My subtitle this morning is defining moments
To celebrate Easter is to be reminded that for Christians the defining moment remains the resurrection of Jesus; and that he is the power that reigns supreme around the world - the world which we, with many others, understand as God's creation.
A defining moment is a fundamental point of reference in the light of which everything and everyone else is to be understood.
Our belief and the way we live are rooted in the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead "on the third day".
There is no point in history when that has not been the heart and foundation of the Christian faith.
Nor is it possible to account for the character of the earliest Christian communities, their astonishing growth and resilience from those first decades, or for the structure of Christian belief, without the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus's followers, in the earliest years that were critically important for the foundations of all subsequent Christian beliefs, were, like him, Jews; so they were initially led to understand the unique event into which they had been drawn in Jewish terms.
Here was the longed-for new beginning for God's creation, the world made new. From this point, everything changed. This was not the end but the beginning of the new creation.
Here was a foretaste of the conquest of death and of the new life with God for which people longed.
There was an affirming of Jesus's teaching. Here the men and the women whom Jesus had drawn to be with him, and those whom they drew in turn, found themselves empowered to behave as he had behaved, to pray and heal and serve, to challenge authority in God's name and to suffer as he had done.
Defining moments are times when we look back to that have changed everything, the resurrection of Christ was such a defining moment.
Throughout the history of the world, God desired a relationship with humans, God's own creation, time and time again covenants were made and broken, yet God continued to show love and mercy. Faithful to humans, even when they were unfaithful.
one of the most significant passages in scripture before the resurrection was the Passover, the blood painted on the doorpost, the meal is eaten in haste, the people are freed from slavery and ready to follow Moses into the promised land. The crossing of the Red Sea was like a baptism of the divine provision through the wilderness, then came the law and the covenant made on the mountain. they couldn't keep this covenant.
In the new covenant, two significant moments were mirroring these yet, Christ the Passover lamb, the last supper, the rescue from the slavery of sin, the victory won on the cross over death, the baptism in water. The ascension of Christ and the baptism in the Spirit
We too have our part to play, the death of our old life, the rebirth in the Spirit of our new life, the empowerment of the Spirit. Creating our own defining moment,
Do you identify with this new creation? Perhaps you have attended church, go along with the crowd
Have you had this defining moment?
My first point is
Have you experienced a new birth for yourself? Have you made a personal commitment to Christ?
As I have said - the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important aspect of our faith. The resurrection gives our faith purpose. Purpose gives us victory in life. As Christ rules in life so we too will reign with him.
1 Corinthians 15 is seen as one of the most important verses in Paul’s writings. It is where he defines the Christian faith and the essentials we need to agree upon.
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,”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NRSV
For Paul, the resurrection of Christ was more than just a doctrine, although the most important one. Paul's defining moment came while he journeyed to Damascus.
The story is in Acts chapter 9 and this is where Paul. asks the all-important question that Paul asks who are you, Lord?
Paul went from knowing about Jesus to knowing him personally and setting him on a journey that would change his world and he in turn would change the world for Christ as he travelled with the good news that Christ had risen.
this is Paul’s story but what about us? Now we may have not had murderous thoughts and harmful Intentions as Paul did, as he set about the persecution of those who were Jesus' followers, but we were once going in our direction taking a path of destruction walking in sin and unbelief but we had a defining moment.
Paul does not write much about the life of Jesus but highlights the most important bits we need to know. Writing to Greeks in Corinth, he leaves out many of the defining moments and we have them recorded in the gospels which have been attested by historians as accurate accounts of the life death and resurrection of the Christ.
Born from a virgin, who lived a sinful life was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to heal, restore and save humanity from the power of sin, sickness and death. Was then punished and killed for our sins, yet won the victory over sin and death as He rose with glory and was seen by hundreds. Gave gifts of the spirit and now is enthroned in glory.
Now the faithful saints are waiting for his return when the time is right to come for his bride when the final enemy is defeated and we are raised with Him in glory for all eternity the kingdom will be finally realised in full, what we know now in part will be clear, what we see dimly will be revealed and we shall be like him changed and transformed into his glorious image.
Purpose (is my second point)
We know that we have a purpose in life because of the resurrection. The biggest problem we will ever face in life is death and decay. Which we know was the ultimate curse upon Adam and Eve.
Another curse was upon the work they do, particularly that the work would be unfruitful. Or that the labour would be in vein
The understanding of our purpose is vital to the stability of our entire being. ‘Purpose’ is just what we need, yes as an aspirational value in life but also in mitigation against the inevitable suffering we all face.
Along with our essential needs of air food water and shelter, we need a reason.
Purpose drives us forward, which is why those first disciples had the confidence in the risen Lord to preach the good news and to suffer for the sake of the said gospel. In fact, they were steadfast and immovable in their purposes because of the resurrection. Some of us struggle because we are yet to find our purpose and even those things we try end up in failure and we give up, Paul says it is precisely because of the resurrection our life's work is never in vein.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 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. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 17-20, 58 NRSV
The reason is, as Paul said, in our hope of the resurrection from the dead. The purpose we have means we live in the light of this eternal hope. When Paul wants to drive home a point of what it means to be fully human, live life as a new creation, this is always in the light of the end Goal the telos in Greek. this is the final resurrection for which we await.
To take this resurrection of Christ and ask ourselves what purpose does this have in our lives,
The resurrection means that we live by a different standard to the world around us. Live by a different set of principles.
Paul says again and again to his church not that he wants to teach not just how to behave like these new creations, but why to behave like that.
We need these defining moments in our own lives and not live secondhand through someone else, we mock the doubting Thomas but was he so wrong asking to see proof of the resurrection
It is therefor pe essential to think through from first principles what it means to live in the new age the age of the resurrection, which was inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thinking in this way equips us as Gods people not only for the trial that is coming or some present difficulty but empowers us for all things we may encounter,
This is the kind of thing Paul is doing again and again helping us to think as new creatures in light of the resurrection.
So if it helps us to see what Paul is doing, as bringing in the kingdom of God, rather than just saying Paul is a teacher of religion and ethics or rather someone who believed that God was, at last, fulfilling his promises and launching His new age upon the world.
Have we by our faith entered into this new life, what is our testimony. What is our defining moment or are we still waiting for it.