This Sunday, in the liturgical year, is the “Fifth Sunday of Easter”. The “season” of Easter, including Easter Day, is 49 days and 7 Sundays in length. According to Luke the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples and others for 40 days and on the 50th day, Pentecost, the Spirit descended and filled the disciples. With this new power and a new recognition of just who Jesus is the disciples, now apostles, began telling everyone the Good News.
2000 years later, it is difficult for us to keep the Easter excitement. Five Sundays after Easter we are busy planning vacations for the summer, opening up our cabins/lake homes for the coming summer, getting on the lakes to catch the lunker walleyes and northerns, and (when the water warms up) enjoying skiing and other water sports. We are busy in our yards and gardens and planning on the projects we need to do around our homes during the summer. AND we are still going to work. Did we forget about the Day of Resurrection? Have we forgotten the Good News as we go about our daily lives. Remember, it is STILL Easter and, in fact, every Sunday is Easter. Perhaps it is good that Pentecost will be here shortly for we do need the Spirit to revive our spirits; to bring a little Easter and Christmas back into our lives.
This Fifth Sunday of Easter our readings are:
Acts 7:55-60 – You should seriously consider reading the entire story of Stephen, Acts 6:8-8:3. Stephen becomes a deacon in the new church to make sure that the widows in the church were being treated well. He quickly becomes a street evangelist in Jerusalem. He is arrested and jailed on false charges. In his defense, Stephen gives a long speech that recounts Jewish history. He finishes by accusing the elders of the temple with being “stiff-necked” and “uncircumcised in heart and ears”. This enrages the elders and the crowds and they drag Stephen out of town and stone him to death. In the moment of death, Stephen asks God not to hold the slayers’ sins against them. Why does Stephen not protest the false charges? Why does Luke (same author as the Gospel) present Stephen as meekly going to his death? And where are his friends during all of this? Did the elders and priests really need to hear a recitation of their history?
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 – This psalm is 24 verses and my Bible give it the title “Prayer and Praise for Deliverance from Enemies”. (Titles and headings for section breaks are inserted by the particular Bible publisher. Chapters were assigned in the 13th century and verses were established in the 16th century. Even punctuation and capitalization were not part of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.) I read parts of this psalm during our Wednesday night Lenten services. The psalmist prays to God for relieve and protection from enemies and expresses confidence that God will deliver him.
1 Peter 2:2-10 – Peter has called his church to holy and righteous living. The verse before our reading, 2:1, says, “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy and all slander.” He then uses two metaphors to develop this admonition. We should be newborn babes longing for spiritual milk that we may grow into salvation. We should also be “living stones”, who, with other living stones, are built into a spiritual house in which we are all part of the royal priesthood. (Martin Luther developed the idea that we are all a “priesthood of believers”.) The cornerstone of this new house is Jesus Christ. This cornerstone was rejected by humanity. This stone is also the rock on which the non-followers stumble. What does it mean to be chosen by God? How can you be part of the royal priesthood? what is it that moves us from darkness into light? Who or what is this light?
John 14:1-14 – In chapter 13, Jesus and his disciples come together for a meal. It is the night when Jesus will be betrayed and arrested. Jesus begins by washing the disciples’ feet and then commanding them to love each other just like he loved them. Chapter 14 begins a three chapter discourse/conversation with them about what will soon be happening. Jesus uses a lot of images to help the disciples understand, some of which are in these 14 verses. Jesus speaks of a house with many rooms, a place where he will bring them. In answering a question from Thomas Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In answering a question from Philip, Jesus says that if you have seen Jesus you have seen God (the Father). Finally, those who believe and follow Jesus will do all the works of Jesus plus many more. What does it mean that Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life? If in knowing Jesus we know the Father why does so much of Christianity want to keep a separation? (Jesus turning the other cheek vs. God who smites evil doers.) What does it mean that Jesus “dwells” in God and God “dwells” in Jesus?
May the Spirit of the Resurrection fill and excite you with the endless possibilities of God good work in and through you!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor