12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Reflection: If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.
I’ve often wondered why the cross became the dominant symbol of Christianity and not the empty tomb. Now don’t get me wrong, the cross is very powerful and relevant to our faith. If not for the work that Jesus did on the cross, then there would not be an empty tomb. And the symbol of the cross in Protestant Christianity is empty, partly to remind us that death could not “hold” Jesus. The cross is also an easily accessible symbol, requiring only two simple straight lines to communicate a profound message.
But when we come to the very basis of our faith, it is the resurrection that is most important. I remember when I was a teenager and my parents were surprised that a certain sporting event was taking place on Easter Sunday, because (as they said) it was the holiest day of the year. Not yet understanding the theological significance, I told them that Christmas was the most important day of the year, because that is when we got the most presents! The incarnation, the cross, every other event in the life of Jesus Christ pointed forward to the resurrection – that moment when death had finally been defeated and we were freed from its dominion over us.
I am always amazed when I attend a Christian funeral and do not hear resurrection mentioned. It happens more often than I would imagine! I think we struggle with the unknowns of resurrection and the seriousness of death that it presents. It is difficult to live in the time in-between Jesus’s resurrection and the second resurrection to come. We often fill the void with beliefs that are not necessarily biblical, but bring a superficial comfort.
I wonder how much time you have spent sitting with the reality of resurrection and what it means for you and those you love. Resurrection was not just for Jesus – it is for all of us. We are a resurrection people. It is not a belief to gloss over or avoid. Take some time this week and ponder the truth of resurrection and the implications of this reality. It is at the very root of who we are as God’s people.
Journaling Focus: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
In the Apostles’ Creed, resurrection is mentioned directly or indirectly three times (the resurrection of Jesus, the judgment of the quick and the dead, and the resurrection of the body). Our faith stands upon the proclamation and reality of the resurrection. Take some time this week to look over the Apostles’ Creed and reflect on what significance each statement has for your faith and life. The creed is included below to guide your written reflections. Why is each line important? How are you shaped by each truth?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, Because He Lives. Notice that our experience of life is grounded in the continuing life of Jesus Christ. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The truth is that we do have a hope beyond this life. In fact, the hope beyond this life should enhance our experience of this life. Resurrection power can be experienced in the here and now as we wait for its fullness to come. Pray that God will bring joy and hope back to life within you if you have felt them waning. Trust God to touch your present with a foretaste of the future. Ask God to give you glimpses of the victory of God over the death and decay we see around us. Experience resurrection power in your prayer life and be marked by everlasting life even now!
Meditation Focus: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
The picture above is of the Garden of the Tomb, the supposed site of Jesus’s tomb. It was there that Mary encountered the risen Christ and became the first witness to the resurrection. Assuming that this is the actual site, go to that place in your mind. Notice that the tomb is open. You go inside and see that Jesus, whom you saw die on Friday, is not longer there. You turn and there he is, smiling and calling your name, shining in the glory of God. What do you feel as you encounter the risen Christ? What words does he have for you? Ask him to reveal his resurrection power to you. How does he do this? Simply rest in the presence of the risen Christ until he calls you to go forward in faith.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways have you witnessed death and decay?
- In what ways have you witnessed new life?
- Where have you seen signs of the resurrected Christ at work in the world around you?
- How does Christ live on in you?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Remember those you have loved who have died. Take some pictures out and relive memories that you shared together. Thank God for your loved ones, living and dead. And then remember that you will be reunited with them in the resurrection. Imagine what a glorious experience that will be.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, live in us.