1 Corinthians 15:12-20
The Rev. Melanie McCarley
On a Christian talk-radio station the host was speaking to a woman named Cindy. Now, Cindy was a person with problems. In fact, Cindy had a lot of problems. This woman, she had problems at work, trouble in her marriage, and was at odds with her teen-aged children. She suffered from occasional bouts of depression. Cindy had problems.
As she unfolded her litany of troubles, suddenly, the talk show host interrupted her. “Cindy,” he said, “I want to ask you something. Are you a believer? You know, you’re never going to solve any of these problems unless you’re a believer. Are you a believer?
“I don’t know,” said Cindy hesitantly.
“Now, Cindy,” said the host, “either you are a believer or you aren’t. If you’re a believer, you know it in your heart. Now, Cindy, tell me, are you a believer?”
“I’d like to be,” Cindy replied. “I guess I’m just more agnostic at this point in my life.”
The host reacted quickly to this bit of information. “Now, Cindy, there’s a book I’ve written that I want to send to you. In this book I prove that Jesus was who he said he was and that he was raised from the dead. Now, if I send you this book and you read it, will you become a believer?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of trouble from preachers.”
By this point, Cindy was becoming frustrated. “I don’t think you’re listening to me,” she said. “I’m having trouble trusting at this point in my life.”
“Cindy, he said, “we’re not talking about trust. We’re talking about truth. I have unassailable proof that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now, if I send it to you, will you become a believer?”
“I guess so,” Cindy said. “Yeah, I guess so. I’ll become a believer.”
Now, I know this may sound strange to hear---particularly from a person in the pulpit, but I’m sorry that Cindy threw in the towel so quickly. Don’t misunderstand. You see, I too, would like for this woman to trust the Lord. I’d also like for her to find help for her troubles in the Christian faith and life, because I believe she can. But I also know this. As to the resurrection—there is no logical, scientific proof out there. There is none to be had. There’s no recording of what happened in the tomb, no seismograph of the Easter earthquake. All we have are the stories of the resurrection, passed down to us by people of faith. We have their testimonies, and the truth that speaks to us of our own experience and faith. That’s it. Now, ask yourself this question, is that enough? (The Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Long “So, What about the Resurrection?” 2/15/04.)
The novelist Frederick Buechner once wrote about what would happen if God decided to give us proof of the existence of the Almighty. For example, rearranging the stars in the heavens to spell out: “I REALLY EXIST.” Sounds good. But what Buechner goes on to say is this: “what we really want in our deepest need is not proof that there is a God somewhere who exists—because, really…what difference would that make in our daily lives? Nor do we even need scientific evidence that a resurrection happened some time ago in history. What we need, is a God who is right here, knee-deep in the mud and mire of human existence. A God who cares. And that—well, that version of God isn’t found in scientific proofs, it is found instead in the one who comes to us in a relationship of trust that we call faith. Proof of the resurrection, proof of God—that’s found when you invest in a relationship with the divine. It’s not found in mathematical theorems, scientific hypothesis or books hawked by Christian talk radio-hosts. You want to believe? Begin by investing in your belief. If you want to know if God and Christ really exist. Well…spend a year or two praying. Talk to God and walk with Jesus every day, not just on Sundays. Read your Bible. Listen. Worship and practice the art of loving God, and my guess is that you will come to choose to believe because you will have invested in your faith on more than just an intellectual level. You don’t get there by taking the easy route. Like any relationship of worth you’ve got to invest. You have to want to have a relationship with God if you’re going to get anything out of your belief.
And this, in essence, is what St. Paul is saying in the lesson we heard this morning from his First Letter to the Corinthians. Paul rightly places the crux of our faith in the hope of the resurrection. For Paul, Jesus wasn’t merely a teacher, nor a healer. He wasn’t simply an example of moral perfection for us to emulate or a raconteur, who told parables that could stand the test of time. Jesus was the Savior of the World, and if that is true, then what Jesus said about himself as the Son of God, what he said about the forgiveness of sins and the hope and promises of eternal life with God—what he said about why he had come, and what he accomplished in the resurrection—mattered most of all. That’s why Paul says: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
In other words, someone else’s proof of God’s existence isn’t enough. It will never will be enough. The best proof of the existence of God and the resurrection—it’s your relationship to Jesus. Do you see, what Paul is doing in his letter to the Corinthians? He moves them from the past to the present tense. He is telling them, in effect, to look to their own experience. He tells them to trust in the hope of Christ by engaging and living their faith.
Today, at our 10:00 a.m. service we will baptize Malie Marie. Her life-long journey of faith begins this morning. This is my hope for this child—that Malie will come to know and trust the Lord—that she will do that by learning the joy of believing. How does this happen? Like anything of worth in life, it takes practice, patience and time. If Malie is to develop a life of faith that will be meaningful to her, more than likely it will be because the people who love her most see the worship of God as important, it will be because someone will care enough to teach her the stories of the Bible and the message of the Gospel. Her life of faith will grow as she is taught to pray, to question, to ask forgiveness and to take bold steps in the service of others based on her faith in the Gospel. If she is to have a life of faith and trust, the odds are good that this will arise out of her connections with a worshipping community, that of her family and a church. Faith is not learned in a vacuum—it is the direct result of relationships…relationships with family, friends, mentors and God. The connections we forge with other believers, with a community of faith, and most importantly, the investment we make in establishing a relationship with God are what nurtures faith. And, in the end, those are the relationships that matter most in whether Malie, you or I believe.
Taking a page from St. Paul, we are encouraged to live boldly, to love extravagantly, and to believe wholeheartedly in the promises of our Savior. We are not taught to believe in a God who is remote and unknowable, but one who understands our struggles, stands with us in our pain, rejoices in our victories and promises us the hope of heaven. And the proof of any of this…Well, it’s not found in a book, but is, instead, written in our hearts. It is the gift of faith which comes from a life lived in relationship with God. Now, isn’t that a relationship worth taking the time in which to invest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.