16 September 20101 Corinthians 15:1-11
"For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures." (v.3-4)
Paul, the writer of this letter to the people of Corinth,
commends his faith in the risen Christ on two grounds. Today's
reading draws on the stories Paul has heard (as he was not
personally a witness) of the occasions when the risen Jesus
appeared to the disciples. He talks of 'infallible proofs'. Would
those witness statements stand up in court? We might regard them
rather as testimony; the disciples who recorded those incidents
were doing so as observers of something entirely outside their
previous experience, hardly the basis on which a court would
happily rely on that testimony.
So Paul is not here pointing to facts, but to testimony. What is the link between the testimony of a generation now growing old (and entirely unknown to the Corinthian Christians except by repute) and the possible life experience of a younger generation, most of whom come from an entirely different background?
Older folk, with memories rich and deep, and wisdom carved painfully from experience, acknowledge gratefully their debt to their own past decades. The perspective of young people is dominated by a fast approaching future the old do not expect to share. Paul's genius lies in the way he draws together a cherished tradition, an urgently lived present, and a challenging but hopeful future. He lays great stress on the essential unity of the wider Church that reflects these contrasting dimensions.
Part of the challenge facing today's Church lies in rediscovering Paul's genius for the present age.
Our society is geared to an assumption that learning is instruction - what the old do (or offer) to the young. But behind that assumption lies another: that what the old have is valuable, and what the young bring is a sponge-like ability to absorb that value. Is that right? What would the Church feel like if the old were to learn from the young?
Regardless of your age, what one thing would you want to pass on to the next generation?