This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
PICTURE DOCUMENTARY OF GREAT APES AT FRANKFURT ZOO
1 Corinthians 15:35-41
35 But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ 36Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.
Paul’s teaching, based on the resurrection of Jesus, is paradoxically down-to-earth:
- We shall be raised from death with a body. There is nothing about bodily existence which is unworthy of eternity. Body for Paul means identity and relationship, both of which are aspects of resurrection life.
- The resurrection body cannot be described. If we had to guess from a seed what the plant would be like without ever having seen a plant, we would never get near it.
Paul’s teaching is clear and helpful but not much used in churches. I’ve never heard a sermon on this passage.
5‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Traditionally Israel was called God’s vine. Here Jesus applies the metaphor to the community of disciples. Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches whose function is to bear fruit. Only those who abide in the vine can bear fruit. This emphasises that important as fruitfulness is, it is a result of abiding in the vine; branches that drop away from the vine wither and are burnt. Fruitfulness as disciples is the expectation of the vine-grower, and it includes obedience to Jesus’ commands, but it is the “shared life” of Jesus-and-disciples that is the primary reality.
There are times when committed membership of the church is exasperating. My own church seems to me to be making a poor fist of dealing with the issue of clergy in faithful homosexual partnerships. But I must remember how since I was a child the church has been a nourishing place for me: the life I’ve shared with other people and, as I believe, with Jesus, has been my salvation. Therefore I should certainly not be ungenerous when the church finds itself in difficulties, although I should speak and act according to my conscience.