Sermon- Easter – The presence of Jesus!

Acts 17:22-28a: 4th Sunday of Easter (Jubilate) 11.5.2014
Rejoicing in our God
22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that
you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one
of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without
knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he
doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs – for he has no needs.
He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he
created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and
fall, and he determined their boundaries.
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find
him – though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.
Has anybody visited Israel or Turkey/Greece? Just recently I got an e-mail
about a proposed tour to Israel, and another group that will be visiting parts
of Turkey and Greece. People wish to visit famous sights and – and in these
2 cases, places of special interest to us as Christians.
Our text also speaks of people visiting distant shores – we hear of Paul waiting
in Athens for Silas and Timothy. As he waited, he obviously also ‘saw the
sights’ of Athens – the Parthenon, probably still in all its splendour, and the
many other temples in the city.
But Paul is not just a tourist out to see the sights; he is not impressed by the
wonderful architecture of the temples – instead we read: While Paul was waiting for
them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. (V.16)
Then Paul does what he was commissioned to do by our Lord: he starts to talk
to the people about the ‘unknown God’ to whom they had also erected a
shrine. Paul wants to share the knowledge with them that changed his life, so
that they to could begin
Rejoicing in our God
The Greeks had many different gods – each responsible for his/her portfolio.
In their fear of forgetting one of the gods, they take out an insurance with the
altar to the unknown god. In just a few words Paul conveys the message that
all their idols counted for nothing – there is only this one God. The God, who
until then was unknown to them.
What a message of joy and hope – of jubilation – to know the God: Him, by
whom all things were made, and who gives life to everybody and everything.
There is not a multitude of gods, who must all be ‘served by human hands’ –
who must all receive their sacrifices, who must all be kept happy. There is
only this one God – this God, who until then had been unknown. He is the
One, who is to be made known. He is the One, who has always been – who has
given everything to those also, who did not even know of Him.
God has made everything: All the nations of the earth come from God – there
is not one God – or rather one set of gods -, who made the Greeks, another the
Romans, another the Jews. All were made, all were planned, by this one God,
Maker of heaven and earth!
In our time mission work has come under a great deal of criticism. It is considered
by many that the mission societies and their missionaries harmed the
people they went to, by taking from them their culture – together with the gods
they had worshipped. In place of the old culture, the western culture with its
Christian faith had come – much to the detriment of the people, so it is said.
It is certainly true that there was a great deal of damage done by missionaries –
or rather by the officials of the countries from which they had come. Many
such people had only one idea: to enrich themselves at the cost of the
indigenous people – North and South America as well as much of the African
continent bear witness to that.
It is a different matter though when we talk of the culture of these people.
Their culture was bound inextricably with the worship of their gods. We see
how people, who have been baptised are often in danger of lapsing into some
of their customs – such as sacrificing an animal at the anniversary of the death
of a member of their family. They then wear a ‘bracelet’ of the hide of this