April 3, 2016 – Second Sunday of Easter

Reading 1:  Reading 2:  Reading 3:  Reading 4: 
Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118: 14-29 or Psalm 150 Revelation 1:4-8 John 20:19-31
by Benjamin Cowan

Acts 5:27-32

The readings this week ask us to consider, what does it mean to live post-Easter? This passage in Acts starts up after the disciples have been arrested for preaching about Jesus. Miraculously, they were released from jail and went back to preaching about Jesus. The religious authorities were shocked that those whom they jailed for preaching were back to preaching. They called the disciples in to admonish them not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus but Peter, on the behalf of the disciples, responds that they must obey God above the authority of humans and testify to the good news found in the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The disciples are convinced that Jesus has proposed a paradigm shift in the world and that this should cause everyone to pause and reconsider how things have been done before. This new order is rooted in the concept of mercy. We are now receiving mercy from God and are called to share mercy to others. Whitehead often stated that change is the nature of the universe. The text challenges us to consider how we respond to the lure of God? Do we embrace it or do we fall into stagnation like the religious leaders portrayed in this text.

Psalm 118:14-29

The two options in the Psalms outline our response to embracing the lure of God through Jesus in worship. The text in Acts establishes Jesus as the right hand of God. In the Christian reading of this psalm, Jesus becomes the yes to true life. Jesus is the hope of deliverance and the one who represents right standing with God. Jesus becomes these things because he proclaimed the good news, God’ message of care for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the fatherless, the motherless, the prisoner, the unclean, the women, the outcast, and the rejected of society. Jesus’ demonstrated that God loves them by ultimately becoming like them on the Cross. Hence our hope in the stone that was rejected. As such, this solicits in us gratitude for all the mighty things that God has done.

Psalm 150

The alternative psalm reminds us of the importance of music. Whitehead once wrote, “religion cannot exist without music. It is too abstract.” This psalm reminds us that music is our embodied expression of worship and gratitude to God. Sounds formed by instruments express something beyond the words that can be uttered in a sermon and express the emotive side of life. Let us gladly worship God with our emotions and bodies!

Revelation 1:4-8

This passage in Revelation reminds us that the focus of our post-Easter hope and faith is Jesus. The reason for the focus on Jesus is because he has been proven, by the resurrection, to be the faithful witness of God. Through Jesus, those who wish to belong to the kingdom of God, can. The nations are described as wailing upon his return because of the failure to live by the message he proclaimed,–good news to the poor, the weak, the forgotten, and the outcast. The selfishness of the nations and greed are confronted by his presence and message.

John 20:19-31

The gospel of John reading compliments the reading in Acts in showing how the disciples moved from fear (John) to courage of proclamation (Acts). The text describes the disciples hiding in fear because of all that had taken place concerning Jesus. This is a natural response. People that they had interacted with, and one whom they were very close to,  over three years suddenly orchestrated the death of their friend. The disciples probably feared that  they to would be killed because of their association with Jesus. The knock on the door in this very anxious time probably sent a chill down their spines! Yet, seeing Jesus probably equally shocked them! Demonstrating to them that he is truly Jesus, the disciples are relieved. The following passage is the fulfillment of John 13-16. where Jesus predicts his death and informs the disciples that their anxiety, fear, pain and sorrow will be washed away with the realization of his resurrection. In addition, because he is risen, he can now offer the disciples what he promised them, the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathes on them symbolizing that the Spirit is associated with the new way/life that Jesus has spoken of throughout the gospel. They are given the power to forgive sins because of the message that is now entrusted to them. Forgiveness is for those who can see the image of God in every human being.

The final half of this pericope deals with how Thomas came to believe in Jesus. Not being present with the other disciples when Jesus appeared, Thomas remained skeptical of their claims. Upon seeing Jesus for himself, he believes. This is not surprising when we consider that Luke informs us that the disciples did not believe the testimony of the women that Jesus was risen (24: 10-11). Matthew implies that there were some who saw and still did not believe (28:17). Unfortunately, Thomas has gotten an unfair reputation of doubting when in actuality his behavior is more typical of the followers of Jesus in particular and human nature in general. How often do we not believe things that we ourselves have not experienced and even then still doubt? Jesus does state that blessed are those who believe and do not see. This anticipates that the inspired testimony of the disciples through the Holy Spirit will become the primary means by which others will believe.