Last Sunday we gathered round the table. Before opening in prayer there was laughter (a bit as usual!) this time centered around folks asking where everyone was….turned out last Sunday some folks who are usually later in arriving were earlier and vise versa….making those gathered scratch their heads….and after getting settled we opened in prayer.
Then of course was check-in time. Asking, do we really believe verse 19 of 1 Corinthians 15,
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
And another question, does the belief that Christ is risen make a difference in your daily life? There were a variety of answers. Some don’t too often think about this in the daily life — maybe only in times of reflection. Others emphasized the context being spoken into (always important when we consider scripture because as much as it is easy for us to focus on a word, a phrase, a verse, or even multiple verses at a time/in isolation, scripture comes out of a context) noting that Paul was speaking into a culture in which there were many who did not believe in the resurrection of the body (is that so hard to believe?), and essentially saying, hey y’all here’s the thing…whatever your reasoning might be — whatever belief structure you have had your whole life which seemed right, appropriate, decent & in order (you know that dead people stay dead) — well, God has interrupted it as only God can do & here’s the thing — if that’s an issue for you then you are not understanding just how radical God’s love for us is…..Christ (GOD with us) was born into our materialistic/physical world (which is ridiculous & was not appropriate nor ever to happen…God is God!) and then suffered in ways that we suffer (God is not supposed to hurt, God is supposed to be above pain — God doesn’t deserve to suffer nor know pain) walked to a cross & DIED (God is NOT to die!) and went into a tomb & descended into hell and walked out of hell & rose from the dead & went into heaven too. NONE of this is supposed to happen, NONE of this is business as usual, NONE of this is what we are accustomed too. And Paul is saying, the thing is this is the core of our faith: that Christ is that perfect One (the new “Adam” — the One representative of humanity that could be perfect because he is God) & Christ is the sacrifice that saves us all, the sacrifice whose blood covers each of us, the One who died & went to hell (what our sins earn us) & was separated from God (that’s a hard one to wrap our heads around) so that we can be forgiven, so that we can be in loving connected relationship with God, so that we don’t have to experience death in sin eternally, so that we can experience some of love/life/grace/heaven right now on earth in our daily lives. Paul is saying that if there is no resurrection of the dead (which seems reasonable!) then Christ is not risen from the dead, and even if he was a great healer/teacher/person we are to be pitied because we are believing in a lie that will not save us from death/destruction for eternity & we are also lying about who God is. Ouch — that’s a hard word. And it’s complicated because — first, we don’t so much see folks risen from the dead & second, even those stories (in the Bible, and also those folks who were dead & brought back to life in modern times) all eventually died….Christ is different — this is what we believe (and it’s HARD to understand & explain too … because it doesn’t make sense (said like a question….but we know that Grace doesn’t make sense).
All this to say….it was a good conversation, it is a full conversation that is not over. It is more (or less) interesting of a conversation….because we don’t know what happens after we die until we do & then it turns our we can’t talk too much about it with the living…. so we held the space for the conversation & then we turned to scripture. And there was a choice as to where we’d go next….further into 1 Corinthians or over into Luke….well….we choose Luke. So we considered Luke 6:27-38:
New International Version
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Our favorite, right? Immediately there was a comment about lending and not expecting repayment. And later there was continued conversation, asking about how many people/organizations as for help/money — asking is there a limit to how many/who to give too — considering maybe if it’s better to give to a few (much) instead of giving to many (little). There was talk about it being easier to give to those who we know. We even spoke of the church & community emergency fund as a way to meet some of these needs. One was struck by the end of verse 35,
because (God) is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
What? God is kind to the ungrateful & wicked?! Who likes that? Other than wicked & ungrateful people? And I for one love the imagery of the final verse, thinking of a carbonated beverage being shaken and opened & it being messy & covering everyone & it even bringing joy & delight in the spilling — grace covering us in this way — makes me smile — I want that!
So then as we wrapped the conversation….what is the homework? While verse 31 (the golden rule) is hard enough….the homework is more reflective — how well do we live these verses? No seriously — do we do these behaviors & actions? AND even more, are we actually those (as individuals and even as the church) — who are the enemies, are those who curse, are those who slap, are those who ask, are those who judge, are those who condemn? Are we those wicked & ungrateful people who God is still kind to? If the Holy Spirit reveals yes, I (we) are….is there anyone whom God is inviting you to ask for forgiveness? If yes — be encouraged & see what God will do with your obedience — it’s one of the few things we get to offer God & it brings God pleasure. Happy reflecting y’all & may you feel God’s grace in the thinking.
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater