1 Corinthians 15:1-11
In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the LORD sitting on a throne,
high and lofty;
and the hem of His robe filled the temple.
Seraphs were in attendance above Him....
- Isaiah 6: 1 – 2
Now, that’s an epiphany !
Epiphany means many things, but it all has to do with showing up, making an appearance, coming to a realization. What could be more amazing than a personal vision of God Almighty on His throne accompanied by majestic angels ?
During this season of the church year called Epiphany, I have not made a point of labeling each thread of Scripture to explain how it speaks to this grand theme. But let me go back over the past few weeks and label a few items.
Two weeks ago, several of our church leaders stood before the congregation to read 1 Corinthians 12. That was a double epiphany: one in the text, where Paul describes the body of Christ as being composed of all of us with our differing spiritual gifts, and another epiphany in the actual presence and participation of five different church leaders, who each brought their unique combination of spiritual gifts to the pulpit in that moment. Two thousand years ago, Paul told us that Christ shows up in the diverse folks who compose his church; two weeks ago, Doris and Richard and Janice and Joe and Gary showed up to illustrate Paul’s ancient-yet-current point.
That same Sunday morning, we heard how Jesus showed up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the ancient book of the Prophet Isaiah. In this we received Jesus’ claim that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: he said he came “to bring good news to the poor …. release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, quoting lines from Isaiah 61 and 58) It seems to me that this would naturally lead us to look around and question, “OK, Jesus, are you still in the good news business? Or the business of releasing people who are imprisoned ? Do you still give sight to the blind ? Do you still break oppression ? Are you still saying that we can find favor with God ?
In other words, Jesus, are you still showing up ?
If so, where ? How ?”
That Sunday, I hope that you found at least a partial answer in the church “showing up” to be the body of Christ— people today continuing to carry out the activities Jesus claimed as his mission in this world.
Then, last Sunday, we heard how the ancient prophet Jeremiah, and then later also Jesus, demonstrated obedience to God’s call in their lives in the face of opposition.
O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee:
your life is still a summons to serve humanity,
to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd, t
o stand with humble courage for truth with hearts unbowed. …
Once more give us your challenge above our noisy day,
and come to lead us forward along your holy way.
- S. Ralph Harlow, 1931
When God calls us to show up and carry out His mission in the world, God also protects us and resurrects us.
This coming Sunday, we will take a closer look at how human testimony— the observations and statements you and I can honestly make from our lived experience— are a part of God’s “showing up” in this world. Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed people his divine power and wisdom: some of them trusted him, saw for themselves that he was the real deal, and they became “witnesses” to the fact that God had actually showed up in their midst. Most spectacularly, there were human witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: here, Paul explains how people’s personal experience got to him personally: I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Simon Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Do you personally know Jesus is alive ?