Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Glory of 1 Corinthians 15

The fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians is a voluble volley of verisimilarity. I try to read it out loud a few times each year during the Easter season. Last Sunday I read it for our congregational meeting.

Paul's turn towards resurrection at this point in the letter is surprising, given that early in the letter, he claims to "have decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

A letter that opens with some of the most poignant statements of God's weakness and the folly of the cross concludes with a riff on the resurrection.

There's a lot to take in. It's a long chapter. Rhetorically, it kinds of builds. The flow of the language layers until a reader reading out loud feels like a slam poet. Eventually, Paul gets around to talking resurrection bodies.

Resurrection bodies are still bodies, but they aren't like earthly bodies. They include some aspect of bodiliness, because they are bodies, but they are spiritual bodies seeded from the fleshliness of earthly bodies.

Then Paul picks up the rap that resonates. He celebrates the kind of glory each body has. The glory of the heavenly is one thing, the glory of the earthly is another. Then...

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory (1 Cor. 15:42).

Star differs from star in glory. That ends up being true in astrophysical terms, doesn't it? Each star is its own thing, has its unique absorption spectrum. I doubt Paul knew this, but his riff on the various kinds of glory resonates favorably.

Star differs from star in glory. God will be all in all. The way God is all in all is by way of the distribution of varying kinds of glory. God will not be God without glorifying each uniquely. 

Paul goes on. He writes, "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven" (1 Cor. 15:49). Well, in truth we are made up of the dusts of stars. All the heavy elements in our bodies are the product of stars. So we do indeed bear the image of the man of dust, Adam, and the image of the glorious stars. Onto this we will also overlay and participate in the heavenly body of the man of heaven, Jesus Christ.

Death dies when these perishable bodies are more fully clothed in imperishability. This, this is an eschatological insight, a statement of hope you can take to the bank and cash in for existential coin, because Paul, who offers all this cosmological wonder, understands his whole speech as a confidence builder.

"Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Because you are stars. And you are and are on your way to glory.

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