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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

The theme of “Power and Glory” permeates these readings, as is appropriate for this Sunday after the Ascension. In Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 the Lord God is said to be able to bring rain in abundance, to cause the mountain at Sinai to tremble, to destroy the wicked, and yet to be the gentle protector of orphans and widows. In Acts 1:6-14 it is said that the eleven disciples will receive power when the Holy Spirit of God has come to them. According to the 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11 selections the God of all grace, whose glory is revealed in the Christ and in the Spirit of God, has called those to whom 1 Peter is addressed into God’s eternal glory in Jesus Christ. In John 17:1-11 the Johannine Jesus asks the Father to glorify the Son, so that the reciprocating glory the Father and the Son are said to have shared before the world was made may be shown in the lives of the members of the Johannine community.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
The power that is attributed to the Lord God within the earlier Israelite oral and written traditions is requested for the present. The Lord is perceived as awesome in power and at the same time as gentle and caring. This is basically the way we as Christians perceive Jesus as the Son of God raised from the dead and ascended into the heavens. We too want those who are wicked to perish by becoming kind and considerate and we want the righteous to be joyful.

Acts 1:6-14
With its emphasis on power to be received from the Holy Spirit and used by those who shall be witnesses to Jesus Christ as Lord “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:8 provides the programmatic theme of the entire Acts of Apostles document. This was followed in Acts 1:9-11 by a vivid literary drama scene in which the expectations of the followers of Jesus that he would come again in the clouds of heaven as the Son of man to usher in the end of the present age of Roman oppression were combined with the obvious situation of no continuous presence of the Risen Lord Jesus in physical form among his followers. This Acts 1:9-11 Ascension account, therefore, paved the way for the Lukan playwright’s Christian Pentecost drama that would follow in Acts 2. Acts 1:9-11 is also an expansion of the Lukan writer’s less developed Ascension account in Luke 24:50-53.

As in Luke 24, the divine message is relayed in Acts 1:9-11 by “two men” who in this Acts 1 account promise Jesus will come again in the same manner as the disciples saw him going up into the sky. There is no doubt of the effectiveness of the vivid literary drama scene of Acts 1:9-11. It fixes in our minds the way in which Jesus left the earth and will come again. Nevertheless, we should not be limited in our expectations regarding eschatology. The return of Jesus should be considered within the context also of other biblical and post-biblical anticipations of the “last things.” For example, the oppressive Roman Empire no longer exists, and we have ways of transportation for leaving the earth and returning to it that are not limited to being taken up in a cloud and returning from a cloud.

We note, finally, that Acts 1:12-14 links the eleven disciples closely to the women who are said to have been the first to experience the empty tomb, to Mary the mother of Jesus and to Jesus’ brothers. This should be compared to the Fourth Gospel tradition, which claims the mother of Jesus for itself and with its high Christology and exclusivity removes all references to Jesus’ brothers and depicts Mary as taken into the care of the Beloved Disciple, its principal symbol of itself.

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Reflections over the significance of what it means to “share in the sufferings of the Christ” provide much of the reason for the composition of 1 Peter, and our own interest in what “sharing in the sufferings of the Christ” may have meant for the writer of 1 Peter and what it should mean for us continues in our time. We are increasingly aware that “sharing in the sufferings of the Christ” meant during the last decades of the first century what happened when followers of Jesus were boldly and openly proclaiming that Jesus raised from the dead rather than the reigning Caesar is Lord.

For our time, Hans Küng in On Being a Christian (New York: Doubleday, 1976), pp. 576-581, suggests that suffering by bearing the cross of Christ means we are called to relieve the sufferings of others, we should not complain when we suffer because of our own transgressions, and when we suffer because we live as Christians we should seek to find meaning in that suffering. We should not tolerate needless and meaningless suffering for ourselves or for others, but when we can do nothing to alleviate our pain and suffering, we should look forward with curiosity to see how God will make good use even of that suffering, including the time when we face our own inevitable death.

John 17:1-11
Within this prayer of the Johannine Jesus for unity between the Father, the Son, and the Johannine community of believers, the Weltanschauung of the Johannine community as a sectarian group of followers of Jesus is readily apparent. In this prayer the Johannine Jesus does not pray for the world, since, even though God loved the world and sent the Son to die for the world, the world rejected the Johannine Jesus. Although the Johannine Jesus is no longer in the world, the members of the Johannine community must be in the world. Unlike the Apostle Paul, who in Romans 8 expressed great love and concern for the world, the Johannine community in this John 17 prayer of the Johannine Jesus rejects the world. What shall be our relationship to the world as we close out another Easter season and enter into the observance of another Christian Pentecost?

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen