160: March 27, 2016
320: April 20, 2019
Voice in the Wilderness: Sarah Renfro
Voice in the Wilderness: RENEE ROEDERER
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Mary Luti’s Excellent Holy Week Note:
As Christians, we live under the burden of a sad and violent history of anti-Semitism, in the sobering shadow of the Shoah (Holocaust). It is critical for us to be clear about what our sacred texts mean when they make reference to “the Jews,” especially during Holy Week, when we contemplate Jesus’ death.
When the crucifixion narratives speak of “the chief priests and leaders of the people,” they are referring to officials who collaborated closely with the Roman systems of oppression, and were viewed with contempt by much of the Jewish community in their time. They should not be identified with the Jewish people of the past as a whole, and certainly not with Jews in the present.
It may be helpful to recall the cultural context of our Christian scriptures, emerging as they did from a small, originally Jewish community of believers in Jesus as the Messiah. All of the Gospels originated from Jewish communities. Jesus himself, was born, lived, and was crucified, a Jew. Any criticism of Jews from Gospel writers should be understood as the expression of differences of opinion among or about their fellow Jews. The gospels’ use of the term “the Jews” therefore, should not be read as a criticism of the Jewish religion, and especially not as a condemnation of an entire people, either then, or now.
It is one of the bitter ironies of history that our sacred texts have been used to justify the persecution of the covenant people, from whom our Savior came, and who are created, as we all are, in the precious image of God.
Preaching, proclaiming, “offering God” (Martin E. Marty)
Why is Easter important to you?
Why is it important for your congregation?
What does Easter compel you to do?
Technically this is the last reading of the Easter Vigil and not the Easter morning reading
Women to the tomb
Bringing spices so Jesus wouldn’t smell bad as people come to pay respects
Couldn’t do it earlier due to Sabbath
Women traditionally anointed the body of the dead - maybe - not definitive
They go expecting a dead Jesus, not an empty tomb
Awkward sexist vibe - they don’t believe the women (who support Jesus’ ministry 8:1-3, who watch Jesus’ trial and crucifixion 23:49, Witness Jesus burial 23:55, Go to the tomb and discover the resurrection) but they do believe Peter (the denier)...
Luke emphasizes the women more than the other gospels, even recalling their witness later in the Road to Emmaus story
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
We want to cling to what we know (death) instead of entering into what we do not know (resurrection)
Tendency to follow the status quo than to risk the unknown (the devil we know…)
“Matters of faith are never finally proven, nor faith generated by an incontrovertible argument. Faith is communicated by witness, but that witness is not reduced to how believers have felt about their experiences of Jesus Christ.” Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Luke.
Remembered his words - the resurrection is made real in both the proclamation and remembering Jesus life
Testimony- proclamation is as central to Easter as the resurrection itself
They proclaim what they saw, heard and remembered - in what ways have you proclaimed when you have witnessed resurrection (the unexpected, impossible love and grace of God)? In what ways have you heard the good news when you least expected it? How do you remember Jesus’ teachings and life? What will you proclaim?
An idle tale
The closest followers of Jesus dismiss the women’s message “garbage , drivel, nonsense, crap, bullshit is what it means” Anna Carter Florence
“That’s a lot of crap”
Resurrection turns the world upside down
“if the dead don’t stay dead, what can you count on?” Anna Carter Florence
Resurrection should be hard to believe - 4 different stories which greatly differ from one another
Don’t pretend like it is easy
In the face of an awful political environment, cancer, declining environment, etc Resurrection seems impossible!
9% success rate - Only Peter does something about the good news
We focus so much on numbers- here are the numbers- 91% of people will dismiss the good news as BS
But if we do not proclaim then it is 0%
Thoughts and Questions
How often do we look for the living among the dead? We look to dead ideals and customs for new life (we put new wine in old wineskins) instead of creatively venturing forth into the New Thing God is doing.
This is the a choice for a reading every Easter, years A, B, and C.
Easter 2C is John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to disciples and Thomas.
Easter 3C is John 21:1-19, Jesus appears among the fishermen.
Easter 4C is John 10:22-32 Conflict with Jewish opposition over identity.
Easter 5C is John 13:31-35 Farewell Discourse: Jesus’ new commandment: Love each other.
Easter 6C is John 14:23-29 Farewell Discourse: Jesus bid peace to his disciples
Easter 7C is John 17:20-26 Jesus prayers for disciples before his arrest.
Possible three-part series starting Easter “I have seen Jesus.”
Early in the morning, while it is still dark. (Easter sunrise services?)
