Foolish Questions

Monday, October 21, 2013 — Week of Proper 24, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 25 (morning) // 9, 15 (evening)

Jeremiah 44:1-14

1 Corinthians 15:30-41

Matthew 11:16-24

In the past week, I’ve driven through both rural Arkansas and rural Illinois. Somewhere along the way, I saw a billboard with this question: “If you die tonight, will you go to Heaven or Hell?” Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has a great response to questions like this that severely limit the scope of the Christian faith. He simply says to the questioner, “Fool!”

In Paul’s case, the faith-diminishing questions that he anticipates have to do with the resurrection of the dead. He expects someone to ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” It seems that for Paul, people who ask these questions have missed the point of the Christian faith. Paul calls the questioner a fool and then refuses to answer the question directly.

Instead of speculating on the “how” and “what” of the resurrected body, Paul explains that our role as people of faith is simply to sow the bare seed of our lives . . . by dying. Then, “God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.” The nature of our resurrected body is in God’s hands. As we can see from the world around us, God can fashion an extraordinary array of bodies: human flesh, animals, birds, fish, the glory of the sun, the glory of the moon, and the glory of every single star.

The faith proclaimed by Paul is not answerable to narrow and simplistic questions. Rather, his teachings in this passage try to point us beyond the limited sphere of worrying about our own mortality. For him, there is more to life than eating, drinking, and dying the next day. We bring much more to our daily struggles than restrictive human hopes for survival, for selfish gain, or for worldly glory.

Paul himself poses the question, “If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it?” Nothing, if his faith did not teach him that the outcome of his battles counted for more than his living to fight another day.

Here is another question to ponder throughout our own days: “What are the eternal consequences of my life?” Instead of preoccupying ourselves about where we will spend eternity, or about the mechanics of the resurrection, perhaps we can look instead to the implications that our daily choices and struggles have for all life.

Then tonight, when we look at the glorious bodies that God has given to each star, we can lift our hopes and direct our lives beyond what passes for human life and the Christian faith in the confines of our world.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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