Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 7, 2010.

Position:Preaching Helps

Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)

Psalm 138

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

First Reading

In the reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks clearly and forcefully about Christian tradition. He places himself and his audience in the great stream of Christian tradition. "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received ..." (v. 3) and "so we proclaim and so you have come to believe" (v.11). Paul does not claim to be the originator of any novel theological concepts: far from it, he places himself inside the tradition. I received it, he appeared to me. What is important to Paul at this point is that he is proclaiming something universal, something traditional.

And what is it this tradition that Paul is so concerned to pass on? He obviously thinks that it is critically important: in fact, he calls this information and this tradition "of first importance." It is the summary of the Christ event, the central gospel: "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 ..." (vv. 3-5). The first importance news that Paul received and Paul handed on to the Corinthians is the central gospel of Jesus Christ: that he died for our sins, that he was buried, that he was raised, and that he was seen by many people. Paul is reassuring his audience of the veracity of their faith-claims: you can know that it's true that your sins are forgiven because of these events.

Central to the Christian claim is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Paul, in reassuring his audience of the truth of the traditional faith-claims, wants to be sure that there is a basis for the resurrection claim. Paul lists those who saw Jesus after his resurrection. Paul is again making it clear that testimony about the resurrection stands firmly in a tradition, in a cloud of witnesses. After the resurrection, Cephas saw Jesus, the twelve saw him, more than five hundred brothers and sisters saw him, James saw him, all the apostles saw him, and finally Paul himself saw him. The proclamation stands in a tradition and is backed up by the eyewitness testimony of many. Novelty is not valued, but standing firm in what has been passed down.

This understanding of his own proclamation and of his own message as standing in a tradition established by others...

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