Thursday, 9 July 2009

Study day on the Resurrection

Resurrection study day: 1 Corinthians 15 for the Christian Arts Society


1. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION

(1 Corinthians 15:3-11)


Michael Ramsay: What is the gospel? the story of Jesus
  • Death of Jesus (in accordance with the scripture)
  • Buried
  • Raised on third day (in accordance with the scripture)
  • He appeared: multiple appearances ('most of whom are still alive')

Wolfhart Pannenberg: “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: first, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”

2. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESURRECTION (1 Corinthians 15:12-34)
The resurrection is not just an add on, a confirmation of the cross. It is essential.
Some were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead (vv12-34). If that is true:Christ has not been raised

1. Our preaching is in vain - we misrepresent God
2. Your faith is in vain - the God you trust in is powerless
3. There is no forgiveness
4. Death is the end: 'Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die" (v32)
5. We are to be pitied above all (cf vv30-32): why deny ourselves in this world, if this world is all that there is?

But Christ has been raised

1. The firstfruits of all who will be raised
(1 Corinthians 15:20)
Elsewhere, Christ is the first fruits of the new creation: raised on the first day of the week (John 20:1,19)

“This is the Octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third day of his passion, this day is the eighth after the sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.” St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (430)

• makes sense of Jesus' ministry. Note how Peter, James and John are not to tell of the event of the transfiguration (and the raising of Jairus' daughter?) until 'the Son of Man had risen from the dead'. (Mark 9:9)
• has an impact on the whole of creation: Romans 8:18-22

Vision of future Kingdom: solid - we are not talking about some out-of-body experience. Christian hope is not the hope of a disembodied heaven, but of a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; echoed in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1)

Isaiah 2:1-5 People streaming to Zion (presence of God): word and law coming out of Zion. His justice - no need for war.
Isaiah 4:2-6 Glorious and fruitful land; place of belonging; place of purity; presence of God and protection
Isaiah 9:6-7 Prophecy of Messiah: no end to his reign of peace, justice, righteousness
Isaiah 11:1-9 The Messianic ruler: justice: vision (vv6-9) of wolf and lamb, lion and calf, cow and bear, child and snake; child leading. Knowledge of Lord as waters cover the sea
Isaiah 35 Desert bursting into life; Healing for blind, deaf, lame, mute; Water in wilderness; Highway over rough road bringing exiles to Zion.
Isaiah 60 Light over the people of God; Kings coming to the brightness of dawn; Children returning; The ones who destroyed you will rebuild you
Isaiah 65:17-25 Presence of God; no weeping or distress; people live out fullness of days; direct enjoyment of work of hands; echoes of wolf and lamb, lion eating straw

2. He has authority over all things, including death
(1 Corinthians 15:25)



3. WHAT WILL THE RESURRECTION BE LIKE?

(1 Corinthians 15:35-57)
Mystery: not an end to space and time, but an end to space and time as we know it. In imagination, but beyond imagination (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Illustration of seed and full grown plant/ acorn and oak tree.
Sown perishable, raised imperishable
Sown in dishonour, raised in honour
Sown in weakness, raised in power
Sown a natural body (of dust), raised a spiritual body (of heaven)


Can we imagine it in art (images, music, literature)?

Most Christian images of the resurrection depicts the events of the resurrection:
(eg. Carravagio; Stations of the Cross in Lodwar Cathedral, Kenya; walking out of the tomb)

Not much art depicts the new heaven and earth
Notable exceptions: Spencer, Resurrection in Cookham churchyard

The retreat to the abstract ..

Christian tradition of iconography: images of ultimate reality.
Icon of resurrection
Icons of saints: long noses, hazel eyes, large ears, small mouths

I'm not sure that it was an accident that the art of 'socialist realism' developed in the Soviet Union, in a society in which there had been both a tradition of icons and a suppression of those icons. We need to give people images of hope.


From CS Lewis: The Last Battle

"And yet they're not like," said Lucy. "They're different. They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they're more... more... oh, I don't know..."
"More like the real thing," said the Lord Digory softly.
--When the company realizes that Aslan's country is the real Narnia, and the old Narnia was just a shadow of what was to come

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different -- deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
"I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"


4. LIVING IN THE LIGHT OF THE RESURRECTION

The gospel in which you stand and by which you are being saved (1 Corinthians 15:1 cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58)

• It encourages us to godly living (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
• It gives us hope:

o death has lost its sting (v55). It is not the end
o we will be changed (v51,52)
o we will put on imperishability and immortality (v54)

• It motivates us in our work - it is not in vain (v58) cf.Guite's and their babies
• It envisions us for our work - not pie in the sky, but vision of future world


Questions:

1. Do you think that faith in the bodily resurrection is central to the Christian faith?
2. What do you think someone means when they say that they find it hard 'to believe' in the resurrection of Jesus?
3. Has your understanding of the resurrection been 'this worldly' or 'other worldly'?
4. What pieces of resurrection art (including literature and music) have most touched/encouraged/envisioned you?
5. Can we/should we begin to imagine the resurrection in art? How?

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