Read: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26
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.
Into this world the Son of God takes on human flesh, joining the dispossessed people of God. Emmanuel, God with us, reveals the good news of the kingdom of God. This is God’s true economy of abundance and blessing marked by the profligate forgiveness of debts and transformations in which first become last and last become first. The kingdom that Jesus announces and inaugurates is, like the garden, a world ordered so that all humans can fulfill their vocation to grow in ever deeper love of God and neighbor. At his baptism, at his transfiguration, and most clearly in his resurrection, God confirms and vindicates Jesus’ proclamation and inauguration of the kingdom.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provide the first fruits of divine economy. Almost from the beginning, however, this Spirit-empowered community struggles with sharing possessions (Acts 4), anxiety over not having enough (Acts 5), and arguments about how to manage their common goods for the benefit of all (Acts 6). The apostle Paul both depends on the generosity of his congregations to survive and frets about how giving and receiving money can threaten and distort relationships. He chastises the Corinthians for allowing their common eucharistic gathering to become an occasion for reinforcing the economic and social stratifications common in Greco-Roman society. James notes similar problems in the congregations he addresses; the rich are honored and the poor pushed to the background. In all of these cases, Christians are challenged and often fail to live in the light of the gracious generosity of God.
In the midst of these failures past, present and future, Christians look forward to that day when our world is transformed by the arrival of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21). This city of God is the fulfillment of the abundance of the garden. It confirms both the nature and the confidence that God will redeem the world and God’s deepest desires for us will come to fruition.
Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of bread; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 834)
Stephen Fowl is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland.