understand the world. He talks about “heavenly bodies” and “earthly bodies”. He says that the sun has one kind of glory and the moon another kind, ending with the observation: “It will be like that with bodies that are raised from the dead. The body that is planted does not last forever. The body that is raised from the dead lasts forever” (1 Corinthians 15: 40–42). The same is true today: without faith in the resurrection and in eternal life, the Christian faith would be deprived of its power and its very reason for being. A Christianity focused exclusively on the here and now would be reduced to purely ethical questions. Belief in itself would be useless, following Jesus would only become arduous and ultimately questionable, and every hope for the future would be exposed as vain.
Let your light shine!
And then Advent begins, heralding the dawn of better times! The first Advent Sunday speaks a fiery and joyful language. Christians praise and glorify God, just as Zechariah did at the time (Luke 1). God is the Saviour of the world and wants to save all people.
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