Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter, 5/11/14:
Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

Acts 2:42-47:
  • This is one of my favorite passages of Acts, where this early Christian community is depicted. When you look at this, and think of the church communities we have today, I wonder how far we've strayed from this model of community life.
  • "all things in common." We don't have much of anything held "in common" with people we are not related to these days. Maybe we'd (rightly) write it off as communism, but with our pejorative meaning added. How might we gain some of this "in common" life back? I have some friends in Tucson who've been fairly involved with a group of social-justice-minded people living in "intentional community." Hard work. But valuable.
  • breaking bread - sharing a meal together. Even if we can't live with all in common, we do still share together around the table in churches. To me, this time can be some of the most sacred time. Think of all the bible stories that are centered around shared food and drink. I think food/drink are so vital to life, to living, that they tie well in with the way God is vital to life and to living.
Psalm 23:
  • Ah, again the 23rd Psalm. Someday I'll have to count how often it shows up in our lectionary. Today, it corresponds well with our John 10 text.
  • This is perhaps the one passage of scripture that most people, regardless of their usual preference of translation, prefer to hear in the poetry of the King James version, myself included. Just a part of our identity as people of faith.
  • "I shall not want." Hmm. I think we skip right over this little phrase. We like to hear about our overflowing cup. Less interesting to us, less believable, is that we could be without want.
  • Have you ever tried writing this as a reverse Psalm? Verse by verse, reverse the meaning of the phrases. Not necessarily point for point, but in the sense of it. Instead of "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," try, "I have no one to lead me, and my need is boundless." I've been led in this process, and led my Bible Study in it. At first you might ask, "Why do it this way?" But, especially when in a group, reading back all the hopeless examples of our life without God, we see the power of this psalm more clearly.
  • Like all well-known texts, there is a danger of it communicating nothing fresh to us. This psalm is often used at funerals - many people know it by heart. Many find it comforting and strengthening. What else can it be? Challenging? Guiding us?
1 Peter 2:19-25:
  • "it is a credit to you if . . . you endure pain while suffering unjustly." A verse like this must have fortified, for example, Gandhi and those in his movement when the British were attacking them as they attempted to collect salt from the sea, or MLK and other civil rights leaders, young and old, as they were beaten, imprisoned, sprayed with fire hoses. Have you ever unjustly endured physical pain? I don't think we want to stray into thinking that it is somehow godly if we are abused in relationships, but here I'm wondering more about civil disobedience, nonviolence - have you ever endured pain because you were standing up for a belief?
  • Jesus is the example of nonviolence: "When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten" - but again, lest I be misunderstood, let me say that I don't mean this to suggest/recommend inaction in abusive situations. But Jesus as a model of nonviolent activism.
  • The author is very much emphasizing Jesus in substitutionary atonement model - Jesus was sinless, but he bore our sins, so we wouldn't have to. This is personally not a central part of my theology. But certainly the emphasis for the author.
John 10:1-10:
  • This passage contains my favorite of all verses, 10b, "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly." I latched onto this verse when I was in high school, and was amazed that Jesus wanted us to have such full lives. In high school, it led me to try new things, dream dreams, because I realized that God wants us to enjoy all the wonderful things about this life.
  • Notice Jesus mixing his metaphors in this passage - is he the shepherd? The gate? And who is the gatekeeper?
  • Remember, we tend to think of shepherds and sheep as warm and cuddly and wonderful today. But shepherds weren't exactly at the highest rung of society in Jesus' day. Their job was a smelly and dirty and lonely one perhaps. What images correspond for us today? What is a thankless yet vital profession?
  • How do you hear God's voice? How do you recognize it and distinguish it from other voices in your life?
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