Psalm 66:7-end, Acts 17:22-31, 1 Peter 3:13-end, John 14:15-21
‘He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’
Words taken from this morning’s reading from 1 Peter.
Today, if it had not been for the coronavirus, Father Peter would have been being Licensed into his new role as Team Rector in the Diocese of Worcester. As far as St. Luke’s and the Barn Churches are concerned, and I am sure beyond, we are all very fortunate to still have him with us, if but for only a little longer.
Jesus, in our Gospel reading today from John, is preparing his disciples for the fact that he would be leaving them in his bodily form once he had ascended to his Father, but would remain with them for ever as the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth,” “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
Of course, as with so much that Jesus tried to make his disciples understand, it would only be after his death on the cross and his resurrection, that they would fully come to understand. We will hear in two weeks time how they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
It is never easy saying ‘good bye’ to friends and loved ones, and it is one of the greatest tragedies of this terrible Pandemic that so many have had loved ones die before their time and been unable to with them. We can only pray that they are now at peace with the one true God, who offers an eternal home to all who believe in Him.
It was while Paul was in Athens, as we heard from our reading from Acts that, in true Paul fashion, he went about teaching the Athenians about this one true God.
I have always had a lot of time for Paul, although I am sure he was not the easiest of people to live with, being unquestionably fanatical in his desire to spread the good news of the risen Lord. Yet without his endless efforts, often against the greatest of odds, the roots of Christianity would, most likely, not have been spread so far and wide, and The New Testament would not, in a large part, have been written in the form we know it today. Without Paul’s letters and his travels as recounted by Luke in Acts the New Testament would be very short.
In Athens, as in many other places Paul visited, he began in the synagogues and market places, preaching the news of the risen Jesus. Athens then, as it had been for many years before, was a centre for philosophy and literature, and had a university even at that time. Paul was invited by, ‘A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers’, to speak to them, and having seen an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown God’, began to tell them about the God who made the world and everything in it, “In him we live and move and have our being”. Paul tells them they will be seen for who they truly are, and judged by God, and his Son, the risen Christ. But judgement was not what the Athenians were looking for, they wanted to bind their gods to them with gifts, and with the power and scope of their religious services, gods that they could control and use as they required.
It is, perhaps, something that we are all at times guilty of, holding on to our own personal God, who like the old advertisements for Bank Managers, were kept in a cupboard somewhere and brought out when needed. This was not Paul’s God; although for many, there and then, to believe that God might focus all truth and meaning in one man, Jesus Christ, was hard to understand or believe. We too often like the idea of controlling God more than the idea of giving God control over us. We need also to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus promised not only to his disciples, but to every one of us who is willing to travel His path, the path of our risen Lord.
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
So may we all in these troubled and uncertain times hold on to the fact that Jesus walks with us, and with the Holy Spirit lives within our very being, this day and always.