Well Sunday has come round very quickly! I am getting ready for our Communion Service at 8.00am. Today my sermons will be on the verse from 1 Peter 3 about always being ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. My suspicion is that many of us don't know what the hope is in the first place! Going to heaven when we die? Getting on ok in this life? In the reading from Acts 17, Paul suggests it is a positive outcome at the judgement when God judges the world in righteousness by Jesus.
Which leads nicely into this the last in my series of radio talks!
St Paul writes to one of his churches:
‘For 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 …’ (1 Corinthians
This is at the heart of the Christian message. Take it away and there is no Gospel, no good news, and Jesus’ life was just the life of another religious teacher. The Cross is the symbol of Christianity because the death of Jesus is at the centre of all that we believe. We believe that Jesus in his death demonstrated the love of our Creator for us and decisively dealt with human sin making forgiveness and salvation possible for all who turn to him.
All the Bible says may make sense logically, but how do we know that Jesus is in fact who said he was. How do we know that the Bible is right when it says that Christ died for our sins? How do we know that we can be saved by having faith in Jesus? This is where the resurrection comes in! Jesus really did die on the Cross and afterwards he was taken down and buried. But Christians believe that it was at this point, when all seemed hopeless and lost, that God intervened raising Christ from the dead and exalting him above all creation.
Death is terrible and there is no place in Christianity for the attitude that takes it lightly and pretends it does not matter. It does matter. It is the enemy of all that God wants for us and his creation. But it is not the end. Jesus offers us hope that death can be defeated and that there is the promise of life. It is a life which begins now, but which also continues for all eternity. Christians stake their lives on the resurrection. St Paul again:
‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.’ (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)
Christ’s resurrection guarantees our own future resurrection. We can face death, not flippantly, but nevertheless with confidence, trusting the promise of God that he will raise all those who hope in Christ. But God’s plan is greater even than our own individual salvation. He has a plan that encompasses the whole creation. The glory that the creation was always meant to have, sadly lost and marred by human sin, will be restored. The creation now in pain will be transformed to share the glory that is ours in Christ.
In the meantime, God is creating a people for himself under the Lordship of Christ. A people to know him and serve him. This people of God are drawn from all ages, races and backgrounds. They are one in Christ and although still imperfect are, through the grace of God, seeking to fight sin and evil in themselves and in the world.
The society we live in is often cruel, frightening, and lonely: its values futile and empty. But there is an alternative. Christ has made it possible for us to know God again and discover the purpose for which we were originally created. This is not some theoretical ideal, but something we can experience and which can change our lives, giving them meaning and purpose.
At times, the Christian message can sound somewhat unreal and unconnected with the lives most of us live. As we seek to express who God is and what he has done for us, words break down and fail us. How do we communicate thoughts that are themselves beyond our understanding? Yet Christians know that what they are experiencing in Christ is more real than life itself.
The love of God, the kindness and generosity of God, is overwhelming. And yet it is there, offered as gift and all we are asked to do is to accept it. Many choose not to. This world and its temporary glory are too enticing. But this world’s glory is a glory that quickly fades and is lost.
What God offers us in Christ is a glory that will never fade and which can never be lost.