bible blog 431

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news: RESPECT FACTS OF GUANTANAMO FILES -DEMAND

The facts are sacred

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

15Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

3 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, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Paul is not so much providing “proof” of the resurrection of Jesus –if such a thing is possible-as making clear the tradition of faith.  It has from the start included the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and his appearance to named witnesses. Faith cannot be re-interpreted to exclude the resurrection without making these witnesses into liars or fools. It is interesting that Paul adds his own vision of Christ as the last of the series of appearances beginning with Cephas:

  1. Have women already been excluded because their testimony was not considered reliable?
  2. Paul describes his own vision “it pleased God to reveal his son in me.” He probably thought of the other appearances as similar in nature.
  3. He closes the record of appearances of Jesus with his own vision. Perhaps the other apostles closed it before Paul. Is there a difference in kind between the series Paul speaks of and subsequent visions of the living Christ in the history of faith? For example, is the vision of John in Revelation Chapter 1 the same or different?

    crucified and risen-the one body of Christ

In any case Paul is using the tradition of Jesus’ appearances to encourage the Corinthians to interpret their own church community as the life of the risen Lord. Faith is not only an experience of the Spirit; it is being transformed by the Spirit into part of the body of Christ crucified and risen. There has often been a quarrel between those for whom the resurrection is historical fact and those for whom it is contemporary religious experience. Paul shows how these two dimensions of faith are related:

The historical tradition exists to be tested as all historical material must be; and it is sound enough to require that we interpret our contemporary religious experience as experience of the risen Christ.

Contemporary religious experience on the other hand allows us to see the facts of the tradition as part of the history of faith: The risen Jesus did not appear to everyone but only to those who were ready to believe.

John 14:1-14

14‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

In my Father's house

Jesus is not only the way to the father, a road that can be forgotten once the journey is completed, he is also the truth and the life, that is, he is the unveiling of the father’s life. We might imagine that God the Father is veiled in Jesus-“veiled in flesh the Godhead see”- but John’s astounding claim is that God is UNveiled (Greek a-letheia= not concealed )in the Son. Here is the shining out of the nature of God. John is not talking about two separate lives but of the one shared life of father-and-son, which is also open to all believers.

The one house of God with its different dwelling places is an image of this shared life. It’s not often noticed that when Jesus talks about making the house ready (he’s talking about his death and resurrection) he compares himself to the mother of the household who goes ahead of the rest of the family to set up a new home for them.

Julian of Norwich understood this better than most:
“In our Mother Christ we prosper and develop; in his mercy he corrects and restores us; and by the power of his suffering death and resurrection, he unites us to our essential being. That is how our Mother works in mercy for all his children.”

The familiarity of this gospel passage can blind us to the radical truths it communicates.

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