I think we used a longer form of 1 Corinthians for a priest’s funeral once, 9:16-19, 22-27, and that seems fitting, using Saint Paul’s reference to his own apostolic credentials and how he conducted his ministry in Corinth.
For an ordinary lay person, consider this brief excerpt:
Do you not know
that the runners in the stadium
all run in the race,
but only one wins the prize?
Run so as to win.
Every athlete exercises discipline
in every way.
They do it to win a perishable crown,
but we an imperishable one.
The imperishable crown of eternal life and union with God: this is our hope. This brief reading might suggest a long life’s struggle. The Corinthians indeed had a struggle to live faith in Christ in a cosmopolitan setting that was decidedly unfavorable to self-sacrificing faith in a sacrificing God. The two letters to the Christians at Corinth–that’s almost twice as much material dedicated to them compared to any other named community of the New Testament. Maybe they needed it.
At the time of death, we too need attention. We want to be reassured that effort, endurance, and sacrifice is not in vain. The effort of the deceased loved one. Perhaps our own faith, too.
Even today, the athletic imagery resonates. We might live in a self-indulgent culture. But in sports, even amateurs push the limits of endurance for the satisfaction of competing, accomplishing, and yes, winning.
In the life of faith, there is still something to be won in the effort: the believer’s “yes” to God’s grace. And the prize is not a medal or a championship, but an entire eternity’s existence in glory.