Ps. 1; Jer. 17:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:1-20; Luke 6:17-26
Raised, I want you to know the gospel … delivered to you as of first importance … that Christ died for taking away our sins … was buried, and that he has been raised … (vv. 1, 3b, 4).
Why do you suppose St. Paul insisted on belief in the coming resurrection of our physical bodies? A faction of the Corinth congregation had conflated aspects of Grecian philosophy with Christian belief resulting in compromise of the gospel; a gospel corrupted is no gospel.
The erring faction held that in Baptism resurrection benefits were fully delivered here and now so that in accord with Greek thought on death there would be a putting off of the body and so no bodily resurrection. Bliss on earth was here and now; upon death only the soul would “spiritually resurrect”.
You can see how bowdlerizing the gospel corrupted a theology of the cross for a paganized theology of glory, that today infects “broader Christendom”; against which stands preaching the pure gospel of both cross and resurrection.
Jesus addresses the Corinthian error in his Sermon on the Plain. Blessings come first at the cross, their dénouement in the bodily resurrection that follows; “Blessed are you poor … Blessed are you that hunger now … Blessed are you that weep now … Blessed are you when men hate you …” (Lk. 6:20-22). The church’s baptismal blessings consist in what happened to Christ crucified.
By denying a bodily resurrection the Corinthian error equated earthly delights with our baptismal inheritance, engaging what Jesus warned, “But woe to you that are rich … Woe to you that are full now … Woe to you that laugh now … Woe to you, when all men speak well of you …” (vv. 24-26).
It is popular to think of the Christian faith as a philosophy, more or less along the lines of, doing to others as you would have them do to you (cf. Lk. 6:31); but that is not the substance of the Christian faith.
If that were all there was to Christian faith and life, it would hardly be different from Greek Stoicism, so, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). Again, to put-on a fine point, the gospel culminates in the resurrection of our bodies; what happened to Jesus on earth, the cross, happens to his church; and in heaven we join in his exaltation; as he is man, so too we as his brothers and sisters.
The Christian faith is not an abstraction on which we reflect, study at leisure, or at weekly mass and bible study. Christian faith is a way of life that plays out daily amid the world’s sin, its demands, and against our own fleshly desires, all of which end at death.
We might call entry into the events and happenings of this world, “life’s liturgy” orienting how Christians conduct themselves on leaving the word and Sacrament of this Sanctuary to confront a hardscrabble world, as bearers of the cross in blessing and hope of the resurrection.
Jesus removes us from the comfort of abstraction and philosophical thought, commanding the seeming impossible, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you …” (Lk. 6:27). Love requires that we sally-forth outside the walls of this Sanctuary into the worst the world offers, not the least, “a man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Mt. 10:36).
How is love possible in traversing “life’s liturgy”? Of ourselves it is not. We are born in sin, schooled in self-protection and promotion; and when expedient we opt for real or figurative fratricide. Our “father the devil … was a murderer from the beginning … he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn. 8:44); any contrary pretense is false; we lie most believably to ourselves.
Jeremiah describes God as meeting-out curse and blessing: the man relying on his own strength is a withered shrub in a salt desert; but the man who trusts in the Lord’s [word] has a source Stream for his feeding and strength, becoming a leafy fruit bearing tree, even in times of drought (Jer. 17:5-8).
In the church’s Liturgy of word and Sacrament, Jesus, our source of water and blessing extends himself for our walk-through life’s liturgy. On the last day of Tabernacle’s, the temple water ceremony in the background from the Altar, Jesus cried, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me. And let him drink, whoever believes in me … ‘Out of [my own] heart will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37, 38). This Jesus spoke of the HS to be given from his rent heart on the cross in water and blood (19:30, 34; 1 Jn. 5:8).
Today, on a mountain-top Jesus completed his apostolic calls to embody his NT church. Descending to a “level place”, he taught the Twelve and the disciples as crowds sought healings that issued from his body. Uniquely, Jesus imparted to his disciples four radical blessings punctuated by woes for those rejecting his, poverty, hunger, tears, and persecution.
Grounded in these for a new status before God, the disciples were being impowered for walking-through life’s liturgy, otherwise impossible for men; how so then: by love’s imperative, by blessing and praying for those in “woe” (Lk. 6:28).
Jesus’ blessings consist in the power of men and women in Christ devoting themselves to one another on account of sin in their new identity as begotten children of God at his word with water. Jesus both blesses and teaches, bestowing promises now and in the future. God’s word effects what Jesus speaks.
Coming out of heaven, Jesus impoverished himself in our sin-dominated world, destined for rejection and an ignominious death. Today he gifts his disciples with the same blessings the Father granted him; poverty of earthly concerns but trusting in God for all things that defines his kingdom which on the Last Day will to be turned over to God (Lk. 15:28).
Jesus hungered for God’s righteousness by which men would be blessed for forgiveness of sin. With his final words, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28) and “it is finished” (v. 30) Jesus with the Father became the source of heaven’s feeding (Nicene Creed, Art. III).
Jesus blessed his church with hunger and thirst for putting-off the world’s satiation; rather to a new feeding that exchanges the desires of our flesh for His. Once tasted the blessing of hunger for new food makes us steadfast for its abundance, more and more word and Sacrament unto the day of bodily resurrection at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
Jesus imparts the blessing of repentant tears, preparing us lovers of self for the pure gospel of his selfless crucified flesh. For love’s sake Jesus would have us join his body in Eucharistic prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).
Through “life’s liturgy” the world rejects Jesus’ radical blessings; desiring “a more sumptuous bill o’ fare”. St. Paul describes the world’s contempt of our wait for God’s promised resurrection.
Ironically hatred of an uncorrupted Christian faith is the church’s final blessing; which is our assurance that in standing fast we are possessors of all God’s promises.
In Christ we discern the nature of our blessings; poverty separates us from worldly blandishments and its food; our tears decry sin; and persecution punctuates our watering in Christ thirsting for love of God and man. First the cross, then and forever the bodily resurrection. Amen.