EASTER 6, A – May 21, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 119:89-105; Acts 17:16-31; 1 Pet. 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

      “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17) The Apostle Paul spoke these words on the Areopagus in Athens to the wisest and most learned among the Greek people. What a people they represented! How remarkable was their society!

Ø  Greece gave the world great thinkers and philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates; Archimedes, who invented geometry 300 years before Paul lived.

Ø  The Greeks were great architects. The Parthenon in Athens, the temple to the goddess Athena, was already 400 years old when Paul saw it. It’s lines and angles and measurements are extremely precise. Although now nothing like it once was, it is still beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Ø  Many of the poems and plays they wrote are still performed today.

Ø  They were founders of great government. Democracy is traced back especially to the city state of Athens.

What a remarkable people were the Greeks! The apostle Paul knew this, also. As he strode up the Areopagus he saw this in the many statues and altars scattered about, and in the magnificent Parthenon. He then stood before those wise men of Greece, commended them for being very religious, and… called them ignorant! “We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Ignorance, hidden beneath wisdom: it’s not just a Greek problem. We in our day also have great wisdom and have done great things. We’ve been to the moon, and Mars and beyond. We’ve explored the ocean depths. We’ve seen and are still studying DNA, the code of life that is in every cell of every living thing. But, we, too, need to hear this truth Paul proclaims: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” For, the wisdom proclaimed in our day is that our world and every living thing in it arose on its own. There is no almighty and wise Creator, no forethought and purpose and goal, but only unthinking and unplanned natural processes that brought forth all that exists. This makes an idol, a god, out of nature and the world. Such thinking leads people away from the true knowledge and worship of God into the sin of false worship and unbelief, and finally into eternal destruction.

It also devalues all life, and especially human life. And, when facing sufferings and griefs and loss, it leaves us without the confidence that, no matter how things appear, we are secure and safe in God, who is our Father and will give us what is good. Instead, we have only what the Greeks had: Epicureanism, a living for the moment and for the day; or Stoicism, the enduring of hardships with resignation, not confidence, and at best the hope that, “Well, maybe things will get better.”

“God made the world and everything in it.” He is the Creator of heaven and earth! We must do more than simply embrace Him as Creator, however. We must believe above all that God, as Creator, continues to give. Paul tell us: “[God] does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” The faith and worship that is pleasing to God is believing that God is good and wants to give His good to you, and then gladly receiving His good gifts.

The Greeks to whom Paul spoke believed that they had to serve their gods, perform certain rituals and offer sacrifices and gifts, before they could get something in return from them. Still today many think that God will only bless them if they are good people and are obedient to Him. This is ignorance, Paul says. It is putting the cart before the horse, your giving before God’s. It leads to uncertainty: a lack of trust in God, and the looking unto yourself and not unto Him.

Ø  Why, for instance, do people cry out to others for help and intercession before crying out to God, or instead of crying out to Him? No one desires to hear you and help you more than your God!

And, as far as how you live: of course we should live decently and honor and obey both God’s and man’s laws. Breaking the law doesn’t do you any good. But, does God need to see your actions to know your faith and your love for Him? He made you and knows your very heart! Love Him, trust Him, and look to what He says to you in His Scriptures. By their holy inspiration He will then help you think those things that are right and, by His merciful guiding, help you accomplish them. Jesus promised His disciples, “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” He will live in you and bring forth what is good from you! Of course, He said this to His apostles. Can it be that Christ lives in you?

Well, God is a giver! Look upon Jesus, the Son of God whom the Father gave into your sin and death for you, and you will know Him as such. Look to Jesus:

Ø  Who died for you, “the righteous for the unrighteous,” to bring you to God. How greatly He loves you!

Ø  Who with His resurrected body descended into hell itself to proclaim to Satan, your greatest enemy, that you are safe in God’s care and are no longer under Satan’s power.

Ø  Whom God gave to you in your baptism. In it He drowned your sins and saved you from them, just as He rescued Noah and his family from an evil world by drowning its evil people in the waters of the Flood.

In Christ your sins are no more. When God looks upon you, He does not see them but sees only His precious and beloved child – to whom He wants to give! Rejoice, then, in your Baptism into Christ. It is the “appeal to God of a good conscience.” It is your assurance from Jesus that “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

As you look upon Jesus and trust in Him, and then gladly receive Him and the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that He gives you in abundance in His Gospel and Sacraments, God will help you to live good and obedient lives in gladness and contentment. For, since Jesus is the Lord of all things, all things are under His feet. And, since He gives Himself to you, all things – sin, with its effects and its guilt; Satan, with his condemnation; death and hell, with its terrors – are under your feet, also. “Because I live, you also will live,” promises Jesus, for “I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

Thanks be to God, the Giver of every good gift; our Father in whom we live and move and have our being! He gives us His Son and, in Him, a new life: here and now, and one day with Him forever in heaven! Amen.