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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, 12–19          

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (NRSV)

Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor claims that the people of Corinth (those to whom Paul wrote this letter) were “champion materialists—big eaters and drinkers, with big appetites in all departments—who preferred religious truths with immediate results. Anything that happened outside of their day-to-day experience was not of much interest to them” (Barbara Brown Taylor, “Surviving Crucifixion,” God in Pain: Teaching Sermons on Suffering). Perhaps that is why Paul decided to be explicit and rather forceful with his declaration about the resurrection of Jesus. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile,” he wrote, trying to impress upon them how important the resurrection of Christ is to our faith.

But those “champion materialist” Corinthians probably struggled with Paul’s insistence. After all, the resurrection was completely outside their day-to-day experience. It was completely outside their well-ordered material world. The moment of resurrection is one thing that happened only between God and Jesus. We have no idea what occurred in the darkness of that tomb. None of his disciples had the experience of seeing Jesus come back to life.

Paul did not either. But according to Paul, he, himself, did have an experience of coming back to life. In his blinding moment on the Damascus road, when he claims he came face-to-face with the blinding presence of the risen Christ, he also came face-to-face with the truth that God has power beyond our comprehension or imagination. He came face-to-face with the truth that none of us can ever say “the end.” God is the only one who can say “the end.” And according to our Easter faith, the moment when God says “the end,” God also says “and a new beginning.” Even if or when we, like the Corinthians, cannot fathom how that might be, God can. God does. That’s what matters.

God, give me Easter faith to remember and trust that you are still at work in my life and in this world. Even when, especially when, I cannot see it. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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