Posts Tagged 'Acts 10:34-43'

For April 20, 2014: Easter Day, Year A

The Reading            Jeremiah 31:1-6

In the time of Jeremiah, Israel was in bad shape; outlying tribes such as Ephraim distrusted the royal double dealing in Jerusalem, neighbors such as Samaria were regarded with disdain, and exile and violence were visited on the land. Jeremiah, surprisingly, foretells the party of parties: the Lord, for love, will bring all the families of Israel home.

The Response            Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Jeremiah’s exuberance is mirrored in Psalm 118. God’s grace has come to one threatened with death, and the result is vindication beyond all hope of human achieving.

The Second Reading            Acts 10:34-43

Simon the Galilean fisherman would have shunned non-Jews, especially agents of the Roman empire; as Peter the Greek-named apostle, however, he is called by the Spirit to meet the Roman centurion Cornelius to announce the great good news that Jesus is the Lord of absolutely all of us, no matter whom.

The Gospel            John 20:1-18

The Resurrection account in the gospel of John, written after the other gospels, may be the most heartbreaking: not only is Jesus stone cold dead, but his body is missing and Mary Magdalene can only assume that it is stolen. Just imagine her shock when the gardener turns out to be Jesus—and imagine her joy!

 

Ponderables

The word of Jeremiah is not for settled, successful homebodies. It is for people wearied by factionalism, strife, and exile. There should have been no hope of things getting better—except that God has other plans.

The word of the psalmist is not for those who win under their own power. It is for and by people stretched to the limit and beyond. There should have been no hope of rescue—except that God has other plans.

The word of Peter is not for those who profit by division. It is for people too desperate for truth to keep playing by the old rules. There should have been no hope of reconciliation—except that God has other plans.

The word that Jesus speaks is not for the comfortable nor the conventionally pious. It is for those for whom worse has come to worst, who have lost even the cold comfort of performing the last rites for their best dreams. There should have been no hope of new life from death—except that God has other plans.

As we rejoice in Easter, let us not forget those who are exhausted, stressed, wounded by division, or in any kind of grief. If we are not among them right now, we surely will be. More to the point, it is for them that God the Ever-Living and Ever-Loving has other plans.

And is it not up to us, God’s people, to show the world through our love just how true these words are?

For Jan. 12, 2014: First Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

The Reading            Isaiah 42:1-9

The reading from Isaiah gives us dazzling good news: the chosen of the Lord is coming, not to strut around in pomp and power but to work tirelessly to bring justice to all us people who are out in the dark, off in dungeons, shut in blindness or marooned far from God—and to make of us people who are ourselves bringers of light.

The Response            Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is a meditation on the power of God that is filled with astonishing images: the voice of God has the power to break mighty cedars, set mountains scampering like startled cattle, make sturdy oak trees squirm—and even to make us righteous.

The Second Lesson            Acts 10:34-43

Isaiah announced great good news for Israel. In the second lesson for the first Sunday in Epiphany, blunt Peter, called out of his comfort zone to visit a Roman centurion, summarizes the life and ministry of Jesus: the astounding gift of grace is for anyone—anyone—who will accept it.

The Gospel            Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus, the Son of God, begins his ministry not by announcing how badly everyone else has been doing everything but by seeking baptism from his cousin John.

 

Ponderables

The juxtaposition of images in the readings for the first Sunday of Epiphany is startling: a God with the power to set off great earthquakes and dictate terms to the mighty, yet bringing to those whom the world sees as wearing kick-me signs the gentlest of blessing; a God for whom mountains roll over like Rover and oak trees go limp on cue, yet patiently waiting again and again for Peter to blurt out the insight that Jesus and his own brain have been trying to get him to recognize; a God who sits in judgment on the entire universe, yet taking a place in line at the Jordan like everyone else for a baptism that he alone doesn’t really need…

It sounds like I’m being hard on Peter. In fact, I have great sympathy for him. Most thoughtful writers will cheerfully admit that they often don’t truly know what they think until they say or write it. I’m not in that exalted company, but certainly formatting lections and finding translations for them isn’t nearly as effective in obliging my brain to engage with the content as is the act of composing even a few sentences about at least one of them.

But what must it be like to be John? Feet firmly braced in the Jordan’s slightly slimy bottom, you’re up to the hips in water and in lost souls seeking the light; as you’ve done hundreds of times, you release your safety grip on the previous baptizee and reach for the next—only to discover that it’s Aunt Mary’s kid who also happens to be the Son of God. How are you not going to screw this up?

Well, by God’s grace and showing up: what else could do?

For April 8, 2012: Easter Day, Year B

The Reading            Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah the prophet foresaw the disaster that overcame the people of God when they were taken into exile in Babylon. In today’s reading he foresees them rejoicing in their redemption and return to Jerusalem through the power of God. We  Christians read into this Jesus rising to destroy death and sin, and for all peoples. Hallelujah!

 

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Corinthians were, like humans in all times and places, a bit thick-headed. In today’s reading Paul underlines for them the main points of the gospel story: Jesus truly did die for our sins and rise again, appearing to the apostles (“Cephas” is Peter) and even to a soul as misguided as Paul had been. Hallelujah!

 

Further thoughts

As the selection today from the gospel of Mark ends, two ladies named Mary, grieving for Jesus, have just gotten news so astonishing that they can neither believe it nor share it, and they run away.

This may help explain why it is customary that one of the readings for Easter Day be Acts 10:34-43. Peter’s simple but stirring summary of the Good News fills in the rest of the story. Even better for us Gentiles, Peter insists that the resurrection is no longer merely a Jewish affair: Jesus lived and died and lives again for anyone from any background who believes in him.

Today’s other readings drive home much the same point, though in somewhat different ways. Isaiah, looking forward from the hard times around the exile in Babylon, shows us the mountaintop where the Lord will prepare the feast of feasts. For those of us who have (or could use) memberships at a gym, the allure of marrow and fat may be a little hard to understand—but what human could resist the allure of an end to grief, frustration, disgrace or fear of disgrace, and even death itself? What is more, Isaiah tells us, The Lord will feast all peoples, take death from all nations, and wipe tears from all faces—all of them.

It falls to Paul to summarize the Good News, though here he is reminding the Corinthians rather than announcing it for the first time. Paul takes the rest of the account in a different direction. We know that Jesus is risen, Paul tells us, because he appeared in the flesh to Cephas or Peter, the other apostles, and many other believers; we know that Jesus died for people’s sins, Paul tells us, because the scriptures say so; but the fact that Jesus appeared even to the likes of the church-persecuting monster Saul of Tarsus (for Paul’s phrase “untimely born” can be paraphrased as “congenitally deformed”) is how I am to know that Jesus’ death and love are enough even for my sins.

And that is astonishing good news indeed.


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