Least of the Apostles 1 Corinthians 15

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who understand they might have to endure suffering for their witness of Christ said … AMEN!

Kind of wondered what the response would be. Today’s lectionary readings, should be rather sobering about what a real Christian is about.

This is Paul really going for it with the Corinthians. They are a huge pain. But should sound familiar! We all have our issues, our problems. The Corinthians, they sure haven’t taken Jesus’ words seriously. Remember the phrase, describes the boys of the Corinthian church; “hail fellow well met.” The Cambridge English Dictionary defines that phrase as: “If a man or his actions, they are very friendly and enthusiastic, sometimes in a way that is not sincere: greeted with the usual hail-fellow-well-met slap on the back and handshake.” I’m not trying to be a smart guy. These guys are found everywhere, it’s all about them, everyone just get along, everyone is just great, a mile wide and an inch thick. Little of substance, go along to get along. Totally clueless about Jesus’ words, and they would tell Paul to lighten up, let’s just have a good time. As Paul relates he is not a “lighten up” kinda guy, and as Jesus says in His words, despite the cultural perception, He is not a “lighten up” kind of guy either. You might want to put His words on a little Post-It in your brain: “Woe to you when people speak well of you”. Unless it’s being a truly Christian man, like Paul, applause you get from the world, is not conducive to good Christian character. If we’re being hyped by a corrupt and evil world, there might be something wrong in our Christian walk. There’s lots of serious stuff going on around us, as Christians, we need to recognize and address that.

Paul/Saul, had serious issues and he knew it. He headed up persecution of Christians on a large scale. He obviously knew from whence he spoke. God gave Paul more personal attention, Ron Dunn writes: “Paul …when he was caught up into the third heaven, …it is probable that this took place on his first missionary journey and perhaps when he was stoned at Lystra …maybe that’s when the Lord caught him up into the third heaven and gave him a glimpse of that…”[1]  Paul knew from what he was shown, from what Jesus said in Luke. Paul’s was the beginning of Christian persecution. It was small change compared to what Christians were subjected to, and still subject to today. Christian persecution is getting worse. I’m writing a paper on what is called the “Velvet Revolution”, anyone remember? It happened in pretty much all of our lifetimes? … Christians suffering severe persecution in countries that had historically been very strong Christian countries.

You don’t have to go far, in Christian circles to hear about the current state of being a Christian in the United States. We in the northeastern United States are very insulated from a lot of abuse going on in this world, even in the United States, but you shouldn’t get comfortable in that. Today’s lectionary readings are about not getting too comfortable in the world. For Christians who live in most of the rest of the world, they are acutely aware it is not a world of nice, fuzzy Christianity.

Sunny Lockwood writes: “Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” overturned the communist government in late 1989 … How could such a dramatic, yet bloodless revolution succeed after so many years of oppression?”[2] I want to give you sobering thoughts in terms of the reality of Christianity in the world today, what Christians endure, have endured, that in the United States is probably going to get worse instead of better. We do have a precedent that doesn’t seem to be taken seriously and yet shows that Christians can push back against the secular, even in very trying times, and glorify Christ in their actions. In Poland it was Roman Catholics. Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Cardinal elected Pope. There was an assassination attempt on President Reagan. An attempt traced to Bulgarian Intelligence on John Paul’s life. The rotting structure of communism trying to rule by force, and use force against those against the communist regime. At the same time the Chinese were using force to subdue protestors in Tiananmen square. Communism is a faith system. There is no “god” in communism, but George Weigel writes: “The revolutionary faith of Marxism-Leninism had all the elements of a traditional religion… often explicated in stultifying prose, communism had a doctrine and particularly a soteriology (a theory of salvation …through revolution) an ecclesiology (a theory of the Church—in this case, the party). Within the party, it had a discipline and a theory of apostolic succession. It had sacred texts (the Manifesto, Das Kapital, What Is to Be Done?). It had a ritual, … “[3]  “Weigel argues … people don’t put their lives, and their children’s futures, in harm’s way simply for better cars, refrigerators, and TVs. Something else–something more–had to happen behind the iron curtain before the Wall came tumbling down Weigel argues that “something” was a revolution of conscience. The human turn to the good, to the truly human, and, ultimately, to God, was the key to the political Revolution of 1989… how the Catholic Church shaped the moral revolution inside the political revolution.”  Communism is a faith system, scientism in today’s world, that science holds all the answers to the world, any “faith” system that is not about Christ is used by man to be abused. Science is a great thing, there are many great Christian scientists. But in today’s world, too many put their faith there. Or in politicians or political movements.

As Paul writes: Christ died for our sins. He was raised, He appeared to Cephas, then the twelve disciples, to five hundred brothers, most of whom were still alive at that time, then to James, all the apostles then to Paul. Galileo can’t die for our sins, Marx, Mao, Sartre, Descartes, none of them. Only Christ. For those who deny Jesus existed, that just doesn’t cut it. Paul is writing to people who knew what he was saying was true. There were plenty of people at the time Paul was writing this who could have called Paul out. No one ever has.

The world for Christians has always been difficult. We Americans have had a cozy cocoon for 400 years, that reality is catching up to us. When we look to examples like the “Velvet Revolution”, where surely, there was divine leading of Christians in those countries, our hope is, should always be in Christ. People may hate Christians, speak ill of them. There should be no doubt to them, to you that we speak for Christ, for His promises. We speak for His acts on the Cross, the sacrifice He made for our sins to be paid. To have the promise that Paul reminds us of “the resurrection of the dead, that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”. We have the promise of our eternal bodily resurrection in Jesus’s resurrection. We also know we are called to confront evil. Not to worry about who speaks well of us, but that we are blessed when people hate us in our witness of Jesus. We saw that 30 years ago, when Christians led “revolution”, overthrew the most evil system ever on this earth. In China where the church remains it continues to grow. It is estimated by 2030, the Chinese church will be the largest Christian church of any country in the world. Even in the face of the cruel repression that is occurring, Christ’s Church continues to grow. Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran minister in Romania, imprisoned for almost 20 years for his Christian witness wrote: “I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their torturers. I tremble for Western Christians who don’t help their persecuted brethren.” Sobering words to us in the United States and motivate us to step up our witness to Christ and His Church.”[4] We can peacefully stand for Jesus to make a difference in our lives here and for those in Christ in the eternal resurrection. We can follow the example of Christians in eastern Europe and make a strong, non-violent witness for Christ. Let’s show the world what serious Christianity is in our life and witness to Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] http://rondunn.com/pauls-visit-to-heaven/

[2] Sunny Lockwood “Living the Velvet Revolution”

[3] George Weigle “The final Revolution The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism p forward

[4] Richard Wurmbrand “Tortured for Christ”

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