Mary Magdalene is alone. Sees that the stone is rolled away.
Mary gets Peter, but Peter is slow. Beloved Disciple gets there first.
Beloved Disciple - no where does Bible say that this is John.
Authorship of Gospel is anonymous.
BD stands at door, sees linens
Peter comes, runs in, saw linens, including face cloth folded neatly.
What does this signify? Not grave robbers? No grave robber would fold up the linens neatly.
BD then comes in. He “saw and believed.”
Raymond Brown says “The fourth evangelist does not challenge the tradition that Peter was the first of the Twelve to see the risen Lord (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor 15:5); but in his consistent desire to exalt the Beloved Disciple, John has that disciple come to faith even before the risen Lord appears or prophetic Scripture is recalled. Thus the Disciples becomes the first full believer.” (Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 359)
Unclear what, exactly, he believed. Next line is “They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.”.
Perhaps they believed Mary’s report that “they had taken Jesus body.”
Peter and BD find empty tomb, believe, but don’t understand. Then they go back.
They come to check on Mary’s report, see that she is speaking the truth, but go back completely untransformed. The empty tomb wasn’t enough for them. In fact, this scene ends with Mary going back to tell them, but in the next scene they are still locked in a room.
Many bizarre details that are hard to make sense of.
Mary is alone but says, “we don’t know what they’ve done with him.”
Why are the linens so meticulously described? Face cloth folded, and placed apart from the rest.
Jesus Appears to Mary
“At the heart of the Gospel reading for Easter is the resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, leading to her confession, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ The narrative tells a wonderful story of a seeking woman, who is surprised by what she finds, or better, by the One who finds her. Hearing her name spoken by Jesus’ familiar voice brings a transformation of her grief and the opening of a new world.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 273).
Mary lingers, crying.
Mourning is important. Cannot get to healing without mourning first. Resurrection does not take away tears, it just means tears are not the end of the story.
Two angels ask her “why are you crying?”
“They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”
Sees Jesus, but does not recognize him until he says her name.
When he speaks, “Mary,” she responds “Rabbi.”
There is a poignant beauty in her recognizing him only after he speaks her name. “My sheep listen to my voice.” (John 10:27 - will be the text in a couple of weeks)
Jesus tells her “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’
Relationship status is one of equality. Disciples are siblings. They share the same Father.
Translation issue - NRSV has only “Go to my brothers.” Not really a problem, but something to be aware.
Thoughts and Questions
Jesus first appears to Mary. This fact cannot be overstated. In a world where men continue to try and use the Bible to justify subordination and violence, the fact that Mary is the first to recognize that Jesus had risen is important. She is the first witness to proclaim, “I have seen Jesus.”
“Don’t hold onto me… Go.” As wonderful as Easter is, we cannot hold onto it. We need to move forward. The great anthems, the packed pews, the new faces are all so great. It should be celebrated, but we cannot hold onto it. Monday is coming. Easter 2C is coming. We need to go. Go into the community. Go into the places where people are and need to hear “I have seen Jesus.”
Continuation from last week- deeply connection to last week’s reading
If preaching on this- read the rest of the chapter.
Issues to think about: organ donation, willful cremation, unwillful cremation and mutilation, etc.
Last week was the beginning of the answer of v. 12:
“If Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection?”
Paul is addressing Corinthians who believed there is no resurrection - a concern that persisted into the second-century and even today:
In his debate with Trypho the Jew, Justin acknowledges that there are “some who are called Christians ... who say that there is no resurrection of the dead [anastasis nekrōn], and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven.” Against such “godless, impious heretics,” Justin takes an uncompromising stand: “Do not imagine that they are Christians” (Dialogue with Trypho, 80).
Richard Hays’s characterization of the Corinthian argument: “The resurrection of Jesus is a wonderful metaphor for the spiritual change that God works in the lives of those who possess knowledge of the truth. “Resurrection” symbolizes the power of the Spirit that we experience in our wisdom and our spiritual gifts. But the image of resuscitated corpses (anastasis nekrōn) is only for childish fundamentalists. Those of us who are spiritual find it repugnant.” (Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)
The difficulty is that this once (and possibly still) heretical believe is common among modern Christians.
anastasis nekrōn, translated as the resurrection of the dead literally means “the rising of corpses”. A fleshy resurrection.
Counter to the new-platonic world view that the rational soul would finally be freed of its flawed and fleshy prison.
