Third Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – From then to now . . . believing in the Divine

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, save my life!” (Psalm 116:1-4)

One of the things about the Old Testament is that it is a “before” in terms of a relationship to God. Before – salvation, forgiveness, redemption and atonement. Before – speaking to the Divine as a close personal friend. Before – the assurance that the Divine always has our best interests at the center of our relationship to the Lord. And, Before – we knew what the Lord wanted in return for the blessing and gifts that are bestowed on us.


“What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 12 – 19)

That is not to say that there was no one who had an intimate relationship with the Lord. The bible, and the Old Testament, is filled with stories of men and women who lived extra-ordinary lives dedicated to the Lord. It’s just that there were many people who didn’t, who went astray, and never really found their way back. The coming Christ broke down many barriers. But, beloved reader, humanity is also very skilled at putting up barriers to the Divine; the same skill, I imagine, that many unnamed people had back in the time of the Old Testament, branching into New Testament times.

Wouldn’t it be nice to believe that the coming of Christ tore down the barriers as it tore down the curtain in the Holy of Holies in the temple? But my optimism for those living in New Testament times, and more specifically in the decades and centuries after Christ, meets up with reality. So we look back – back to the Old Testament to learn how the distance between the Divine and the people of God came to be. Back to the New Testament to learn how a new way of believing and living came into existence. And then back over the history of humanity since Christ returned to heaven. And hopefully we learn, and carry those lessons forward. Hopefully . . . . Selah!

Third Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – Walking Unaware

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:13-16)

There have probably been numerous occasions that I have met someone I know but because it was at a place I usually do not see them, I did not recognize them. I am not saying this is what happened with these two disciples and Jesus, but it is possible enough. Having convinced themselves that Jesus was dead, they did not discern that the man who joined them was familiar to them. Or, Jesus could have deliberately clouded their minds to who he was.

“And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” (Verses 17 – 24)

“But they did not see him.” (After reading these verses for so many years, I had never given much thought to that phrase; I will now.) Jesus, their teacher and friend, is missing. So convinced are they that death is the end, that they do not consider a miracle might have happened. Despite that fact that Jesus seems to have power over life and death, they are sure enough Jesus died and stayed dead. I do not know if they disciples searched for Jesus, or may assumed that the Jewish authorities or the Roman authorities took his body away. It does not impel them to search for Jesus or wonder where he went. Instead they leave Jerusalem for other places. No wonder Jesus said what he did.

“Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.” (Verses 25 – 29)

While they may not have learned the lesson of what Jesus’ mission was, they did learn the lesson of compassion and hospitality, to care for another and for a stranger. And to be open to new learning, understanding, and knowledge. And to remember the important times in their travels with Jesus.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” (Verses 30 – 31)

That is one of my favorite parts – Jesus re-enacting the breaking of the bread at the Last Supper. If they did not recognize him because they were not expecting him and could not have foreseen that he would be alive and walking, they did recognize in the moment of doing something he had done often enough – prayed over food and shared it with his friends.

“They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Verses 32 – 35)

We walk through this life not always being aware of what is going on around us. Whether to involved in our own troubles and struggles, or simply not taking in the world around us. It is said we often may “entertain angels unaware.” In the same way, we may encounter the Divine. Not as the disciples did, in the flesh and body, but the movement of the Divine intervening and interacting in our lives. It is the wise person who recognizes the movement of the Spirit, and grabs on to it and finds themselves being blessed by it. Selah!

Third Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – Going the distance with the apostle Peter

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.” (I Peter 1: 17 – 20)

You know, beloved reader, I have great affection for the apostle Peter who is supposed to be the writer of I Peter (as well as II Peter). He as well as others believed that “the last” or “the end times” would come soon. And that soon would mean in the foreseeable future for his readers. Well, we know that is not true. Some biblical commentators feel that the apostles meant the world ending soon. Other commentators give more latitude in time span saying that it simply meant the age where God revealed the Divine through Jesus, that “this end of the ages” was the final age when God could be known clearly. It is a kindness, beloved reader, that the apostles were not held to the idea that Christ’s return was not something imminent in a relatively short count of days. When one’s world view is “small” (meaning in the geographical sense), one’s understanding of time in the future is bound to be short. So my affection for Peter leads me to a gentle interpretation of his meaning for what “the end of the ages” is. But I know, in my heart of hearts, he was thinking it would be soon.

“Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.” (Verses 21-23)

But that does not lessen Peter’s message. It, in fact, strengthens if. If we, as his modern day readers, are to endure the unforeseeable time ahead that may stretch out yet as many generations as we are removed from Peter’s time, it is imperative that our trust in the God and in Jesus Christ is unshakable. It has to last not just a “short time” until the Divine’s return but throughout our lifetime. And we must pass that unshakable faith on to the next generations.

I have seen (although not remembered) as least 58 Easters. And while my faith may have been small and infantile for at least the first – who know how many years – it has endured. Through childhood to adolescence to adulthood. It was, is, and will be, founded on the enduring word of God – preached by many, taught by many, and exemplified by many spiritual forebearers. May you, beloved reader, stand firm in the same legacy and pass it on to the coming generation. Selah!

Third Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Old Testament Passage – The First (but certainly not the last) Converts

The lectionary passage starts again with verse 14a from Acts chapter two, “But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them”. Peter, in fact, addressed them for some time.

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.” (Verses 36 – 41)

I read something interesting the other day – someone was commenting about the dramatic change in the disciples/apostles after they had received the Holy Spirit. It is true that accepting Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can dramatically change a person. Sometimes this change is very immediate, and sometimes it happens over time but is no less dramatic. Do not think, beloved reader, if there was no drama in your conversion that it was not real and authentic.

I had a seminary professor who once said that for most people it is a dramatic and “turning the corner” or “turnaround experience”. It is as if there was life before . . . . and life afterwards – distinct change. I did not find it that way. Maybe some day I will share that story. But for now we are with Peter in Jerusalem and witnessing the first conversion of people after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Three thousand is a pretty impressive number. But Peter and the apostles were pretty impressive people!

As the days, and Sundays, after Easter unfold may you carry with you the wonderful changes that the Holy Spirit has made in your life. Selah!

Second Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – Moving forward from Easter Day

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” (Psalm 16:1 – 3)

Because I write a week ahead, I am actually writing this Easter day. And I confess, thoughts of Easter are swirling through my head. It is a nice swirling, but it makes it challenging to move forward in my thinking. The RCL seems to do the same, staying in the Easter mood for six Sundays until the ascension of the Lord is celebrated. It is interesting to consider psalms passage with the comforting awareness that we are praying to and petitioning a Lord who is rife with the power of the Resurrection.

“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” (Verses 4 – 6)

In fact, most everything is better considered and offered up to a Risen Lord. I am also listening to music as I write – Christian contemporary music as it is my “go-to” type of music – and it seems sweeter to my ears as I am aware it is about a Risen Lord. Indeed, following other purposes and agendas on such a day as Easter day seems the height of foolishness. I am enjoying my “goodly heritage” and Godly choices.

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.” (Verses 7 – 9)

But what about you, beloved reader? How are you this day? When you read this it will not be Easter day, but a week after – minus a day since this will be set to post on Saturday. Is Easter still in your heart? Or have you moved on? Considering your life in light of Christ’s sacrifice and gift of life eternal to us? Or to “other purposes and agendas”? How long can we and do we carry the message of Easter? For us is it six weeks and then no longer a relevant fact and event? On a day such as this, it seems hard to imagine.

“For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Verses 10 – 11)

The Lord God who gave us Jesus Christ the Messiah does not forget us, or move away from love for us, giving and caring for us. How then could we? Easter may came only once a year, but the lessons of Easter and the sweet sense of the Divine’s compassion is year long. Let us life that way, beloved reader! Selah!

Second Sunday of Easter: The Substitute Old Testament Passage – Peter, another man after the Lord Jesus’ heart

[Beloved reader, sometimes an Epistle Passage is used instead of an Old Testament Passage on certain occasions and certain reasons. This week is such an occasion. Read it as if it were an Old Testament prophet, but testifying to a new reality. ]

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:14a, 22 – 24)

It occurs to me that Peter is making good on identifying and claiming knowledge of Jesus Christ. How far Peter has come in his beliefs. It is one of the reasons I hold him in great esteem. Not one to shy away from anything, when he knows what is truth he speaks it with no restraint or hesitation.

