For April 22, 2012: 3 Easter, Year B

The Reading            Acts 3:12-19

In the verses that precede today’s reading, Peter and John are going to pray at the temple, where they see a beggar, a man lame from birth.  Once they have his attention, Peter says, “‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’”  That unexpected directive is followed by an even more extraordinary result.

The Epistle            1 John 3:1-7

The letters of John are written to a church community in the throes of disunion. John responds with hope, paradox, and a challenge: we are God’s children by adoption right now, and because God loves us we are pure—and yet we are not—and yet, by grace, we are.

 

Further thoughts

Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asks, “What’s in a name?” Based on the readings for the third Sunday in Easter, the answer can be expressed in one word: “plenty”—or perhaps “everything”.

The names of God that Peter lists for the Israelites—“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors”—establish that the God who raised Jesus is the One True God rather than the idols and gods that Psalm 4 calls “dumb” and “false”.  The additional names that Peter gives for Jesus—Holy and Righteous One, Author of Life—are from God and describe (as nearly as human language can) who Jesus is. And the power that heals the man lame from birth is nothing wielded by Peter and John but simply and solely the immense power of the Name of Jesus to heal and to forgive sin.

In the epistle, John gives us a new name: we are now named as God’s children. We are offspring whom God acknowledges before the world, and those who know and are known by God are the ones who recognize the family resemblance. We are also still minors, however: exactly how we will bear our divine Parent’s features remains to be seen, for we are still growing—and we have not yet seen God in God’s full glory. This God calls us righteous, and this God knows we are human, and still and again this God calls us to righteousness.

In the gospel, Jesus comes yet again to reclaim one name, retain another, and to disprove a third that the world had pronounced on him. The third name, the one that the shocked and dispirited disciples simply couldn’t get past, is “dead”. This Jesus, however, is very much alive. Moreover, this Jesus is alive in his body, with flesh and bones and the ability to eat, and thus he retains the name “human”: he knows what it is to die, what it is to feel temptation, and even what it is to feel frustrated at getting the message of life through the thick heads and occasionally thicker hearts of his disciples (like me and you). But this Jesus now also fully asserts himself as the Messiah in whose name repentance and forgiveness are to be proclaimed, and in so doing he reclaims the name and status he laid aside to be born of a woman. This is the God into whose image we are growing up. We have not seen the full glory of Jesus, but Jesus himself is the guarantee that, if we believe, we will not merely see that glory but live it with him and for each other, forever.

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