But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”
But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
I’m writing this morning from a waiting room at MD Anderson Hospital here in Houston. It is perhaps – OK, right now we are hoping absolutely and inconclusively – the best place to be treated for cancer in the world. My 16 year old stepdaughter is in the operating room as I type and we all wait.
I hear the sounds around me. My wife Kelley, allowing me to distract her from her tears with an episode of the Daily Show that I cued up for her. Emma’s dad just fired up his laptop. Emma’s brother, her grandma, her aunts, her cousin, and a bunch of her friends will join us later this morning.
Behind me a volunteer is checking families into the waiting room. As early as it is, family after family after family is filing in. Off in the distance I hear bits and snippets of conversation. One lady was crying loudly just a minute ago but is quieter now, still crying on the inside.
I feel like we are in the middle of a war zone.
On one side is this massive institution, the best researchers and doctors, all having earned prestigious positions that allow them not only to help the patients they see each day but also to share what they learn with the world. Nurses, support staff, custodians, construction workers, valets, food service people, security staff – how long would this list be? – have all shown up today to stand on the side of health, restoration, recovery, and hope.
On the other side are regular old human cells that have gone just a little crazy. For whatever reason, they get off track, they mutate, they over function. Left to their own devices, the natural human state that seeks survival is overwhelmed by these distorted cells that threaten self-destruction.
Caught in the middle is Emma and all of the other patients in the place. The war zone is very personal, hand to hand combat at the cellular level.
We are not alone. I hope that doctors have the eyes to glance over their shoulders and see the mighty wall of prayers that are surging behind them and into their hands. No one is praying for anything less than a successful surgery and a complete recovery. No one questions who the good guys and bad guys are in all of this.
Emma’s doctor assured us that he has performed hundreds of these surgeries over the past 20 years. Every patient a little different, every patient teaching him a little bit more. But someone, way back there, was his first patient.
Someone always has to go first.
Which is Paul’s point today. Jesus wasn’t the first to die, to suffer the brokenness of the sin that distorts God’s intentions for our lives, the cancers of hate, fear, greed, and the whole idolatrous bloody mess. But he was the first to be raised from the dead.
Emma’s doctor is good…but he isn’t that good. Today we trust the doctor but we know where our ultimate trust lies.
Here is what Emma said about her surgery today: I’m young, I am in good health, I take care of myself. I will get better. And whether or not I get better, my life is in God’s hands. She was more nervous last night about how long it will be after the surgery until she gets to wash her hair than the surgery itself. Now someone tell me that faith in God isn’t real, powerful, and helpful!
I’m betting on the good guys today. And I am so grateful that Jesus went first on our behalf.
Let us pray: Hold all who hurt in the palm of your hands, O Lord. Draw near to all who live in fear, in pain, in anxiety. All who hunger for good and thirst for water and need the help of others. May your Spirit of hope, the living presence of our living Lord, enliven us, encourage us, and enable us to live fiercely and hopefully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.