17 September 2010

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?" (v.12)


Imagine this letter (like all Paul's letters) being read to a congregation gathered for worship. Now Paul turns to the second ground of his faith in the risen Christ: personal experience. (The first was 'infallible proofs' mentioned in yesterday's reading.) This too, of course, is testimony, but it is the testimony of one who was not there at the time, and yet who is absolutely certain about his own experience.

So it connects the people who are listening to the reading with the people who were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection. Paul is saying, in effect, that testimony can be trusted if it comes not just from eyewitnesses of a past event, but also from people (like Paul himself) who, though not an eyewitness, have come to share in the same profound experience. Implicitly Paul is inviting those folk gathered in Corinth to share in that experience for themselves, to know the risen Jesus as he has done.

This is a challenge for every Christian today, and for every church congregation - to keep alive the sense, so dominant in the book of Acts, that at any time the risen Jesus, or the Holy Spirit which is his legacy, might spring a surprise. Often such a surprise came as an unheralded opportunity: we might think of Philip wandering in the southern desert after a bruising encounter, only to find a foreign diplomat reading the book of Isaiah and desperate for help in understanding it (Acts 8:26-40); or Peter having a dream about how God wanted to break through barriers of national identity, caste and creed, and then within hours facing a distraught officer of the Roman army (Acts 10:9-48).

Personal experience became shared good news.

To Ponder

From our vantage point in the 21st century we are perhaps closer to Paul than to Peter and the rest of the 12 disciples. Paul's experience can be ours too. Is it yours? How does Church help us and others in this - or doesn't it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.