Engaging the Word: Readings for 4/12/15 (Second Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, we have the response of the early Christians to the Resurrection, John tells us how we should live as people of the light, and Thomas declares Jesus to be “My Lord and my God!”

Bauernbelustigung by Pieter de Bloot (c. 1601 - 1658). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bauernbelustigung by Pieter de Bloot (c. 1601 – 1658). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 4:32-35: This week’s brief reading gives a summary of the common life of Christian believers following the Pentecost. It tells about their experience of God’s grace and how they expressed their love of Christ through the spontaneous sharing of their resources. Here is the entire passage:

Now 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. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There 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. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

How does this reading apply to our 21st century lives? We no longer live in a close community geographically. Our own Grace community spans over 20 zip codes. So, to me, we really need our building as a central place for weekly , for group study, and as a hub for ministry. We can give generously to keep our worship space in top shape, support our gifted staff, and fund our ministries; and, because we don’t always know the financial difficulties of our fellow parishioners, we can give to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund so funds will be available for giving to those in need.

Psalm 133: Our psalm is about the blessings of unity, and it connects well with our first reading. It celebrates Jerusalem as the place where people gather together for Temple celebrations.

St John the Evangelist, by Guido Reni (1575 - 1642). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St John the Evangelist, by Guido Reni (1575 – 1642). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 John 1:1-2:2: We are in for a treat because we will be reading from the First Letter of John throughout the Easter season. Whether we call the author John the Evangelist, John the Apostle, John of Patmos, son of Zebedee, or the Beloved Disciple, Church tradition considers these names to refer to the same person and the author of the Gospel of John, the three letters, and The Revelation to John. As is common, scholars debate the authorship, but my first interest is in the text more than the arguments about authorship, so I feel comfortable with our tradition.

Although 1 John is referred to as a letter, it is more like a sermon or homily written to combat heresy, especially docetism, which denied the full humanity of Jesus and taught that Jesus was not really “in the flesh,” but was a spirit. The letter also encourages Christians to stay grounded in God’s love.

The letter opens with Christ being presented as both the life and the light of believers. John offers two descriptions: The eternal Christ who existed before the world began, and the flesh and blood Jesus of Nazareth whom John and the apostles saw, heard, and touched. Through Jesus we will experience the joy of fellowship with one another and with God.

John proclaims, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” If we deny our sin we are walking in the dark and not with God. If we confess out sins to God, we will be cleansed of guilt and shame and be worthy to walk in the light of God’s grace. John wants us to know that when we do sin, Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father, and “he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

John 20:19-31: This week’s reading from John’s Gospel is read every year on the Second Sunday of Easter. It’s late on the day of the Resurrection, and the disciples are hiding out behind locked doors because they were afraid for their lives. The Risen Christ is no longer restricted by physical limitations.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, by Matthais Stom (fl. 1615 - 1649). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, by Matthais Stom (fl. 1615 – 1649). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas, who was not with the other disciples when Jesus came, said, “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.”

A 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.” Then 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We, the readers of John’s Gospel two thousand years later, no longer have physical proof, yet Jesus calls us blessed because we “have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

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