Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday 30 April 2017 - Third Sunday of Easter

Themes: Reality of the risen Jesus. New, radical community of the risen Lord. Resurrection joy.

Sentence: In your constant love, O Lord, you have led the people whom you ransomed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy dwelling place. (Exodus 15:13)


God of peace,
by the blood of the eternal covenant
you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep;
make us perfect in every good work,
and work in us that which is pleasing and good;
through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35


Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Jesus has risen from the dead (36). So what? Peter is a model sermon giver because he offers the important answer every sermon should offer to the 'so what?' question which every sermon should raise.

Perhaps a little differently to sermons we hear, Peter is helped to ask the question because his hearers interrupt the sermon and ask it for him! "Brothers, what should we do?" (37)

Peter does not offer fifty shades of discipleship grey. He tells it like it is. Two actions with a consequential promise (38).

Be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven
You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

In our language today this might be expressed as:

Make a decision to walk in God's ways with Jesus as your boss and stop being self-centred

Be baptised as an action which makes public your decision to walk in God's ways (or, if already baptised, let's find another way to express publicly your decision)

You will experience God's powerful Holy Spirit working in your life, empowering you to make good the decision you are making.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Another way of responding to the resurrection of our Lord is in praise. These verses set out, from another time and situation, the psalmist's joy at having a near death and therefore near resurrection experience (1-4).

How can the psalmist repay the Lord for his saving him? The second part of the reading is summed up in verse 17, "I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice."

1 Peter 1:17-23

Another way of answering the 'So what?' question from the resurrection narrative is put in these verses:

"live in reverent fear in the time of your exile" (17).

 Around this general direction (which will receive some detailing of specifics as the letter continues), Peter offers a theology in which God as Father is 'judge' (17a), believers/readers 'know' that they have been 'ransomed' by something more precious than 'silver or gold' (18). That ransom was paid 'with the precious blood of Christ' (19). In this theology the ransom was no random event. Rather Christ 'was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for our sake' (20).

The generality of 'live in reverent fear in the time of your exile' is unpacked with one further general direction in verse 22 (with particular directions not far away in chapter 2). Note the way in which Peter does not lay down rules or instructions for living so much as implications from experience of life in Christ:

"Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual lovelove one another deeply from the heart."

The passage then finishes with yet further theological statement about Christian experience,

"You have been born anew ..." (23).

For us, preaching from this passage, the So what? or So whats? are laid out for us. In this season of Easter, grasping what it means that Christ died for us and that God then raised the dead Christ from the dead, we are to live in reverent fear during these days, which includes living with deep mutual love for fellow believers.

If we pop futher down the page to chapter 2 and begin reading
"Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice and all guile, insincerity, envy and all slander ..."
we begin to understand the specifics of both living in reverent fear before God as judge and loving one another deeply from the heart.

Luke 24:13-35 On the road to Emmaus

On any reckoning Luke excels himself as the teller of stories of Jesus.

This is actually one of the longer episodes in the life of Jesus and that allows Luke to build in lots of narratival detail.

Importantly the length of the story allows Luke to both build up to a climactic appearance-and-recognition of the risen Jesus to two disciples and to set out, via the long conversation between the not-yet-recognised Jesus and the two, both the story of the resurrection in relation to the ministry of Jesus (19-24) and the story of the resurrection in relation to the revelation of God through "Moses and all the prophets" (25-27).

Since this story is told at the end of the gospel, Luke cleverly utilises the long conversation to be part of the conclusion of the gospel, setting the whole story of Jesus life, death and rising again into the larger story of God and God's people Israel (see also 24:44-47).

The last part of the story, in which the journey having ended, the two disciples press the stranger to stay with them for a meal, is beautifully told. It is hard for us, the readers, not to have our hearts "burning within us" (32) as we read through the build up to the moment of recognition (31).

This part of the story is clearly an encouragement to believers in every age because we too can sense the risen Jesus speaking to us through the opening of the Scriptures, and a significant experience for most believers in their ongoing encounter with the risen Christ is participation in the Lord's Supper, receiving the bread and the wine as the body and blood of Christ.

A final point to note. In this story, of opening of Scripture and breaking of bread, we find a model for Christian worship, for ministry of the Word and ministry of the Sacrament, for reading the Bible together and having it expounded while also sharing bread together after the bread has been taken, blessed and broken.

Incidentally, when Luke tells us that "he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures" he uses a Greek word which gives us our modern word, hermeneutics, the art and science of understanding the Bible. Every preacher's task is to
"interpret to disciples the things about Christ in all the Scriptures."

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