During the staff retreat up in Lake Arrowhead, the question arose: “if you could only preach one sermon for the rest of your life, what topic would your sermon focus upon?” Pastor Shawn had us guess and we all guessed (correctly!) “The kingdom of God.” This is a central theme of the New Testament, and this theme is especially present in the early church’s proclamation of Jesus as Lord.
As I reflected on this question over the weekend, I kept coming back to Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 15, especially v.26. In my own life and scholarly pursuits, the idea of God’s kingdom has indeed been active and pressing, but if I had to pick a singular sermon topic that I could preach from, I would preach on “the victory of God.” That is, God’s final invasive act to abolish all Sin and Death in God’s good creation through the work of Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
In my own life, tragedy has often worked itself into my heart and I know this is not limited to me. This reality is characterized as dark, cold, and brutish—affliction is the operating system into which we all are born. One only has to look at the daily news to see such things on full and graphic display: the severance of children from their families, the threat of war, and the lists simply go on and on.
We see the language of “abolition” or “utterly destroy” is in the present tense in Greek. This suggests that Christ is presently working against the powers of Sin and Death, and not simply waiting in heaven to respond to human evil. This is not a future event when God will act: rather, God is acting right now. God is active and on the move, working against the various ‘sovereignties and powers’ in the world, sometimes through the church, sometimes alone by the power of God’s Spirit. Whatever the case may be, Paul’s vision is that God is fundamentally counteracting the power of Satan in the cosmos. God is neither passive nor silent about the evils in God’s world. Rather, God has spoken against such sinful entities and activities, consigning them to elimination.
Evil is not a part of God’s good creation.
The victory of God means that the final end of humanity is not death, but deathlessness.
The victory of God means that we are to participate in the birth of a new creation and new life, not in tragedy and the things that are passing away.
The victory of God means that the Gospel is the supreme example of God’s love for humanity.
The victory of God means that the Holy Spirit came to bring life to us, to call us into living the life that God has prepared us for.
The resurrection of Jesus is the abolition of all things related to Death and death-dealing. Whether we consider corporate and secular powers, or we consider individual acts of sin, at the root of God’s work is the final removal of all such things from creation. Our vocation, as a church within the Body of Christ, is to be the holy hands of a holy God, worshiping and calling others to faith in Christ and to good works in the world.
John Wesley once said, “Satan brought in sin, and sin brought forth death…death Christ so destroys that it shall be no more; sin and Satan, so that they shall no more hurt his people.”
God is at work. God is on the move. Our mission as a church is to hope and to pray and to faithfully participate in what God is doing: performing justice, abolishing evil, and seeking to love and comfort those whom God has called us to love.
Our vocation is holy love because our victorious God is a God of holy love.
Printed in the September 2018 Tapestry issue.