This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Corinthians 15:30-41
30 And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? 31I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.’
33Do not be deceived:
‘Bad company ruins good morals.’
34Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
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.
The promise of resurrection gives the believer’s life both courage and discipline: the hope of eternal life helps Paul to face danger and to regard earthly life as fruitful rather than meaningless. Some have argued precisely the opposite-that the promise of eternal life trivialises our present existence- but Paul might invite them to consider the saying, “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”(This may be the basic principle of the “consumer” society.) Human life can be characterised as the seed of the life to come precisely because it is mortal: the seed has to die before it bears fruit in a new life.
For Paul the resurrection life is just as embodied as present life but in a different body which will have a splendour different from that of our present bodies. In all of this there is no denigration of present bodily existence. Certainly Paul will tell his readers that the heavenly body is stronger and more glorious but his Jewish faith in the goodness of created life remains intact. For him the resurrection reveals the true purpose of creation.
For some time the doctrine of bodily resurrection has been an embarrassment to Christian believers who take a restrictive view of scientific knowledge: in that perspective, the resurrection can look simply miraculous and incredible. I believe that it’s vital for non-fundamentalist believers to recover their nerve, to look seriously at the biblical record, and to find ways of expressing the resurrection hope that do not neglect scientific understanding but challenge it to be more open than some of its practitioners have been.
16 Jesus said, ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’
Jesus tells his opponents that they’re like children who won’t play either weddings or funerals: they dismissed John the Baptist as too severe; they dismiss Jesus as too lax. Yet both approaches are expressions of God’s wisdom. Matthew then gives the reader Jesus’ prophetic lament for the villages of Galilee using the same form of speech that Amos and the great prophets used for the cities of their day. Even the archetype of wickedness, Jesus says, the city of Sodom, would have responded to his ministry! We should note the element of exaggeration here, along with a rough humour, by which Jesus advises his frivolous critics to get real: they are wilfully deaf to the words and blind to the actions of God’s messengers.
A superficial religiosity may be a greater barrier to truth than a downright atheism. I should apply this saying first of all to myself.