1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (NRSV)
51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
"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, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
A central hope of the Christian Faith is the hope of the resurrection, and here Paul lays out the promise of the life eternal. These lines are embedded in my own memory within Handel's Messiah, and perhaps hearing them sung is a marvelous way to let them become one with us. It can be difficult to hear words of hope in the style of an argument, but can richer set to to the musical creation of a genius such as Handel. Here in these hopeful and beautiful words, Paul is making the audacious and hopeful claim that the goodness of God, and the richness of the life eternal will blot out any sting that death may have for us.
The life eternal is a life that is lived within the Kingdom of God, enlivened by the Spirit of Faith and Hope and Love. The life eternal does include what happens "after" death, but in the life of God this life eternal is already (and has been already) breaking into the world, in ways large and small and to do God's work is to hasten the Kingdom now in our lives today in this moment and in this place. In the reading from today's Morning Prayer, Paul ends his song of hope in the resurrection with a plea that people continue to do the good work to which God has called us. Our work today can be concordant and resonant with the great symphony that God has created, and is continuing to direct, today, tomorrow, and forever.
"...thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord,
because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey