Sermon Ideas For 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Part 3
Sound travels differently in different mediums: a physical principle proven by a game I used to play with my friends in grade school. The game was called Whisper Down the Valley, and it went something like this: we would all line up shoulder to shoulder. The first person in line would think of a sentence and tell it to the second person in line. The second would tell it to the third, and so on. When the sentence reached the end of the line, the last person would say the message out loud. It was a garbled batch of nonsense. Somewhere along the line, the message had become distorted and strange to our ears. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he writes to clean up what has become an inaccurate and scrambled message of the resurrection.
This text is about the sound of the good news: how it travels differently in different mediums of our lives. The "Whisper Down the gospel message and how we relay the gospel message. It's about how the good news sounds different at different times of our lives, traveling through different mediums of emotions and experience.
Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize novel, The Shipping News, is a good story about needing to hear and experience the good news repeatedly before it sinks in and takes hold. Just as Paul considers himself the "least of the apostles," protagonist Quoyle regards himself the least of all fathers, husbands, friends, and bread-winners. His move to a small village on the coast of Newfoundland begins his slow-paced resurrection. The acceptance and welcome of the villagers are the mediums through which he drinks in the new life of the gospel. It takes a long time for the grace of the gospel to penetrate his guilt. At the close of the story, Proulx writes: "Quoyle experienced moments in all colors, uttered brilliancies, paid attention to the rich sound of waves counting stones, he laughed and wept, noticed sunsets, heard music in rain, said I do...what else might be possible? ...it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery."1
While Quoyle learns the good news through the medium of guilt and regret, many hear the gospel through the medium of grief. "Dead, buried, raised" pierce the air with clarity and speed when we are cosumed by grief. Thomas John Carlisle's poem Voyager portrays the resurrection message as a guiding light through grief:
The foghorn focuses the rock and waves the sailor past the treacherous reef. What signal guides my tortured course to bring me safe to joy past all my pain ingratitude and grief to harbors bright with grace and the long longed-for Face?2
Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of C. S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands demonstrates how Christ's experience of "dead, buried, raised" gives meaning to our own grievous journey through death to resurrection. Without diluting the pain caused by his wife's death, Lewis emerges from that darkness capable of new depths of human relationship and compassion. Hearing the good news through the medium of grief triggers new insights into the character of God.
Poet Wendell Berry articulates "dead, buried, raised" in a different way:
What hard travail God does in death! He strives in sleep, in our despair, And all flesh shudders underneath The nightmare of his sepulchre; The earth shakes, grinding its deep stone; All night the cold wind heaves and pries; Creation strains sinew and bone Against the dark door where He lies. The stem bent, pent in seed, grows straight And stands. Pain breaks in song. Surprising The merely dead, graves fill with light Like opened eyes. He rests in rising.3
Although we hear the gospel one way in times of guilt, and we hear the gospel another way in times of grief, 1 Corinthians challenges us to hear and relay the gospel in every context of our lives. The difficulty is letting the words of the gospel resound in our everyday routine. "The Christian life is a life embedded in dailiness, not one in which the uncertainties of the future overshadow the tasks of the present...What keeps the Christian going, cheek to jowl with the stuff of everyday existence, is the knowledge of God written on his or her heart."4
I am told that, despite science's best technology, only the human ear is capable of distinguishing between the sound of a Stradivarius violin and a common violin. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul encourages the reader to perceive the message of the resurrection in all mediums of human emotion and experience.
Judy E. Pidcock Columbus, OH
1. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News (Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 336. 2. Thomas John Carlisle, "Voyager" in Invisible Harvest (Eerdmans, 1987). Original published in Invisible Harvest, by Thomas John Carlisle, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987. 3. Wendell Berry, "I" in Sabbath s (North Point Press, 1987), p. 27. 4. I have lost