The Blessed Hope of ‘In a Moment’

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Dr. Bryan Loritts eloquently encapsulates the essence of advent: “The first advent of Jesus Christ represents his earnest money, his down payment. It’s a promise that as sure as he came once, he will come again.” Today, I want us to focus on the Second Coming of Christ. At that time, Jesus shall return visibly, bodily, gloriously, and triumphantly to consummate the Kingdom of God—where the daybreak of justice shall subdue the harrowing night of injustice.

In the last verses of the chapter, Paul transports the listener to an otherworld experience by allowing us to catch a glimpse of the glory that awaits us at Christ’s second return. Paul invites the church to take notice of a mystery. The mystery of being changed in a moment—the final act of God’s saving plan for humanity. In essence, Paul says we will be changed in an atom of a time. The idea is that our change will occur so fast that it will be indivisible, unable to be captured by the naked eye. In this atom of a time, our bodies will be made imperishable, no longer subject to the decay, death, and danger of this world. Paul declares emphatically that this inevitable change will occur instantaneously—in a moment.

In a moment, a new world will emerge where vaccinations and boosters are replaced with the healing balm of Jesus’ precious blood. In a moment, scarcity and famine will have to yield to the great victory banquet of the Lamb. In a moment, the chasm of life and death which makes us long for reunion with the ancestors will be filled, and we shall be eternally reunited with our loved ones. In a moment, civil unrest, political upheaval, and rampant injustice will be purged by the coming of Christ’s new kingdom. In a moment, we shall cease from carrying crosses, weeping bitter tears, bearing burdens, and dreaming for a better day. At that moment, the promised Parousia of our coming Lord will inaugurate the grand parade to our Holy coronation, where we shall wave palms of victory and cry together triumphantly that “death is defeated, and we have victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This moment will usher us across the stage of redemptive history into the everlasting pastures of Beulah Land. In the words of Gardner Calvin Taylor, “we shall live, love, learn, and labor in the sunlit land where the flowers never fade, the day never dies, and the song never stills.

We look forward to this moment at Christ’s Second Coming.

By: Rev. Dave Young Jr.

Giving God a Faithful Yes

Luke 1:26-39

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,

The church has historically called Mary’s assent in Luke 1:38—”let it be done”—Mary’s Fiat. This unassuming phrase, when properly understood, serves as the verb that punctuates and drives the entire nativity scene. Everything else in Luke chapter 1, in my opinion, flows and flowers from Mary’s fiat. Yet, our 21st-century eyes often miss the thrust of Mary’s faithful fiat to God. Mary’s acceptance of God’s will was not as simple as the four words in English that we find in our Bibles. Buried beneath the layers of Mary’s language lies both an unwavering partnership with God and the unresolved fear of following God’s purposes into the unknown.

Mary faced social and religious ostracization by becoming the God-Bearer because her betrothed status forbids sexual relationships. Mary’s pregnancy also brought shame to Joseph. The threat of birthing a poor Palestinian Jew living under Roman occupation might have given Mary anxiety. Even the possibility of death by being stoned might have floated in Mary’s mind as a real possibility. Mary teaches us that following the will of God is weighty. Likewise, Mary’s fiat reminds us that following God without knowing all the details is an act of faith that opens the door to God’s joyful surprises.

Mary pivots from her perilous reality to the redemptive possibilities that await on the other side of her, “yes.” As a result of Mary’s single word of approval, God released through her womb one single Word of hope to the hopeless, one single Word of deliverance to the downtrodden, and one single Word of reprieve to the rejected.

Mary’s “yes,” vaulted her into the dramatic play of God’s redemptive story and made her an acclaimed actress in God’s salvation history. Her obedience presented the opportunity for God to bring to fruition Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, the one who would scatter the proud, overturn kingdoms, lift the lowly, and fulfill the prophets’ promises with His stretched arm. Mary’s sacrificial “yes” begot the ultimate sacrifice, which sealed our salvation.

Mary’s simple “yes” is not an isolated incident of fortuitous faith. Instead, it is an unforgettable reminder to the Christian Church that we never know how our consent to God can make us pivotal characters in God’s redemptive play. In the text, the verb “Let it be done” means announcing or revealing God’s eternal plans on earth as they are in heaven. In other words, your willingness to submit to the will of God may be the key to someone’s deliverance. May we mirror with our lives Mary’s courageous collaboration with God.

Pondering Question:

During this Advent season, ask yourself, “what is God asking me to do that requires me to give a wholehearted and unreserved yes?”

Rev. Dave Young Jr.

Advent Devotional

Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The season of Advent commences the Christian year by summoning us to reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ—through his birth, second coming, and acceptance into the hearts of believers.

Today’s reading forces us to slow down our reading and acknowledge the immeasurable humility that Jesus displayed through his first coming. In the middle of Paul’s love letter to the church at Philippi, he paints a portrait of Christ’s descent from glory into the squalor of humanity for the price of redemption.

Through this vicarious act of love, Jesus denudes himself of respectability, riches, and reputation. Through the humility of Christ’s service to humanity, God reveals Christ’s Lordship and glory throughout the world.

We live in a world fraught with individualism, consumerism, and materialism. Social media consistently serves as the catalyst to distorted depictions of success. A thirst for opportunity has replaced the Christian virtue of obedience. A quest for popularity has replaced communalism with individualism to the point that following our dreams has caused us to forget the disinherited.

The beauty of Jesus’ first coming is his subtle entry into the world. He does not come through the regality of Tiberius. He is not born in a pristine palace with servants flanked around him. No, our Lord and Liberator comes to us in a feeding trough—or a more accurate translation, a “donkey dish.” The putrid smell of barn life would have offended our American-social class sensibilities.

Since Jesus comes to us this way, today’s reading forces us to ask ourselves whether we, the church, are coming into the same places that Jesus went? Are we meeting with the marginalized? Are we bringing opportunity to the outcasts? Are we being a beacon of hope to the hopeless? May we imitate the witness of Jesus during this season of Advent by coming into the world like him.

By: Rev. Dave Young Jr.