Seek Jesus today; find him forever.

Not many of you will remember Dooley Wilson, at least not as Dooley Wilson. You may remember him better as the faithful, beloved singer Sam, as in “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca (although Humphrey Bogart never actually says that.)

If you’ve never seen Casablanca, you should. If you have seen it, you may remember the first song we hear Dooley Wilson sing, “Knock on Wood.”

Say, who's got trouble
We got trouble
How much trouble
Too much trouble
Well now don't you frown
Just knuckle down and
Knock on Wood

We could have a lot of fun with that song if it wasn’t sermon time and if I could sing, but it came to mind this week. We find Jesus moving more deeply into his public ministry. The crowds are pouring in from everywhere to hear him teach and to be cured of all manner of diseases. Power is coming out from him, Luke says, and that power is in his person, in his words and in his action.

Then he lifts up his eyes on his disciples. We must not let that phrase slide by us too quickly. We heard what the Lord said through Jeremiah, “I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.”

When we look at each other we see a person, but we really just see the surface and a composite of what we observe and know about that person. We don’t see the billions of cells and complex biochemical processes at work in their bodies. We don’t see the lifetime of experiences, good and hard and bad, that have shaped them to this moment. We don’t hear the rush of thoughts coursing through their minds. We don’t feel their pain. We don’t know their hopes or their challenges. We rarely know their struggles. They may look great, but…

When Jesus lifts up his eyes on his disciples, he sees everything. When he lifts up his eyes and looks upon you, he sees everything.  Every. Thing. And seeing all that, he loves them and he loves you. Remember that Jesus’ teaching, even and especially when he’s saying a hard thing, is borne entirely out of his perfect love.

He begins this “Sermon on the Plain” with couplets that echo the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. Preachers do that, you know, say the same or similar things more than once.

And so to the suffering, he offers four blessings. If you are poor, you will inherit the Kingdom. If you are hungry, you will be filled. If you are weeping, you will laugh. And if people hate you or revile you or defame you for his sake, you will leap for joy at your reward in heaven.

To the comfortable, he offers four woes. To the rich, he says they have received their consolation. If you’re full, you’re going to be hungry. If you’re laughing you will weep and if everyone is speaking well of you, you may be on the wrong track.

Taken together and in context with the rest of that sermon, Jesus is giving to each exactly what he or she needs. For those suffering in the many and varied ways we suffer, he assures us of hope.  These promises are absolute. For those who are in peace and comfort at the moment, he’s reminding that is a temporary and fleeting thing. Don’t put your trust in things that will fade and which you cannot take with you when you go.

Say, who's got trouble
We got trouble
How much trouble
Too much trouble

Don’t knock on wood, turn to Jesus. Whatever your trouble may be – a situation, a circumstance, an issue in your life be it money or anger or resentment or worries and anxieties, whatever it may be, turn to Jesus in prayer.  Turn to his word and study it, see what wisdom is there for you. Turn to your church for trustworthy guidance and counsel and prayer. Jesus wants to help you find meaning and purpose in your life – in your blessings and in your woes.

There’s another issue in today’s reading that demands reflection. We’ve been following Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and watched how he has so beautifully called the church to unity through recognizing each other’s gifts and love and the Gospel.

Here in chapter 15 he takes on another core issue, the Resurrection.

From the moment Jesus emerged from that tomb on Easter morning and encountered his friends, people doubted him and they doubted the testimony of his disciples. And, as Paul notes in this and other letters, very quickly false teacher emerge who will begin to spread false teaching about Jesus and about the Resurrection. Let’s be clear about this.

When people die we tend to talk about them going to heaven and being with Jesus, with God, and there is ample basis for that in scripture.  Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” We understand that to be essentially spiritual. So that’s true. When someone has died and we say, “She’s in a better place,” that is the hope undergirding our sentiments.

But that isn’t all. When Jesus rose from the dead he wasn’t a spirit. There was a physicality to him. “Touch the marks of the nails in my hands. Ouch the wound in my side.” He walks with them toward Emmaus.  He cooks breakfast for them on the beach. He eats.  Spirits don’t do that. And the Gospel includes the hope and promise that at the last day the trumpet will sound and we will be like he is.

Your eternal life is not merely spiritual.  How that works, we don’t know and we’ll hear more about that next week. But there is a physicality to it.  We get new bodies. My old church history professor would say, “I get a new body and my wife is counting on it!”

Paul underscores the importance when he writes, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we above all people are most to be pitied.”

When Jesus lifts up his eyes on you, he not only sees you completely as you are, he sees you as God ever intended you to be. That is our destiny.  That is our future.  That is our hope, won for us by his own blood on that awful cross, that wondrous cross, that glorious cross.

AMEN