Scripture Introductions

Easter 2A April 27, 2014 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
(You may want to ignore what you find in parentheses or footnotes, which may be my personal prejudices, or may be more detail than is required.) You will want to personalize them, I am sure, to make them more accurate and more relevant to your congregations. The intent is to honour the Bible, and the intelligence and interest of our people. You may also want to note that we begin three short series of “semi-continuous” readings, in Acts, I Peter, and John. So, let’s look at these readings. In the first reading, we hear Peter preaching to the crowd that had gathered because of the noise of Pentecost and the Spirit. This is the earliest recorded sermon on Jesus Christ. (We will, of course, come to the Feast of Pentecost in due course.. Here, the focus is on the verbal message. The key is not Pentecost, but the Resurrection of Jesus, and the reading is edited accordingly.) After the Resurrection, there were significant shifts. The cowering disciples, seeking cover in their memory-filled upper room, are now out in public, passionately witnessing to their risen Lord. The message of Jesus, of life-style and following him, is now the message of Jesus, risen and alive, with the apostles as his witnesses. Acts may have been written around 85 AD/CE about 50 years after the event, and after the reported missionary work of Peter and of Paul. There have been persecutions. Some have been beaten, and some killed because of this new faith. Peter is pictured linking the message of Jesus (first with the prophet Joel, which we will skip, and then) with King David, essential for an appreciation and acceptance of Jesus as Messiah. (There is a reference to “Hades” in the Acts reading, and to “Sheol” in the Psalm to follow.. Neither resembles the “Hell” of eternal punishment, but is simply the place of the dead, or, if you will, where we place the dead!) Let’s listen ti Acts 2: 14a,(2) 22-32. You may prefer to keep your acclaim to follow the Gospel, or use traditional words, or say something like; May our faith in the Risen Christ grow and deepen. Amen.
The Psalm for today is the one from which Peter quoted. (”The Lord,” which has always referred to Adonai [YHWH, The Lord] in Tanakh (The Older Testament), becomes attached to Jesus as a regular reference to him.) ( “Sheol” is a reference to death, or, more specifically, the place of the dead or where we place the dead! The Psalm is a “Miktam,” of which there are six, all linked with David. I have not found a satisfactory definition of Miktam.) Let’s listen to Psalm 16, VU 737-738.
The message of Jesus is further developed in the Epistle reading, written perhaps 5 years after Acts, by unknown hands, but given the name of “Peter” indicating, perhaps, Peter’s influence on the author or status in the community. The writer believes in salvation through Jesus Christ, as he is proclaimed. Believers already participate in the new life in Christ, but suffering and persecution are very real possibilities for them. And they expect Jesus’ return… soon! And they, themselves, would see him. (“Soul” may have already shifted, under the influence of Greek and Roman thought, away from the sense of life, energy or person-hood in the Hebrew “Nephesh,” to something more “spiritual.” (3) ) Let’s listen, as the author explains, beginning with praise to God. I Peter 1: 3 – 9 May we, no matter our circumstances, rejoice in our faith. (as in “Hallelujah Anyhow!”) Amen.
In the Gospel, we hear of Jesus breathing on his followers so that his spirit (the same word as “breath”) would enliven them. (Is this John’s parallel to Luke’s “Pentecost” account? If so, it emphasizes that it is Jesus’ spirit that moves them(4) and it is more important than sight or sound!) We also read of Thomas, “The Twin(5),” whose reputation of “doubting” shows the shift from Jesus’ tendency to challenge people to question and think for themselves, towards a concern for trust, then belief, then accepting and not questioning as the official church moves toward authority and control. (As I understand it, the Gospel would have been written between 90 and 100 AD/CE.) (I wonder if we should present Jesus’ invitation to Thomas’ finger and hand as a demonstration of Jesus’ wit/humour/teasing.) (The Gospel may, originally, have ended on this note of real life in Jesus, though another chapter follows, with its own significant messages.) Let’s rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let’s listen closely for the Good News for us in:) John 20: 19 – 31. Praise God for this revelation of life and love. Amen. It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
1. With thanks to EMC, who offered encouragement and comment, and CAM for critique.. 2. They skip the reference to Joel, and Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy of the Spirit of God on all, in spite of age, gender, to focus more on the resurrection….. 3. I admit that it is a personal prejudice, but I sometimes remind myself that the Romans taught us organization and the Greeks philosophy, but our faith is rooted in Jewish spiritual soil. RSC. 4. I find this a highly significant moment. “Spirit,” in Luke’s Pentecost story, may be linked with Creation and Exodus through the images of wind and fire. The stress on energy, with its attendant noise, is obvious. But John’s story of Jesus breathing on them tells that it is Jesus’ way that is to be their way, Jesus’ style their style, and Jesus’ motivation theirs- and ours, as well! RSC. 5. Since there is no reference to a Twin of Thomas, some have wondered if this is a teasing reference to a habit of his of seeing both sides of any issue! He is sometimes referred to as Juda, or Judas, so he might be Twin to keep him separate, as the Simons had to be separate. RSC. (Comments to Stew at