As part of my way of tentatively feeling my way back into Methodism (I think I will remain paddling in the shallow end for now. Or maybe a long time), I was asked- with many others- to write a short piece for a reading guide from Easter to Pentecost.
There were restrictions (less than 250 words, prescribed format and a set passage) and it was not something that I was totally happy with, but here is the final version (someone very good edited it). The editor gave it the above title and I was given 1 Corinthians 15:50-58: not a passage I have ever preached on.
I like visiting the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) but often I have to ask the attendants to begin to ‘open up’ a particular artwork for me. However, I’ve never left without being moved and feeling somehow different; even if I never fully ‘understood’ what I was seeing.
It is how I felt as I read this passage: Given enough work it is possible to ‘understand’ it, yet somehow miss the joy of it.
Paul struggles to grasp what he has seen and experienced: Jesus has risen, his own life has changed and Christianity is expanding into new cultures; meeting new challenges, opportunities and difficulties (Often one of the biggest difficulties they faced was how to be church together). He tries to grapple with what ‘resurrection’ looks like for people many years after the event and so reverts to poetry:
‘Where O death is your victory?
Where O death is your sting’
I find this very moving: it doesn’t ‘answer’ suffering, pain or death (if anything ever can) but yet speaks to a community of people whose life experience was far worse than ours ever could be in the 21st Century developed West.
Having given us that, I like how he earths it again in real life. If Jesus has risen, then somehow we are held by him whatever happens. That means we are free to live openly and without fear.
PRAYER/THOUGHT: This creed- attributed to David Jenkins always helps me to hold on to the kind of Hope that Paul talks about:. ‘God is; God is as he is in Jesus; therefore, we have hope.”
Rev. Graham Peacock
Mental Health chaplain (Tees, Esk & Wear valleys NHS Trust)