However it is unclear that Paul means the resuscitation of a dead body. Later (vv. 35-49) paul will argue the foolishness of that claim. There is a resurrection but our bodies will be completely changed - like a seed to a plant.
The First Fruits
Christ is the beginning glimpse of the eschatological resurrection
The resurrection Paul has in mind is NOT eternity in heaven upon death, but rather the eschatological vision of unity with God when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.
To claim there is no resurrection is not only to deny the victory of life over death and love over fear, but also denies the culminating Kingdom of God initiated by Christ’s resurrection. If Christ was not raised, then the Kingdom is not at hand. (Jerry Irish, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration)
To deny the bodily resurrection is to deny the resurrection of Jesus, which is to deny the Good News:
If the resurrection is not real then:
The proclamation is in vain (v.14) and we are false witnesses about God (v. 15)
Our faith is in vain (v. 14) and futile (v.17) and we are still bound by our sins (v. 17)
Those who have died in Christ (and otherwise) are lost forever. (v. 18)
In other words- if there is no resurrection, then death wins and love dies
Thoughts and Questions
Go back to last week- the appearance of Jesus are the evidence of the resurrection and culminating Kingdom of God. It is evidence:
“Jesus Christ is no less a presence in our world than in Paul's, but are we aware of that presence? Can we abandon our multitude of distractions, many of them rooted in the same status seeking that plagued the church in Corinth, long enough to experience God's love and live our lives in response to that love? As in today's reading, Paul's theology always couples death and resurrection, Christ's and our own. Marcus Borg writes that "death and resurrection become a metaphor for the internal spiritual process that lies at the heart of the Christian path." That process entails the death of our self-seeking ego, ...With that death comes a resurrection, a gift of new life empowered by God's gracious love.” (Jerry Irish, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.)
Resurrection acts as the divine stamp that marks Jesus’ life and ministry with victory. It moved Christianity from a ethical code to pursuing a transformed life.
How many of our church members are seeking transformation? How many are seeking a moral compass?
Why does the resurrection matter? Does it have to be a bodily resurrection?
What do we mean when we talk about resurrection? Does our faith, as Paul claims, rely on belief in the bodily resurrection? If it doesn’t then what are the fundamentals of our faith?
The theme for all of the texts on Easter is God’s victory over death.
The resurrection is a sign that all Jesus did on earth should be carried on. The resurrection is proof that Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead - all things.
Peter’s Elevator Witness
Used to describe what Baptism and Christian faith are about
Fear of God - i.e. faith
Doing right - i.e. works
These are Peter’s words at the home of Cornelius, who had gathered friends and relatives to hear Peter. In the previous passage, it is revealed that Cornelius is a Roman Centurion, but “a righteous man, and a God-worshipper who is well-respected by all Jewish people.”
This setting is very important - and Peter even says so immediately before this speech, which is about God’s mercy being open to all.
Must be understood within context
Peter just had a vision that abolished the food laws of clean and unclean
Cornelius has a vision to summon Peter
Peter goes and preaches to and among gentiles
“What God has made clean, you must not call unclean” - this is basis of God’s impartiality
The Good News is for everyone
There are no cultural or ethnic requirements
God calls all people through Jesus Christ
Not new to scripture- Deuteronomy 10:17, “God is not partial and takes no bribe.”
New to Peter
Alan Gregory - Poetic rhythm of the story
You must fear God and do right
Jesus preaches peace to all people
Healing and freedom from oppression led to death
Jesus’ ministry was that of “doing good and healing everyone oppressed.” Jesus did this, and for it, he was killed.
Death is met is resurrection
Resurrection by judgement
Judgement with forgiveness
And we return to the impartiality of God
God is not partial to you or to your enemy- God is partial to reconciliation and forgiveness
How do we determine what is of Christ and what isn’t?
healing the oppressed
Whoever believes in him
Jesus or God?
If you do not believe in God or Jesus- do you care if you are forgiven?
An inclusive message to believers - NOT a message of judgement against unbelievers
Israel received the message first, but are not the exclusive receivers of the message
Immediately afterwards, this group of Romans began to speak in tongues, and were baptized.
After this episode with the Roman gentiles, Peter is questioned by the Jerusalem Church.
This is Peter’s 30 sec elevator witness - what is yours?
If God is impartial to Israel or the Jews, then isn’t God also impartial to the church? What does this mean for the church and our mission?
If God’s primary focus is forgiveness and reconciliation- How is the church living into this mission? How are each of us?
What cultural barriers stand in our way of participating in God’s mission? (just as not associating with Gentiles stood in Peter’s way)
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.