Archive for the ‘Thirty-Third Bundle’ Category

LUKE 24:36b-48

36 Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

What proved eventually to have more persuasive value than the appearance stories that were circulating among Christians was what might be called the “argument from the scriptures.” Since the Jewish population made up the major field of earliest Christian outreach, a basis for believing in Jesus as God’s messiah had to be generated out of the writings and traditions that held their respect. Granted an undeniable liberty in the early Christian handling of the texts, there was still something to be said for the discernible current of God’s promise in scripture and its fulfillment in history.

Whether their method used in interpreting the Bible was water-tight and logically sound or not, these early believers found confirmation of their resurrection experience in the sacred texts. The writings themselves testified to a process unfolding through time, various names for which were grace, blessing, redemption, and salvation.

Time and again, this grace had broken through and passed beyond the obstacles of human neglect, habit, rebellion, and oppression, in order to achieve its realization at the next level and for a new generation. What to all appearances had been ignored as without value, discarded as useless and abandoned as hopeless, had become, time and again, the very means through which the divine blessing advanced.

That’s what had happened! What had seemed dead and gone was experienced as alive and present, gathering heat like a glowing ember in the depths of the heart, where hope is born ever new.

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LUKE 24:36b-48

36Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Apparently, then, a rumor had been circulated to the effect that Jesus’ own followers had heisted his body and then professed his resurrection from the dead. But doubts were emerging from within the unstable Christian community itself, with some suggesting that the witnesses had seen “only a ghost.” In other words, there was nothing more going on than the possible sighting of an apparition, which may or may not have been the actual ghost of Jesus, but not his living presence.

Or had it been an hallucination? How better to dispel such doubts than to provide the episodes and testimonies of those who did see Jesus alive (again) and well, or to compose the actual meeting where the Jewish conspiracy against the truth of the resurrection had been hatched in the first place?

In the end, however, the Christian’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus cannot depend on an empty tomb, an exposed plot, or even on the testimonies of people who claimed to have been witnesses of the miracle. It is not possible, finally, to get from external evidence and eye-witness reports to the experience of “Christ who lives in me,” as the apostle Paul translated the mystery.

Your stone must be rolled away.

LUKE 24:36b-48

36 Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The essential mystery of the resurrection had less to do with the chance encounter with a body-once-dead-but-brought-back-to-life than with the post-crucifixion experience of a grace that had become so identified with the presence and personality of Jesus that its event inspired the conviction: “He is alive!”

The fact that even in the appearance stories Jesus is frequently unrecognized by even his closest followers until he identifies himself to them, reinforces the view that we are dealing here with something much more profound than a merely resuscitated body. Again, it is not the thing “out there” but the experience “in here” that is the heart of the resurrection mystery.

Why, then, does this storyteller portray the risen Jesus as inviting verification from his dumbfounded disciples? We can sense behind this episode what must have been a significant criticism in and around the author’s community, from individuals and parties who were beginning to challenge the validity of the so-called resurrection experience. As safeguard to the authentic Christian experience, the Gospel writers inserted into their stories narrative remarks and reported events that would address these doubts and rumors.

For instance, Matthew inserted a brief exchange between the guards, who were as close to being witnesses of the resurrection as anyone could be, and the chief priests of the Jews. After reporting to the priests what they had seen, the guards were paid and instructed to say that some disciples had come by night and stole away with the dead body of Jesus.

 

1 JOHN 3:1-7

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we will be? What are we now? According to the author, we are in the process of becoming like unto Jesus, the now risen Christ. Recently this philosophy and teaching have been given the name evolutionary spirituality, or the evolution of spirit in the fullness of our humanity. The idea is that we, as we ponder and reflect on this mystery, are still unfolding according to the internal design of our deeper human nature.

Locked yet within us are powers, talents, and capacities that are awaiting their seasons of release and realization. Now that we’ve seen the truth, are we able to stand firm with integrity against every form of deception and worldly distraction? Now that we’ve tasted of an unconditional love, can we accomplish the forgiveness of our enemies without a question of what’s fair? The fact that these virtues are presently assimilated not fully but only in degree is evidence of our becoming, that we have some developmental distance to go.

All, then, is not done for us by some external agency. God did not “fix” things in the life or on the cross of Jesus, but rather revealed to us our own depth and future. The love unveiled in Jesus invites the reflective seeker to contemplate its radical power, to open in receptive response to its gift, to allow its redemptive energy to awaken and rise up from deep within. To “receive” the love of God from without and to have its potential “released” from within are really just two angles on the same mystery – the mystery being that God, who is Love, simultaneously embraces and stirs within us. As a son of God, Jesus revealed our true identity as God’s children.

1 JOHN 3:1-7

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

There seems to be little if any room here for the honest mistake, the venial sin, or the odd slip from the path of spiritual purity. Does the author really believe that moral perfection is not only a possibility, but something that can be mandated? Is he meaning to say that your sin or mine is blatant “lawlessness” and proof that we do not know God? We do know for a fact that the community behind this letter eventually fell into a form of spiritual elitism that took some time to expose and correct.

To be fair, we must see this short passage in the larger context of the entire letter and tradition of the so-called Johannine community (the tradition associated with the apostle John, missionary to Asia Minor), beyond whatever perfectionistic tendencies there may have been in the central revelation of God’s love and initiative of forgiveness in the person of Jesus. What was shown to us there was a grace so deep-reaching that even our most energetic attempt to overcome it by nailing it to a cross only provided the condition for its most powerful display. With that self-same love now released into us, we are empowered to love as God loves. Imagine being so totally filled with this love; would it still be possible to sin?

PSALM 4

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

One essential aspect of religion is the human awareness of being morally accountable before God. Apparently there is a deep inner sense that awakens in us fairly early, that something is being asked or required of us. Conventionally this is represented in the form of commandments handed down by God, but it can also be understood as our innate sense of the human ideal within us, as capacities and virtues needing to be unlocked and released in the progress of our maturity.

The adolescent crisis is properly named “the guilty conscience” due to the conflict experienced between the natural impulses of the body and the cultural norms of society which exist for the sake of promoting the animal self to a fully responsible human person. And even though this crisis is most tumultuous in our adolescent years, the conflict between flesh and spirit remains a moral concern throughout our lives.

One thing we need to learn, though, is that there is a “grace greater than all my sin,” as the old hymn goes, and that God remains faithful and forgiving on our worst days. All that is required is our turn to God in surrender, devotion, and thanksgiving – a kind of waking to grace.

ACTS 3:12-19

12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

The whole temple area was a flurry over what Peter had done on behalf of a lame man who had been begging for alms by the entrance fate. Peter told the man to look into his face, and when he did the apostle declared, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I will give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And the moment Peter took him by the hand, the story says, the man’s ankles and feet were made strong and he began to walk and jump and sing praises to God. This is when Peter took advantage of his ad hoc assembly of astonished bystanders for the occasion of another sermon.

Early preaching did not hesitate in fingering the blame for Jesus’ death on “you Israelites,” that is, on the Jews. But beyond the Jewish rejection of Jesus, lying deeper and standing farther behind the individual choices and group actions, was the providence of God in the fulfillment of prophecy. In a way and to an extent that no one could possibly comprehend, the will of God had been at work throughout the events leading up to and centered around the Messiah and his suffering. However the early Christians understood it, the accusation against the Jews (which would become the basis for later antisemitism throughout Christendom) was not absolute. Turning from sin and receiving God’s forgiveness was a “live option” equally for them, as it is for all people today.