18 September 2010

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

"So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body." (v.42-44)


However much we want to read the Bible as timeless truth (and I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't) it is important to understand the background and historical setting against which particular passages were written.

The church in Corinth was a community that was entirely new toChristian ideas and Christian ways. The people of Corinth were trying to absorb ideas that, for them, were very strange indeed, and they didn't find it easy. What Paul says in today's reading may come across as speculative and questionable, but it does show how he spared no effort in his attempts to help his puzzled Corinthian friends get the point. Perhaps it is that message - Paul's urgent creativity in sharing the gospel (the good news of Jesus) - that matters to us as much as the specifics of what he was saying.

What is a "spiritual body"? What kind of a question is this? It leaves us baffled.

Paul is talking about our identity, our self, the bit of ourselves that we (and those who are close to us) have such problems with. How much of that 'real me' is left when our bodies finally falter and fail? What is that real me anyway? Paul's claim is that this real me is what God is able to transform out of almost all recognition, yet it remains 'me' and no-one else. It is not blended into a universal 'soul soup'. It is only as individuals that we can engage in social relationships.

In saying all this, Paul is reminding his readers what it is about humanity that God values above all. It is our capacity to relate in love to other people. It can be hard, certainly. We learn this skill in families, but families are sometimes less than perfect (perhaps because we are less than perfect). We can learn it too in community life, especially (we hope) in the life of the Church. The Church is the training ground for real life.

To Ponder

How does the life of your church, or your family, encourage people to play a full part and discover themselves? Or does church present too great a risk for them? Or perhaps for you? What might you do to change this?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 60s) 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.