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!