Connections 05.17.2020: Proclamation

Acts 17:19-32

This Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Easter. Observing Eastertide, the fifty-day period that begins on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost Sunday, is a good way to remind ourselves of the ongoing reality, power, and effect of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection has always been a vital component of Christian preaching. We see it in Paul’s sermon in Athens in our lesson text. The climax of his sermon was, “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (vv. 30-31).

Upon hearing what Paul said about Jesus being raised from the dead, some among his hearers scoffed, some said they’d hear more from Paul later, and some believed. Those may be the ways people still respond to the church’s proclamation of the resurrected Christ: some dismiss it out of hand, some keep thinking about it, and some embrace it.

It’s not our responsibility to convince people to believe in the resurrected Christ. It’s certainly not our role to manipulate them into doing so. But it is our responsibility and privilege to proclaim the resurrected Christ to them.

How do we proclaim the resurrected Christ to people? We do so with our words. But we also do so with our attitudes and perspectives.

We proclaim the resurrected Christ by having a hopeful attitude. Jesus’ resurrection assures us that everything is going to be all right someday. Jesus’ resurrection means that death doesn’t have the final word, and neither do those experiences, situations, and circumstances that make us feel as if we’re dying. We live in the knowledge that nothing that happens here can finally destroy us, and so we don’t give in to despair.

But this doesn’t mean we ignore the crises that occur in our lives, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world. We also proclaim the resurrected Christ by dealing honestly and openly with crisis. We proclaim him by taking pain and suffering, both ours and other people’s, seriously. We proclaim him by living in faith and hope that go deeper than what can be summarized in trite clichés.

We proclaim the resurrected Christ by taking a long-term perspective. This world is not all there is. God has been working God’s purposes out from before time, and God will continue working God’s purposes out until time draws to a close. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are the ultimate acts in the drama of salvation, but the story is still being told. We understand that our lives are an important part of what God is doing, but they are only a part. We know that what is happening in this moment, in this year, or in this era is but a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word, a letter, or maybe even just a comma in the story God has been telling for eons and may tell for many more. So we maintain a long-term perspective.

But this doesn’t mean we don’t deal with what’s happening in the short term. We also proclaim the resurrected Christ by doing all the good we can here and now. Ascension Day is Thursday, May 21, just four days after we’ll study this lesson. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t take his disciples with him. He left them here with a commission to continue his work of sharing love and grace. He’s left us here for now too, so we should do all we can to make things as good as we can and to help people as much as we can.

I’ve thought a lot about these things during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve thought about how we need to live in hope and faith rather than in fear, knowing that even if we experience the worst that can happen, it won’t be the final word. I’ve also thought about how we are responsible for doing as much as we can to help here and now. We minister, serve, contribute, and work in faith and hope, knowing that God is working God’s purposes out, and trusting that God is using us to do so.

How are we proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus? How can we better do so?

Discussion

  • The Areopagus in Athens was a place where discussions of philosophy and religion took place. Where do we hold such discussions? What form do they take? How helpful are they?
  • The people in Athens liked to hear about the latest new thing. So do people today. What challenges do we face in balancing new ideas and approaches with more established ways of thinking and acting?
  • How does Paul say God has made God’s self known? If Paul preached his sermon today, do you think he would mention other ways that God has revealed God’s self? If so, what would they be?
  • How can we demonstrate that we believe in the resurrected Christ?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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