Acts 17: 22-31(page 926 in our pew Bibles) A skillful piece of writing that takes us from acknowledging the universal quest for God (who Paul says is closer than we all think) to saying that this God has been definitively revealed to us through the raising from the dead of the man Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 3:13-22 (page 1016 in our pew Bibles) A piece hopefully next to the hearts of all of us. "For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is God's will, than for doing evil"
John 14: 15-21(page 901 in our pew Bibles). Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father to be with us forever. God Himself, the Spirit of Jesus to be with us. We are not orphans, we are children of God.
Saint Paul’s audience was perhaps little different to a modern audience. In Britain polls consistently reveal a high rate of belief in God and that most people pray if only occasionally, but adherence to a specific faith appears to be far less important in the living of their daily lives.
Paul’s audience shared some similarities in that belief in God was very widespread but no-one could pin down exactly what this God was like or what He expected from them. God existed but no one was clear what He was like. They even had an altar with the inscription “To the unknown God”.
Paul’s line of argument is that God is nearer to all of us than we realise for in him we live and move and have our being – that’s everyone from celebrity atheists like Richard Dawkins or Ricky Gervais or Stephen Fry to the followers of other faiths.
Paul contends that if you want to discover the truth about God’s character, will and nature, you only have to look in one place. Look at how He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. And the guarantee that this is so is that Jesus was raised from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus and all that fact contains is absolutely central to the faith. We don’t say we know what God is like because we’ve come up with a clever formula, or we’ve speant hours in philosophical debate.
We know what God is like because we know that Jesus, a human being was raised from the dead by God. Jesus was seen and experienced by people after he had died. Our faith works outwards from this one central fact.
If the resurrection did not happen then our faith is worthless. Jesus is true not just for people who choose to believe in him as one option amongst many. Jesus is true for all people at all times in all places.
Many of those people listening just mocked as many people today just mock, but Jesus and his resurrection is an objective fact that has a bearing on every single life whether it is believed or not.
That is why Easter is the centre of the Christian faith. We will all die but He gives his children eternal life
We are still in the Easter season, our Easter Garden is still up, we still wear white stoles – when does this season end?
It only ends when the complete Easter event draws to its climax, and when is that? It is Pentecost. We acknowledge in our liturgy and observing of the liturgical seasons that the whole movement through Lent, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension day, is only completed when the whole series of events is crowned by the Giving of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate on the fourth of June this year.
Because Jesus is not just a historical event but a living reality. Jesus is alive
Jesus Himself promises the Holy Spirit, so that even though Jesus couldn’t be with us physically for ever God’s Spirit will be with us forever.
He says I will not leave you as Orphans. You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Because I live, you will live and the seal or guarantor that this is true is the giving of the Holy Spirit which is given by the Father. He gives himself, his own Spirit, which is the same Spirit that rested on Jesus at his baptism.
God makes his home with us and we listen to his voice. No matter where that takes us – it took Jesus to his death – we follow because it is right and just and true.