“For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” (Verses 25 – 32)

For the rest of his life, Peter spoke of Jesus, spread the word about his life, death, & resurrection, and did not fear the consequences of it. He clearly followed the path that Jesus Christ lays out for all of the Lord God’s followers. May we do so also. Selah!

Second Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – After Resurrection Lessons

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:3 – 5)

Writers are often told “Write what you feel” and I have tried to follow that advice. Time and time again I have written what I felt, how I responded, and what thoughts/feelings scripture has invoked in me. And what I feel from this is the apostle Peter writing fervently to his readers about what he has experienced – everything he experienced as a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ when the Messiah walked the earth.

There was this pivotal moment when Jesus the man the disciples listened to and lived with for three years changed into the risen Lord who ascended into heave to become again One with the Almighty Lord God. And in that moment, the man who was their friend and teacher turned into the Divine that is in Heaven – large capital “H”.

“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith–being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (Verses 6 – 9)

“ . . . .even though you do not see him now, you believe in him . . . “ This sounds so much like the lesson learned when Jesus appeared to the disciples and especially to Thomas. Peter saw Jesus, yet when pressured he said he knew Jesus not. A hard lesson learned there, but a lesson that taught Peter something about holding tight to believe. And Peter passes on that lesson to his readers. As we move through the season that comes after Easter Sunday, may we learn and retain the lessons that we have learned. Selah!

Second Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – After-Resurrection Joy

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

They rejoiced. After believing their teacher dead and buried, they “simply” rejoiced?! I suspect that the writer of the gospel of John is understating it just a bit. You think the glee of a child finding their Easter basket is “rejoicing”? That is nothing, I suspect, compared to the rejoicing that the disciples did.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Verse 21)

I imagine also that Jesus was emotional too. These were men (and women) who had shared life together for at least 3 years, good times and bad.

“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” (Verses 22 – 24)

It was a shame that Thomas missed out on seeing the Lord when the other disciples were there. I have to wonder if his insisting on not believing was partly disappointment for having missed it.

“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (Verses 25 – 28)

But Thomas did not miss out on seeing his believed Messiah. Jesus appeared again and gave Thomas ample opportunity to confirm that it was indeed the Risen Lord. Even to this day, our Lord God gives us ample opportunity to confirm and encounter/experience with the Lord, if we will but believe in it!

“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (Verses 29 – 31)

Now I must tell you something, beloved reader. I have never with my own human eyes seen Jesus, nor our Lord God. But I do not need to see with human eyes in order to believe with human heart. I am not boasting or bragging, just stating simple fact. But I have seen evidence, and am convinced I will continue to see evidence that will affirm and confirm my faith. It is my hope and prayer that you are able to say the same thing. Selah!

Holy Week – Easter Sunday: Just all sorts of scriptures passages telling of and celebrating the Risen Lord, and what comes afterwards

There is a long list of passages that are to be used for the Easter vigil. But if I were to use all of them, or even the portion that is recommended – a minimum of three for the Old Testaments and Epistle, Psalm, and Gospel readings – I doubt there would be time for you beloved reader to read through it all. And then there are the passages that are for the Easter Service, and even more for Easter Evening. Being the high point of the church year, it has many scripture passages appropriated for it. So instead, let me lightly and briefly list a few.

But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13 – 14)

The passage from Exodus the lectionary highly recommends. It comes from where the Hebrews newly released from Egypt stand by the Red Sea as the Egyptians are racing towards them. Their deliverance comes from the Lord, and only through the Lord. Without their Lord God they would be helpless.

Another Old Testament passage cited is from Genesis, the creation story, where the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and kept creating, up to and including the creation of humanity. Passages from the stories of Noah and Abraham are also cited, as well has some beloved passages from Isaiah. Passages also from Ezekiel, Baruch (from the Apocrypha), Zephaniah, and Proverbs to recount the prophets and wisdom. And passages from the Psalms, singing and praises and celebrating the Lord. And there is also a passage from the Epistles, Romans to name the book.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11)

And finally, a passage from the New Testament, Matthew, telling a slightly different story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary seeing an angel of the Lord who told them of Jesus’ resurrection, and then seeing the Risen Lord who tells them to tell his disciples to go to Galilee. The passage from Matthew is also cited for possible use during the later Easter service. You can see there is a great deal of fervor, excitement during the Easter vigil time.

