Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thursday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, April 8th, 2018

My apologies to all of you for not keeping up with this over the last couple of weeks.  The end of Lent and Holy Week are a very busy time for any pastor, especially a solo pastor.  Unfortunately, I was not able to share my sermon preparation process with you over the course of the last two weeks due to my busy schedule.  After a funeral this week, I am attempting to get back on track.

This week, the congregation celebrates Rogation Sunday, a traditional celebration in rural communities that asks the Lord's blessing on the crops that are being planted in this season.  This typically happens on the Sixth Sunday of the Easter season; however, the congregation I serve holds their Rogation Sunday earlier in the Easter season so that the congregation can conclude worship with a blessing of tractors and other large pieces of farm equipment.  Local farmers are invited to bring their large equipment to the parking lot and their hand tools indoors as part of the service.

For those who are new to my posts or just need a reminder, I will share the Bible readings that the Revised Common Lectionary designates for our upcoming Sunday worship service.  After each reading, I share my initial thoughts and responses to each reading.  I invite you to share your thoughts, responses, and questions in the comments below.

Acts 4:32 - 35

32Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Acts 4 is a second community of disciples that sounds like a commune (compare to Acts 2:42 – 47).  The people are united in Christ to the point where they share all property/resources from the sale of property.  While there are no claims of miracles, we do explicitly hear that the resurrection was proclaimed within the community (Easter focus).  Curiously, the reading stops short of the positive example set by a member of the community; this person sold a piece of land/property and gave 100% of the proceeds to the community.  Perhaps the RCL creators did not want us to start drawing in the Acts 5:1 – 11 story…

Psalm 133

 1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

How good and pleasant, indeed!  Unfortunately, we have a tendency to disrupt such communities from within due to jealousy and selfishness.  But when we get to experience communities like this (I got to experience this while serving on camp staff and while attending seminary), the experience sticks with you for the rest of your life.

1 John 1:1 - 2:2

1We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

  5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2:1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 1 answers the question of where we find some of the language within “The Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness.”  The first chapter seems all over the place, like we have missed an organized introduction to the letter.  But 2:1 – 2 gets to the point: Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for all sin and the advocate for all people before the Father.

John 20:19 - 31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

  24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
  26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

  30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The verse before this Gospel reading is Mary Magdalene reporting her encounter with the risen Christ to the disciples.  Question: was Thomas with the disciples when Mary told them of her encounter?  If so, then what held Thomas back after hearing about a second, separate encounter?  I imagine that it would be harder to dismiss the disciples’ story if Thomas was present to hear Mary’s story.

Who in our lives tells the most/biggest “tall tales?”  How do we receive stories from this source?  How do we confirm/refute such stories?  If the story is confirmed by another, trustworthy source, what do we do?

No comments:

Post a Comment