Posts Tagged 'Peter'

For May 4, 2014: Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

The Reading            Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Peter’s first public proclamation about Jesus, of which we read a part last week, ends with Peter reiterating that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. The book of Acts then gives us the crowd’s reaction—they are “cut to the heart”, or deeply affected, and ask what to do—and Peter’s response.

The Response            Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

Like Christians at Easter, the psalmist in Psalm 116 looks backward and forward. The backward glance is quite appropriately at the travails out of which the Lord has rescued him. The forward glance is a bit more surprising: not to further good things from the Lord but rather to what the psalmist plans to do to say thank you.

The Epistle            1 Peter 1:17-23

The first chapter of the first epistle of Peter instructs us how to live. Instead of trusting in gold and silver—passing signs of wealth in the world, now as in Peter’s time—we are to bank on the blood of the Lamb. Because we are ransomed from our sins by the blood of Christ, we are born again to love one another profoundly.

The Gospel            Luke 24:13-35

Gospel readings in the weeks immediately following Easter tell of the first reactions to Jesus’ resurrection. The reading from Luke relates the story of dejected followers leaving Jerusalem and the stranger they meet who explains the scriptures to them—and turns out to be the risen Jesus.

 

Ponderables

In the 1950s baseball musical Damn Yankees, the seriocomic song “Heart”, sung by members of the perpetually last-place Washington Senators, is an anthem to not giving up even when things look hopeless. “Heart” is a good theme for the time just after Easter. Luke shows us disheartened disciples who are still digesting the horrible reality of Jesus’ death as they plod back, one presumes, to the lives they had left behind to follow him. Then a stranger takes the time to explain to them via scriptures such as Psalm 116 how that grisly death was in God’s plan, along with the resurrection to follow; his kindness gives them the heart at least to extend hospitality—and he turns out to be the risen Jesus himself. The reading from Acts depicts the crowd in Judea, not harassed into rebelliousness by Peter’s words but rather encouraged—given heart—to ask what they can do differently and perhaps even consider why. The letter of Peter lays out both the why and the what: we are ransomed by a treasure greater than any amount of gold or silver, and we are ransomed in order to love each other from the heart as God has loved us.

What might the church be like, and how might God’s Kingdom come on earth, if each of us were to do likewise?

Advertisements

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 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.