Saturday, October 15, 2005

1 Corinthians 15:12-29

Death is the Last Enemy to be Destroyed.

Why? In what sense was (and is) Death the enemy, and how will Death be destroyed?

In that time and in ours, Paul's (and the Church's) affirmation of the resurrection of the body of each believer was under attack, and not just from outside the faith. The Church at Corinth was subjected to the influences of Greek philosophy; today we contend with materialistic modernism. Paul contends for the resurrection fiercely, point piled on point, asserting that Christianity without a living Christ is dead and futile. Indeed, if there were no risen Christ they and we would have been wasting time. But it is that first resurrection that made and makes possible the resurrection of all believers.

Death is inevitable. In ways large and small we make plans to mitigate its effects. Fear of it can motivate us powerfully, and there are ways in which we rightly should fear it. But when fear of death diminishes our joy, makes us live less fully than we might, then that fear becomes destructive. But if we can see the great continuum, of our present unique person forward to that future mysterious-but-somehow-still-us in resurrected form, how much more could we live into our inheritance with Christ? And how much more important is it to assert that it is only through his resurrection that this became possible for us?

In the Nicene Creed we regularly afffirm "We believe in...the Resurrection of the body." It's in there as part of a list of things and perhaps we miss the significance of it: because of who Jesus Christ was and is, we're coming back to be with him!

There is one final footnote. It is an otherwise unexplained activity, this "baptism for the dead" that was going on. I think it needs to be taken at face value: that there was such a sense of urgencu among those believers to be reunited with their passed-on loved ones who never knew the faith, that they would be baptized by proxy for them. (This is not to assert that such a baptism would reclaim those whom only God can redeem. But the stakes were that high for them.)

And the stakes are still high today.

--mlb

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