We are studying 1 Corinthians 15 (specifically, verses 1-8, 12-14, 20-23, and 42-45) for Sunday, April 12, Easter! Christ is risen! / The Lord is risen indeed! Our text addresses that head on. [My notes on this text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider as we meditate on this text:
Paul summarizes the gospel he preaches (his good-news-ing or good-messaging) in verses 3 and 4, and then presents testimonials or attestations of the risen Christ’s appearances in verses 5-8.
How would we summarize our own understanding of “the gospel” or “the good news” – that is, “what we received” and then “hand on” to others, or sometimes to ourselves? Would our summary be close to Paul’s, or different from Paul’s in any way? What way? Why?
[More personal] Does it seem to us we are telling essentially “the same story” as Paul, or is our story different enough to be “a different story”? What makes us say that? How do we feel about that?
[A lot more personal] Would we add a testimonial or attestation like verse 8 – that is, do we have any experience we would call “an experience of the risen Christ”? What is that?
In verses 12-15, Paul presents a set of arguments about why his understanding of “the resurrection of the dead” is integral to his good-news-ing. In his view, it touches everything important that he has to say and everything he does that matters.
Would we side with Paul here, or are we inclined to disagree in some way or ways? Why? Where do we ourselves stand on this point? That is: does the resurrection of the dead feel central to, or like it touches or informs, everything else we think and do? Should it, do we think? Or, would we argue that maybe it shouldn’t? Why?
Paul describes Christ as “the first fruits of those who have died” in verse 20, and links the new life in Christ to Christ’s humanity.
Do we want to talk about this?
[Not really a question:] I love verse 24. Christ will put a stop to every ruler and every authority and power. I read that as every earthly ruler, and every earthly authority and power. That alone would be plenty to meditate on: Paul is saying that there will come a time when there will be no ruler or authority or power other than Love, Justice, Truth, Good: no God but God. Imagine that.
Can we, actually?
[You all, don’t forget I wrote a dissertation on this. Maybe better not get me started …]
In verses 35-49, Paul develops an analogy between death and resurrection and planting and growing of plants. Why does he need to do this, do we think? Is there a lesson in this for us? What lesson?
Overall, it seems to me that this week’s focus takes us into deep, personal theological waters, where we don’t normally go. And when we come to think about it, that may be surprising, because as Paul points out, “the resurrection of the dead,” “the resurrection of the body,” “Christ has risen from the dead,” is a presupposition of Christian faith and practice. We may take for granted that we all think and feel the same way about that.
We may want to not take that for granted for an hour or so on Easter, and look more closely at what we actually think and feel about that.
I don’t say that to shame anyone, or expose anyone, or start an argument so that someone can end up on the wrong side of it. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t do that, anyway! But we could talk about our concrete, actual experience of believing, or with struggling with believing as the case may be, if we wanted to; and in doing so, we might learn something about ourselves and one another, and perhaps also about God.
We live in modern times. People have questions. We may be among them. Or, we may have had them in the past, and found some answers we can live with. So we may want to have that conversation. Especially on Easter, when the supernaturality of Christian proclamation is close to the surface and immediate. And when our text leads us right to it.