The funeral Lectionary includes two passages from Saint Paul’s fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. In this chapter, the apostle addresses the Christian belief in the Resurrection in three stages. First, he teaches on Christ (15:1-11). Next, he addresses the skepticism seemingly rampant in the community at Corinth (15:12-34). And finally, he gives a theological treatise on the Resurrection as a truth of the faith, but a mystery we do not fully comprehend (15:35-58).
The funeral Lectionary includes one selection from each of these last two subsections. And we’ll look at the core of the Paul’s effort to persuade the doubters here:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a human being,
the resurrection of the dead
came also through a human being.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies
under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
for “he subjected everything under his feet.”
But when it says that everything has been subjected,
it is clear that it excludes
the one who subjected everything to him.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.
Why might people choose this reading? It’s clearly Christ-centered. Death is a mystery, to be sure. But Christ has transcended death and defeated it. If we accept Jesus Christ as Lord, then we accept that we will be drawn under his power and we will rise at Christ’s final triumph over death. Adam sinned, then died. And we possess this heritage as mortal living things.
As believers, we are also subject to God. And if we stand with God, then with the Son, we will enjoy a final victory over death.
Does the Pauline argument convince you? Is it too much? A shorter passage is an option, but I think I’d prefer the fuller picture here. I think it’s good to claim death as an enemy, and to look forward to its final destruction. It’s something of a pep talk. And sometimes at funerals, that’s okay. I’d rather be cheering based on the grace of Christ and what he accomplishes in us, rather than hearing a rah-rah eulogy and base my hope solely on the goodness of the deceased.
What do you think? Good reading? Use the full or the short version?