May 1- Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1:  Reading 2:  Reading 3:  Reading 4: 
Acts 16:9-15
Psalm: 67 Revelation 21:10 & 22:22-25 John 14:23-29 or John 5:1-9

by Leah Laird

Just who are the “others” anyway?

Acts 16:9-15

Lydia. It is easy to forget how short this entry in the missionary journal is. Many sermons have been preached and countless Bible studies held concerning this woman. A quick search on Amazon yields a result of several hundred books that at least mention her.

Yet, Lydia is named only once. Some will point to the fact that she is a “seller of purple” as sufficient evidence to win you over to her being the ultimate feminist (1 – she worked 2 – it is rumored that profession led to wealth). While a more complimentarian view would point her out as a good role model due to her eager hospitality.  Consider, though, that the text isn’t concerned with her wealth or her hospitality.

Lydia gets to verb five times! That is more than any number of Hebrew Bible women. This verbing informs the reader concerning the nature of Lydia as much as her modifying nouns. Lydia is active even in what might be taken as a passive action (listen), and her next acts show her as one in power (urgesay, and prevail). Lydia does not act within societal norms.

It is imperative to point out that this positive encounter (with one who does not fit within the missionaries expectations of a woman nor her own society’s) that leads to the evangelising of the west.

Psalms 67

There are two things to consider when approaching this psalm within the context of this lectionary. 1) Verbs! 2) Subjects and objects! This entire psalm is entirely inclusive reciprocal ongoing action between the divine and the entirety of creation. Blessing is enhancement of life and the deity is being petitioned to give this in order to be in relationship with all of the peoples in all of the lands….not just the goodies, not only with those who agree to abide within a strict social contract, and in no way to be misunderstood as relating to a specific geographic location. As the divine is impressed upon by the singers to bless so the singers compel all to join in confession/praise/joy/singing.

What is the result of these reciprocal unselfish actions? There is production in the land! And the cycle repeats. When there is full inclusion, there is increasing benefit!

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

Here. It is here, in this passage, that we finally see exclusion. The book of Revelation, a book that is not agreed upon universally by all denominations to be canon, a book that has been interpreted by so many to generate fear. This book that causes so many to struggle with religion, the divine, faith…

A book I rarely enter.

Its starts off nicely, there is no temple (no singular religion?), the gates will not be shut (all are welcome), and then: “nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood…” Yet, there needs to be a greater understanding of these words. Words so often thrown around in order to other.

Unclean: a word that appears in a mere 12 verses in the second testament, this word is most often used to describe attitude not action; it is this uncleanness that is used as a chastisement by Jesus in Matthew 15. Abomination: a word more rare than “unclean,” this word appears in only 6 verses; it carries the connotation of having to do with idols. Falsehood: having to do with deceit. It is no happenstance that unclean and abomination are paired here with falsehood. These are not the contemporary “burn in hell” kind of unclean and abomination. These terms are absolutely about deceit and inappropriate privileging.

Throughout this text the author uses light and dark imagery (a quick Google search offers a general understanding – light = out in the open/good; dark = hidden/bad). And so it is made clear: this text too seeks to portray an ideal  of inclusion; with the caveat of excluding harmful intent.

John 14:23-29

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them…”

Inclusive reciprocity. Please do not misunderstand this idea of inclusion. There are numerous examples of Jesus excluding: people in power (not all people in power), self-righteous persons, and scandal makers/trap setters (he really didn’t like them). But generally (not that I can recall anyhow) he did not exclude minorities, women, children, or sexual deviants (meaning here anyone who did not fall within societal sexual norms during the first century CE). That is not to say that the deity, which Jesus is often associated with, didn’t exclude (perhaps that can be addressed by a different lectionary); rather, it is to say that this passage is one among many that point to an idealistic mutually beneficial (not to be confused with conditional) relationship between the divine and all creation.

John 5:1-9

In case there were any questions regarding the actions (alone) of creation having precluding effects with regard to full connection with the divine, remember: Jesus healed on the Sabbath.