The early Church at Corinth was much loved by Saint Paul. That much is obvious. If it weren’t true, he wouldn’t have spent so much anguish on the people there.
One of the Corinthian problems seems to have been resurrection of the body. Christians today don’t give it a second thought; it’s in the easy part of the Creed, after all. Nineteen-and-a-half centuries ago, we believers were still wondering about a lot of stuff. Was Jesus coming back soon? What was going to happen to all the Christians who were dying? Why can’t we get some answers? What does Paul know, anyway?
The people who framed the Pastoral Care Lectionary thought the apostle’s stern defense was an important inclusion. If you were dying, maybe you would find this heartening:
But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say
there is no resurrection of the dead?
If there is no resurrection of the dead,
then neither has Christ been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised,
then empty too is our preaching;
empty, too, your faith.
Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ,
whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised,
neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
If you are at my deathbed, I think I’d prefer something lyrical. Quote me a psalm or something. That said, some people do like their facts. Thing is, we remain unsure about the details of the afterlife. We have promises. Sometimes we have faith. Do we trust that the Lord takes care of us when we die? That, to me, seems the stuff of friendship and faith. Not theological or biblical analysis.
Later in this chapter, Paul quotes the prophet Hosea. They seem to taunt death:
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting? (15:55)
So, when I go out, don’t give me theobabble. Give me a poem. Give me some trash talk to drop on my mortality. What about you?
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.