It has been many, many years since I have kept Easter vigil – the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. As a youth, when I had much more energy etc than I do now, our youth group made a practice of gathering together early Easter Sunday morning, many times outdoors, to have an Easter Sunday service. I remember one year I was up late the night before baby sitting, and got up early the next morning for the Sunrise Service. How I did that, went to regular church and did not crash-and-burn, I attribute only to the vigor of youth. But youth gives way, and fortunately in its stead comes (hopefully) wisdom, maturity, and deeper understanding. In a way, the first-coming-to-faith that evolves into the coming to deeper/wider/broader faith that is so intense it feels “all new”.

The disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt that same way when Good Friday turned into Easter Sunday – that is, the faith they had in Jesus their teacher giving way to Jesus their risen Lord.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.” (John 20:1 – 10)

As much as I have fondness and affection for Simon Peter, and for the other disciples in their turn, sometimes it takes a woman to get to the core and center of things.

But Mary [Magdalene] stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Verses 11 – 18)

As I said, about a page back, it has been a long time since I kept a true Easter vigil. A long time since the first-coming-to-faith time. Youth has given way to seasoned experience. And I know that quite often the first brush with faith gives way to a more sustaining experience. It was that way with Simon Peter. Throughout the time Peter was with Jesus, he had many insights but it was only after the coming of the Holy Spirit that Peter came into his own. And even then, Peter came to a deeper and broader understanding of Jesus Christ’s message of good news.

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43)

The apostle Paul, who came to faith through his own encounter with the risen Lord, speaks also to making plans and living out an authentic Christian life.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

If you were wondering, the under girding thrust of my thoughts are this. Jesus’ resurrection set into motion a whole new way of seeing and understanding how to live. When we first realize that, it is like coming to new faith. We feel it, but do not know or understand the deeper implications. New faith gives way, over time, to deeper faith. Because we are realizing things for the first time, it feels like first time faith. Not faith that we are recommitting to, nor coming back from going astray. But coming to new bends, twists, and turns in our faith life. Each year during Lent we journey the same ground, but many times come out at a different place, a different understanding. Now that we are on the other side, let us journey forth into new dimensions of faith. Selah!

Holy Week – Saturday: The Gospel, Epistle, and Psalm Passage – Being at the In-Between Times

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:38-42)

This is where things were when Good Friday came to an end. By late Friday afternoon preparations were being made for Sabbath. And expediency took priority over planning. And grieving was folded into worship of Yahweh. Let us also set aside this scene and look back at some things I had deferred, namely Peter.

It is in John chapter 13, verses 36 to 38 that Jesus foretells Peter’s betrayal of him. The lectionary does not pick up this passage during Holy Week, for whatever reason. Each of the Gospels is pretty consistent in the account.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Interestingly, the gospel of John does not chronicle Peter’s reaction to the cock crowing; the other gospel speak of his anguish. There are several streams, it seems to me, to consider in the disciples’ reactions to Jesus arrest, trial, and crucifixion. First I want to say that the gospel of John focuses on Jesus’ Divinity and does not have much narrative on what the disciples did. So we must look to the other gospels. We know from the gospel of Matthew that Judas killed himself when Jesus was sentenced to death. He felt remorse for what he had done and tried to return the money. But his guilt would not allow him peace, so he took his own life. If it were the previous lectionary year, I would say this is a failed attempt at confession,penance, and forgiveness. Would have Jesus forgiven Judas? Is there a sin so great that Jesus our Lord God would not forgive it? I hesitate to say, but I think Judas’ answer to that question would be yes. Let us not, beloved reader, make the same assumption.

And we know that Peter felt guilt and remorse when he denied three times in a short period of time that he was part of the followers of Jesus. However his guilt did not drive him to injure himself. In fact, it inspired to deepen his faith, and strengthen his believe. We know this because of what we read later in the New Testament.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.
But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:1-8)

There is not just a little bit of questioning as to whether it was Simon Peter who wrote I & II Peter. In any case, Peter seems to have taken up a position of leadership in the early Christian church that bespeaks to a maturing and deepening of faith. I like to think that the travail he went through at Jesus’ death forced him to dig deeper into his own soul and spirit. But I suspect we are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Let us look instead at the psalm passage that was written for times of stress and difficulty.

In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16)

Words, prayers, petitions, and intercessions fervently and sincerely made will give good results. Let us remember that at this in-between time. Selah!