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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, February 18, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 15:12–20

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.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. (NRSV)

“Let me remind you,” Paul writes at the beginning of chapter 15, “of the good news of the resurrection!” Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after his resurrection, Paul reminds the Corinthians. First he appeared to Cephas, then the twelve, then 500 men and women together, then James, then all the apostles, and then Jesus even appeared to Paul in a vision. The Corinthians already know this. They’re not questioning the resurrection of Jesus: they believe it happened. What some seem to be questioning is whether God will also resurrect them.

Paul goes on to give a beautiful analogy of death being like the transformation of a seed into something far more grand and beautiful and complete than the cold, hard, tiny seed. When the seed ceases to exist, the plant becomes itself. What looks like the death of the seed is really a transformation. God does this work every day in a million ways, and God does it with us, too.

Recently I was talking with a friend who nearly died last year. She had a classic near-death experience. She saw a small window, like the round window in the side of a ship. It expanded and grew and was filled with light. She described it as a portal of light that grew until it surrounded her. She saw people there who made her feel safe and comforted. She told me, “I had an experience that made me less afraid of death.”

I think that Paul, in his own way, is trying to help the people in the Corinthian church feel less afraid of death, too. Paul gets poetic when he says near the end of this chapter, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Holy God of power and grace, give me a sense of your grand perspective. Keep me rooted in you and unafraid. Fill me with a spirit of trust in your capacity to hold me, keep me, transform me, and guide me. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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