Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, May 6th, 2018

I wanted to get a fresh post up last week, but my time and energy for writing went towards e-mail communications, a newsletter article, and other administrative work.  This week, I am getting this post up early in the week so that I can get back on schedule.

Many of our readings this week are continuations of previous weeks.  The 1 John 5 and the John 15 readings pick up where last weeks readings from 1 John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-8 left off.  The Acts 10 reading picks up where our first Easter morning reading, Acts 10:34-43, left off.  Any themes from these readings build off of what we heard and know from these previous readings.  Previous themes include: no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10); God is love, God shares that love will all people, and we are called to share that love with all people (1 John 4); and we must remain connected to Jesus so that the fruits of our faith may grow (John 15).

These readings bring up a lot of questions, so I have included several comments below some of these readings.  If you have different questions, or if you have responses to my questions, I invite you to share in the comments below.

Acts 10:44 - 48

44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

- Peter asks the key question: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  What barriers do we put around baptism?  Are these legitimate barriers?  Or do these barriers serve only to make us feel better about our role in baptism?
- We can ask the same questions about Holy Communion.  What barriers do we put around the Communion table?  Are these legitimate barriers?  Or do these barriers serve only to make us feel better about our role in Communion?
- We often ask whether children know enough about Holy Communion before they receive the sacrament for the first time.  We might wonder whether their parents and grandparents know enough to receive the sacrament today.  But what role does our knowledge and understanding play in the sacrament of Holy Communion?

- Acts 10:24 describes the group which Cornelius had gathered together to receive Peter and his companions.

Psalm 98

O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
 2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
 4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
 5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
 8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
 9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

The “victory” celebrated in Psalm 98 is undefined.  Have the people won a great battle or repelled an invasion?  We don’t know because everybody in that place and time already knows what happened, so the psalmist did not see the need to define it.  But the emphasis is on the community’s response to what the Lord has done.  Everyone is invited to grab their various instruments and praise the Lord through music.  Creation adds the sounds of its natural instruments to our music.

1 John 5:1 - 6

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

  6This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

- 1 John 5 seems to take the definition of “the love of God” in a new direction.  To this point, explanations of “the love of God” have pointed to what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do.  Suddenly, the definition includes us and how we “obey his commandments.”  Which commandments are these?  Do these include the 600+ laws in the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)?  Do these include just the Ten Commandments?
- Also, what does “victory” mean in 1 John?  It seems to include our faith, but how does our faith conquer the world?

John 15:9 - 17

[Jesus said:] 9“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
  12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

- Again, what “commandments” are we keeping?  Is this a reference to the “new commandment” Jesus gave to the disciples, that they love one another as Jesus had loved them?  Does this include commandments to carry out Jesus’ ministry and mission after his death?
- But in this, Jesus says that we are friends because he has revealed everything that he has heard from the Father.  Jesus does not withhold secret knowledge from us; this goes directly against organizations with “secret knowledge” available only to insiders.
- John 15:13 typically gets used in a military context.  How else can we hear this verse?

No comments:

Post a Comment