Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1Co 15:12-18 ESV)
This passage is often used to support the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That it does. But it is actually addressing the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead in general, not just Jesus’. In fact, the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day is primary, according to St. Paul: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” And most importantly, if you do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, then your faith is in vain, he writes.
So what? Don’t all Christians who recite the Apostles or Nicene creed believe in the resurrection of the dead de facto?
They speak it, but how do we live it? How do we express it? By finding our “comfort” in the fact that the spirit of Uncle Charlie is alive in some Platonic wonderland of fishing without having a body, or fish or even rivers? That Aunt Sally is even now sewing and bossing around the children, even though she has no body to sew with, nor fabric to sew, nor needles, unless they are some kind of “heavenly fabric” which in fact is pure imagination? Let’s be serious for a moment: just what is Grandma Heaper experiencing right now? Is she living a bodily kind of life eating liver and chicken necks and playing King’s Corner even though she has no body with which to eat?
We need bodies to eat with, to drink with, to play with, to run with. If there is no body then we can have awareness and perception and thought, but not true bodily experience. Take the resurrection appearances of Christ. When he appeared to the disciples he had to prove that he was not an incorporeal spirit by eating with them, by allowing them to see and touch His beautiful wounds of our redemption. Jesus would not be eating fish if he’d left His body in the ground.
So what happens when you die? It’s a question we spend our whole life wondering about or fearing. When children learn of death, it’s t
he very first question they ask. What happens next?
Most Christians will say that believers will go to heaven and unbelievers will go to hell. When I ask them what happens after that, I get blank looks. When I ask them what happened to people before Christ, I get blank looks. When I ask them about the resurrection of the dead and life of the world to come, I get blank looks.
What about the resurrection of the dead? What about the bodies lying in open caskets before the funerals? What happened to Uncle Joe and what is the hope we have?
It’s not that Uncle Joe has gone to heaven to be with Jesus to live with angels on the clouds or in some invisible mansion in the sky. Tha
t’s gnosticism…and not very good gnosticism at that.
The hope we have is that Uncle Joe is not dead. No, not dead at all. He is alive with Christ and his body will be raised from the dead too. Christians bury their dead because we believe that Christ will return and raise the dead. We hope not just to “go to heaven” but to be raised from the dead.
Ran across the following video on my favorite Catholic blog, Creative Minority Report. Though I do not agree with everything the commentator says, he says it with great authority and eloquence that I wish I had.
His point? We are not just descending into madness, but it has already come. Watch and enjoy, if possible.
I’m back. At least for today. And I’m on a rant. Sorry. What follows is a theological post for my interested clergy friends, liturgically-minded lay people, and Confessional Police/Brute Squad:
On a friend’s Facebook page there was a brief discussion about children’s sermons, with my friend merely stating that they are allowed and most of his interlocutors denouncing him and children’s sermons as being “against the confessions.”
What their argument reduced to was that they are often bad and cheesy and saccharine and an “innovation” which our Lutheran Confessions deny that we make or do.
And that latter bit is the biggest problem. There’s hard-telling how much we do as modern LCMS Lutherans that isn’t innovation. The Old Testament reading? Innovated since the 16th century. Our vestments? They wore different things then. The lay-choir and lay-elders? Innovations. Sunday School? Innovations. Pews? Innovation. Individual communion cups? Innovation. The Nunc Dimitis at the end of the Service of the Sacrament? Innovation. The Aaronic Benediction? Innovation!!!!
In a world of great and many innovations and liturgical nonsensery, let’s get our priorities straight. Asking the little children to come forward and giving them a brief exhortation on the lessons, catechism, church year or illustration which amplifies the sermon is hardly something to get in a tizzy about.