Planting with Expectation
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and, we are found false witnesses of Gd, because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:12-20, KJV).
Please also refer to 1 Cor. 15:42-45.
Oh, the yards in the neighborhood are busy with neighbors building their plant boxes or planting their flower beds. And, the garden departments of the local home improvement stores are now packed and conversations can be overheard of people’s plans and approaches for this year’s gardening.
With inflation rising in America, there obviously seems to be no hesitation in spending around the lawn and the garden budget. With such efforts there is an expectation for the finished product. For example, to plant a seed without any expectation that a plant will develop or to plant a tree without any hope that it will survive, would not be sensible.
A recent visit to the National Cemetery (where countless uniformed headstone greet you) prompted this lesson for the moment. Is this all towards which men and women have to look forward to? A burial plot (a place to be planted) with a marker of remembrance?
A question that’s been asked across the ages is reflected in Job 14:14: “If a man shall die, shall he live again?” In John 11, the conversation between Martha and Jesus concerning Lazarus also reflects this age-old tension — especially by those of us with even a hint of uncertainty in our faith.
The Apostle Paul addresses this concern in I Corinthian 15 and assures us that there is an expectation — and not only an expectation, but instead, a guarantee — for those who are in Christ. Christ serves as that guarantee, “for if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Our faith and the preaching of the gospel both informs and reminds us of that great hope — that life does not end at the grave, but instead, God grants continuity — the promise of eternal life, which is far greater than life as we know it now.
The late Dr. M.C. Williams, former Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Denver, preached a sermon entitled “Divine Punctuations” in which he used his signature repetition to drive his points. He stated that — at my death don’t put a period, but instead, place a comma, a comma, not a period. A period suggests a definite end, but a comma, it pronounces continuation. Dr. Williams helps us to know that there is more to come, an expectation beyond death.
Recently, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He, too, was planted in a garden (Jn. 19:41-42; Jn. 20:15;) with the promise of rising again (Lk. 24:6-12). “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: And that he was buried (planted), and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Just as we expect to see the fruits of our gardening during this season of planting, let’s also remember that we also can expect to become fruit that will last for all of eternity.
Lord, we are grateful to know that our lives are greater in you. We stand on the promise that when this life is over, a greater expectation is ours. We pray for the lives lost in our nation recently by gun violence and more so for those families directly impacted by these senseless acts. Give them your Peace. Amen!
Rev. Rodney G. Perry
Ministry and Mission Coach
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains