Monday, April 20, 2015

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year B

Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter, 4/26/15:
Acts 4:5-12, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18

Acts 4:5-12:
  • Notice the content of Peter's preaching, and really, most of the preaching in Acts. Instead of preaching about the things Jesus talked about, the apostles preach instead about Jesus' identity. But they seem to share very little about his parables, etc.
  • "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven . . . " How quickly the apostles make the gospel and exclusive message instead of an inclusive one, as Jesus did. How easy it is to change the whole tone of Jesus' work into something different!
  • Still, Peter speaks up and speaks boldly in some very difficult situations. When have you been so bold?
Psalm 23:
  • Ah, perhaps the one passage of scripture that most (English speaking) 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. How do we get there?
  • 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 John 3:16-24:
  • An excellent passage, and one that challenges us. "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods an sees a brother and sister in need and yet refuses help?" Indeed. How? The author's words call us to repentance and accountability.
  • "Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action." I think of the Extreme song, "More Than Words." I doubt the singers were speaking about the gospel message, but we can apply it nonetheless. Words are powerful, but no matter how eloquent they aren't a substitute for acting in love.
  • "God is greater than our hearts." Amen!
  • Believe, and love - in action. Seems simple enough. And yet...
John 10:11-18:
  • John 10 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, and I love the image of the Good Shepherd. We've cleaned this image up a lot in artwork today, in church images, but shepherding wasn't clean and easy work, resulting in a Jesus with fresh-looking robes and flowing, combed hair.
  • "I know my own sheep and my sheep know me." Jesus argues that only the shepherd is truly invested in the well-being of the sheep. Everyone else is motivated by obligation, by reward from earnings, etc. In whom are you truly invested? Who is invested in you?
  • We all have power. Jesus took the powerful path of giving up power. Have you ever given up power? How?
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