Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15.19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Reflection: Pie In The Sky and Strange Fruit
By John Tillman
The hope of the resurrection is not just for some far off “Day of the Lord.” It is also for the here and now.
The Corinthians struggled with false teachings regarding Heaven and resurrection. Prevailing Greek philosophy taught that bodies were evil and spirit was the ultimate existence. With this belief, bodily resurrection seemed like a punishment, rather than freedom.
Confusion about the resurrection and about Heaven are nothing new.
There have been times when those in power misused theology about the resurrection and Heaven. Preachers at times described Heaven as a pie-in-the-sky compensation for starving masses while they themselves sat with the powerful at supper, gorging on pie in the here and now. Some pastors partnered with the powerful, holding Heaven like a carrot in front of the mules, while cruel masters wielded a whip behind.
This kind of pie-in-the-sky teaching relied on the same un-Christian philosophies about spirit and body that Paul worked to debunk. It told the oppressed that the suffering of their bodies was acceptable, even desirable so that their souls could be saved. This twists Paul’s words in order to theologically defend keeping people in bondage and ignoring cries for justice.
Christ enters our sufferings with us. But our suffering is not salvific and our hope is not just for after this life.
It is by Christ’s stripes we are healed, not our own. It is by Christ’s lynching, being hung on a tree, that we are saved, not our own. Christ hung on the cross is “strange fruit” from which comes the seed of the gospel.
Paul teaches us that the resurrection steals the sting of earthly death and suffering. Amen. All will ultimately be set right. Amen. Righteousness will flow like a mighty stream. Amen. The trees in the kingdom of God will bear fruit that heals the nation, redeeming the “strange fruit” of oppression and hate.
But the existence of ultimate justice does not allow us to ignore calls for justice now. In every community he visited and worked in, Paul encouraged the church to work for the good of their community and to spread the gospel. Nowhere did he counsel them to sit idly to wait on the heavenly city.
The power that raised Christ from the grave is available to us through the Holy Spirit. Seeking his guidance, may we act as representatives of God’s justice, and distribute the crop of healing for the nations.
*Strange Fruit – the story behind “The Song of the Century”, by The Salt Project and WFYI
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For who is God, but the Lord? Who is the Rock, except our God: — Psalm 18.32
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
2 Samuel 4-5 (Listen – 6:10)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen – 8:06)
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If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves.