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Easter 6, Cycle C (2016)

The great things God’s love does. The celebration of Easter continues focusing on the magnificence of God’s actions and how every aspect of our lives is his work. Justification, Sanctification, Providence, Eschatology, and the Holy Spirit are relevant themes.

Psalm 67
This is an Elohistic Psalm of thanksgiving for a good harvest. (These are psalms in a block from Psalm 42 to 83 which employ Elohim for the divine name rather than Yahweh.) It is attributed to David. We have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). This psalm was apparently written to be played with stringed instruments. It is a benediction or blessing offering a petition that God would continue to be gracious [chanan, merciful], blessing the people and that his way [derek] and salvation [yeshuah, safety] be known among all nations (vv. 1-2). It is based on the language of the Aarnonite benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. “Selah” at the end of verse 1 refers to a liturgical direction to add a musical interlude at that point. A prayer that all the Gentile nations might praise God, for he judges with equity follows (vv. 3-5). The good harvest is noted (v. 6). Petitions are offered that God would continue to bless Israel and that all the ends of the earth revere/fear [yare] God (v. 7).

Application: The Psalm moves us toward celebrating how God’s mercy and blessing to his people are so magnificent that they are worthy of note by the whole world (Justification by Grace, Providence, and Evangelism).

Acts 16:9-15
It is good to be reminded that this book is the second half of the two-part early history of the Church attributed to Paul’s Gentile associate, Luke (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). It is particularly concerned to affirm the universal mission of the Church (1:8). This lesson reports on Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia, his subsequent travels, and Lydia’s conversion.

Paul’s vision beckons him to travel to Macedonia for help. He and his disciples (the author uses the first person plural form of a verb indicating for the first time that he was accompanying Paul) are convinced that this is a calling of God (vv. 9-10). They journey to Samothrace, an island on the way to Neopolis (a seaport of Philippi) and finally to Philippi in Macedonia (vv. 11-12). This was a first journey with the gospel to Europe.

On the Sabbath day they travel by the river outside of Philippi to what was supposed to be a place of prayer [proseuch]. They meet a Gentile “worshiper of God” (one who believed in the God of the Jews but not a practicing Jew) named Lydia. She was from Thyatira, a city in Asia Minor. Hearing the teaching of Paul and his followers, her heart [kardia] was opened by God (vv. 13-14). She and her household are baptized. She urges Paul and the disciples to stay with her in her (Gentile) home (v. 15).

Application: This story makes clear our total dependence on God, that even faith is a work of the Holy Spirit (Justification by Grace, Providence, and the Holy Spirit).

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5
Once again we focus on the last book of the Bible, an Apochryphal document written in the last part of the first century expressing hope for salvation after a world-ending new creation. Although parts of the book may predate the fall of Jerusalem, it is likely that it achieved its final form during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD) who is said to have persecuted Christians for refusing to address him as lord and god. Written by John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8), whose identity is not clear despite the tradition’s identification of him with the disciple, the book’s Semitic Greek style suggests that its author was Jewish. It is the report of seven (the mystical Hebrew number for fullness) dreams. It relies heavily on eschatological images of the book of Daniel and other Old Testament texts (see 1:7 [cf. Daniel 7:3]; 1:12-16 [cf. Daniel 10:5-9]).

The lesson is an account of the New Jerusalem. In the Spirit [pneuma], caught up in prophetic illumination, the writer is carried to a high mountain to see the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven (21:10). He sees no temple in the city (the heavenly Jerusalem) and no need for sun and moon, for the glory of the Lord God and lamb of God play that role (21:22-23). The nations will walk by this light and world’s kings have their glory subsumed by it (21:24). The gates of the city will never be closed (because there is perfect safety) (21:25). People will bring to the city the glory and honor of the nations but nothing unclean may enter, for it is only those written in Christ’s book of life [zoe] (21:26-27).

An angel shows the author the river of life flowing from the throne of God and the lamb (22:1). On either side of the river is the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit (22:2). Nothing accursed will be found in the New Jerusalem. The throne of God and the lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve/worship [latreou] him (22:3). They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads (as a mark of protection, as per 7:3) (22:4). This vision is in direct contradiction to the Hebraic tradition’s teaching that no one can see God (Exodus 33:20; Deuteronomy 4:12). It is prophesied that there will be no more night, nor will there be need for light [phos] and sun. For the Lord God is their light, and his servants will reign forever (22:15).

Application: The text calls us away from all forms of idolatry or efforts to circumscribe God to an appreciation of the Eschatological vision that life is only good in the presence of God and that the incarnation has and does make that happen. Christology, Sanctification, and Eschatology are primary themes.

John 14:23-29
Again we note that this book is the last of the four gospels to be written, probably not composed until the last two decades of the first century. It is very different in style in comparison to the other three (so-called Synoptic) Gospels. In fact it is likely based on these earlier gospels. The book has been identified with John the Son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this claim was made as long ago as late in the first century by the famed theologian of the early Church Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 414). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John.

Recently, though, some scholars have suggested an alternative account of the origins of John’s gospel. Appealing to the writings of a late-first/early-second century Bishop Papias, who may have implied that John’s gospel was the result of eyewitness origins, such scholars have argued that the book is in fact an authentic historical testimony to Jesus (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155). Regardless of its origins, though, most scholars agree that the book’s main agenda was probably to encourage Jewish Christians in conflict with the synagogue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31).

The lesson is part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper; it reports his teachings on believers’ relation to the glorified Christ. These verses are unique to John. In response to Judas’ question of how Jesus reveals himself to his followers and not the world (v. 22), Jesus notes that those who love him and keep [tereo] his word will be loved by the Father (v. 23). But whoever does not love [agapao] him does not keep his words and that word is from the Father (v. 24).

Jesus claims to be saying these things while with the faithful (v. 25). The advocate/comforter [ parakletos] (the Holy Spirit) whom the Father sent in Jesus’ name [onoma] will teach everything and remind them of all that he has said (v. 26). Jesus claims to leave peace [eirene] with the faithful and not as the world [kosmos] gives. He exhorts them not to have troubled hearts (v. 27). Jesus admonishes the faithful for not rejoicing that he is going to the Father, who is greater [meizon] than he is (v. 28). (This may be a reference to Jesus’ conflict with Satan.) He claims to inform the disciples of this so that they may believe when it occurs (v. 29).

Application: This lesson affords opportunities for sermons proclaiming that faith is not something we do (Justification by Grace as well as the Holy Spirit) and that when God has his way with us, even good works that follow are the result of grace (Sanctification).

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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