These are my thoughts for the 6th Sunday after the Epiphany
A number of years ago I purchased the book “The Passover Plot” by Hugh J. Schonfield. I bought it because it seemed interesting and it was cheap (the latter reason was just as important a basis for buying it as was the first reason). I was in graduate school, attempting to complete a Master’s Degree in Chemistry and I was having a hard time doing it and with my life. Neither my faith nor my belief was strong. I don’t know if I bought the book thinking that it would help solve this quandary.
But, after reading it, I came to the conclusion that there was a Christ and that He died for my sins. Now, for those who are not familiar with this work, it is an attempt to disprove or discredit the Resurrection story. The essence of the story is that Jesus planned the whole event and worked out a way to fake his death on the cross. But the plot was messed up when the Roman soldier stuck his spear in the side of Jesus (1) and Jesus died before the other conspirators could complete the plot (the story of this sword is another interesting story).
The book was written by a skeptic seeking to disprove the nature of the Crucifixion. But after reading it, I was the skeptical one. Even some thirty years later, I am still a skeptic when one suggests that the Crucifixion was a plot. If science theory has taught me one thing, it is that the more complicated an explanation is, the more likely it is to be false. On the other hand, the simplest explanations are often the best explanations.
And the simplest explanation is that Jesus is, was, and will always be the Son of God and He died on the Cross so that I may live free from sin and death.
When it came out, I bought “The DaVinci Code” because it was intriguing (though most definitely not cheap). And, then I bought the book “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”, the work from which the “DaVinci Code” was based. Buried in this second book was a reference to that very book that started this discourse, “The Passover Plot.” It would seem that conspiracy theories never change, just reappear from time to time.
Since at least two of the documents upon which the “DaVinci Code” and “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” are based have been proved to be forgeries from the mid-1950’s, the whole concept of this conspiracy would seem to be false as well. Yet, it won’t go away.
And we are back to Paul’s words to the Corinthians for today (2). If the crucifixion is not true, then our faith is in vain. And if our faith is in vain, there isn’t much to hope for in this life. That is the problem today.
Too many people are willing to seek what seems to be an easy explanation, such as there is no God, Jesus was not the Messiah, and there is no hope after death. Some would say that it is much easier to put your faith in what you see and the evidence around you. It is much easier to preach a Gospel of wealth and fame than one that only offers hope. And the skeptics who hear the preachers extol the prosperity gospel cry out fraud and phony and suggest that it only offers more proof that there is no God. The skeptics cry out that it would be much, much easier to simply trust in the empirical evidence.
Now, I will agree that those who preach a gospel that offers wealth and fame to the righteous are frauds and phony. But their distortions of the Gospel message do not mean that there is no God. The fact that so many people over the last two thousand years have come to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior should say that there is proof of a God.
Yes, you cannot necessarily prove by empirical reasoning that there is a God. But that is why we have faith. Faith is never a substitute for logic and reason. Nor is logic or reason ever substitutes for faith. The two work together.
Those who would seek to substitute logic or empirical reasoning for faith must be aware of what Nehemiah was saying (3). If you put your trust in the world around you, you will be like a plant in the middle of a dry desert. Without the Living Water found through God, you will wither and die. And Jesus, in the Gospel reading for today (4) , points out that those who seek riches and glory now will be lacking when the time comes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
A life without faith is an incomplete life. It is incomplete because our society encourages material well-being above spiritual well-being. It encourages the accumulation of wealth for one’s own purposes above the carrying for others. But the Gospel message speaks of what is to come, not what is now. And the Gospel message speaks of others before self. The Old Testament and Gospel readings for today tell us that those who seek first for themselves will be lacking when they are called to account for what they have done on earth.
Is there a God? Yes, there is a God. We see his presence in our lives through the beauty of the earth and sky and the wonders that come with such beauty. We also see God calling out to us to answer the call to help the sick, the needy and the oppressed. We know that Jesus came as His Son and as our Savior.
Jesus came to towns and villages through Galilee without announcement. Yet there were huge crowds waiting because they had heard what He could do. And they came knowing of the promise of hope that Jesus offered.
The same is true today. If the Crucifixion were false, then all that we believe is false and two thousand years of history is false. Our hope is also false. But the crucifixion was not false and our hope is not false. What we must do is make sure that people see, by our actions, by our words, by our thoughts, and by our deeds that no only is the Crucifixion not false but that Christ is still alive.
Those who proclaim a false gospel may have large crowds but when the truth of their message becomes clear, they will be the ones quickly left behind. Those who claim that there is no God will be lacking when their false system of belief cannot offer them hope and strength in time of need.
But for the false message to fail, the true message must be shown. How do you show your faith and belief? How do you show that Christ is alive in you? Do you live your life in accordance with the Gospel so that others may see the living Christ?
This is a discourse that may be brief but never ends. Each day is another day to show by thought, word, and deed that Christ is alive.
(1) John 19: 34
(2) 1 Corinthians 15: 12 – 20
(3) Jeremiah 17: 5 – 10
(4) Luke 6: 17 – 26