THEME OF THE DAY
Amazing grace! Historically this has been a Sunday to celebrate the goodness of God. The focus of the sermons should be placed on what God has done and is doing for us in our daily lives (Atonement and Justification by Grace), with attention to how this is a word which alleviates our despair (Sin).
As noted on Holy Thursday when it was assigned, this Psalm is a thanksgiving for healing and/or deliverance. God is praised for healing us, a witness made amidst the whole congregation in the temple (vv. 1-2, 18-19). The psalmist claims to love [aheb] Yahweh for hearing his cry. This is a God who is said to be gracious (channun, a term not prominent in the Old Testament, appearing most frequently in Psalms), righteous [tsaddiq], and merciful [racham] (v. 5). The relationship between these attributes makes sense when we remember that the righteousness of God refers in the Old Testament to the quality of relationships God has, and that he is on Israel’s side (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 371-372). Healthy relationships depend on love and mercy….click here for the full installment
Within the three Newer Testament texts designated for the Third Sunday of Easter in Series A the message that God raised Jesus from the dead continues to be proclaimed in a variety of ways. In the Psalm 116 reading there is, of course, no proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus. There is, however, a strong affirmation of life as a gift from the Lord.
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
In this individual Hymn of Praise the psalmist “offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving” to the Lord, realizing that this sacrifice is certainly inadequate as a response to the bountiful life the Lord provides for the psalmist. Nevertheless, thanksgiving and praise to the Lord is the greatest response possible for the psalmist, and this response is offered in the presence of the people assembled for worship.
It is virtually the same for us. The “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is the greatest response we are able to make to God for what God has done and continues to do for us in the resurrection of Jesus and in our own anticipated resurrection from the dead on the last day. For all of this, we thank and praise God.
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
As we use this text in our Christian worship services, it is very important we acknowledge the propensity of the writers of the Four Gospels and of the Lukan playwright repeatedly in Acts of Apostles to remove the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus from the Romans who, with the support of a minute percentage of Jesus’ own people who cooperated with them, were the only ones who crucified anyone in Jerusalem during the first century to the Jews from all over the Roman Empire. Since theologically “our sins” caused the death of Jesus and historically the Romans crucified Jesus, perhaps the best translation of the final expression in Acts 2:36 would be “this Jesus who was crucified,” not “this Jesus whom you crucified!” This translation provides the best translation both theologically and historically, and it would be an appropriate Christian response to the text during this season when Jews throughout the world are, with sadness, observing Yom Hashoah, a Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust.
1 Peter 1:17-23
Here also the writer of 1 Peter provides a good summary of what was being proclaimed to non-Jewish followers of Jesus late during the first century regarding atonement with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In its reference to “the useless lifestyle that you inherited from your ancestors,” 1 Peter 1:18 is applicable today only among persons who are “first-generation” Christians and for those whose parents’ lifestyle was deplorable. For this reason, it will be helpful to explain to those who will be hearing the reading of 1 Peter 1:17-23 this coming weekend that 1 Peter appears to have been written to followers of Jesus whose ancestors were not Jewish.
In this well written Lukan account, we have our best biblical illustration of an Easter story sermon. The Lukan writer at first followed Mark 16:1-8 fairly closely in producing Luke 24:1-12, but doubled the Markan young man in white at the empty tomb to two men in white in order to provide two adult male witnesses, and changed “Go to Galilee!” to “Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee,” so that everything associated with the resurrection of Jesus and the beginnings of the proclamation of the gospel would remain in the greater Jerusalem area. Beyond 24:12, however, the Lukan writer composed a new Easter story sermon, drawing materials from 1 Corinthians 15:5 for Luke 24:34 (“The Lord has indeed been raised from the dead and has appeared to Simon!”) and putting special emphasis on how in the Torah and in the Prophetic traditions the Christ event has been foreseen. In this Easter story sermon, the Lukan writer holds the interest of the audience and in the process of sharing of the story proclaims that Jesus is indeed alive, he can be seen but is not always recognized, the Risen Christ is known most fully in the Eucharistic breaking of the bread, and when the Torah and the Prophetic traditions are correctly interpreted they explain the significance of the Christ event. The story sermon continues beyond 24:35, and we are called to continue this Easter story as we, like the Lukan writer, proclaim the Easter message with inspired creativity….click here for the full installment