Summary: What is at the Heart of Easter? What is it that we need the most in our lives? A relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe and the One who created you in their image.
A man was driving southbound on the freeway last Wednesday afternoon. His cell phone rang and he answered it. His wife’s urgent voice said, "Dear, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on the same freeway you’re on!. Be careful!"
"The man replied, "It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!"
Welcome to the first Sunday of the Lenten Season. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent, as we have read and have heard, begins a 40 day journey culminating in the celebration of Easter, the resurrection of Christ. Although there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, 6 of those days are not counted as they fall on Sunday, the Sabbath day - hence, the 6 Sundays of Lent, and the 40 day journey along the way. And it is also customary for us to explain why Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter fall at a different time every year. Easter Sunday always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox (March 21st, the beginning of our Spring.) The first full moon after March 21st is on April 9th this year, and Easter falls the following Sunday on April 12th.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church was written 20-25 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The city of Corinth was located in Southern Greece 45 miles west of Athens. The modern city of Corinth is found in the same basic location, just 4 miles or so away. Corinth is located in the middle of a rather wide isthmus and is prominently situated on a high plateau. For many centuries, all North – South land traffic in that are had to pass through or near this ancient city. Since travel by sea involved a 250 mile voyage that was dangerous and time consuming, most captains carried their ships on skids or rollers across the isthmus directly past Corinth. Corinth obviously prospered as a major trade city throughout the entire Mediterranean region. A canal across isthmus was begun by the Emperor Nero during the first century, but was not completed until the end of the nineteenth century. There were two famous athletic events that took place in Greece. One was known as the Isthmian Games, hosted by Corinth, causing even more people traffic. (The other you may have heard of, the Olympic Games.) Even by Pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To “corinthianize” came to represent gross immorality.
And much of this immorality spilled over into the church which Paul addressed in his first letter, known as First Corinthians. (Actually his first letter was written in response to a letter he had received from the church asking for clarification of some issues.) Not only was there immorality within the church, but false teachings, compromised teachings and division within the church. A year or two later, after receiving word that many people in the church had repented, Paul wrote his second letter expressing relief and joy – but mostly defending his apostleship.
The church in America is not all that unlike the Church in Corinth in the first century. False teachers of that day preached what the people wanted to hear, justifying immoral behavior. And anytime there is immoral behavior in one’s life, there is automatically separation from God. This has been going on since time began. And as we have said so many times in this church, it is simply a matter of trusting God and obeying His Word.
So listen to these words of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, chapter 5 verses 20 & 21, chapter 6, verses 1 – 10.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf; Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (5:20-21)
“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s Grace in vain. For He says; “In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of Salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of Salvation.
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance in troubles, hardships and distress; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten yet not killed; sorrowful yet always rejoicing; poor yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (6:1-10)