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God's Word on Sunday: Past offers opportunity for enlightenment

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  • April 11, 2021

Third Sunday of Easter, April 18 (Year B) Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

Sometimes terrible things are done by people thinking that they are doing something worthy of praise — even pleasing to God. 

Peter laid an indictment before a stricken crowd. The God of their tradition — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — had glorified and empowered Jesus as the anointed one. But some were unable to accept that and handed Him over to the Romans for execution. Particularly bitter was their request that a murderer, instead of Jesus, be released by Pilate. Peter even twisted the knife a bit, stating that they had killed “the Author of life.” 

What hope is there after such a disastrous deed? But God always has the last word, which in this case was to raise Jesus from the dead. By doing so, God declared that Jesus had spoken and acted on His behalf and that all He had said and done was absolutely true. 

But people had acted in ignorance. Most of the negative and destructive things that people do flow from ignorance that often masquerades as wisdom, insight or fidelity to a tradition. Unfortunately, good intentions alone are not enough. Peter offered hope: Even now repentance and baptism were an option, and many accepted. 

Today nations, organizations, societies and churches are examining their own collective pasts, recognizing systemic injustice, violence and oppression. No religion gets a prize or free pass, for all have been guilty at one time or another. This should not be an exercise in self-flagellation, but an opportunity for enlightenment and repentance. 

We cannot smugly assume that we would have behaved differently if we had lived in previous generations. Ignorance and twisted understandings of reality have a long life and can poison a culture. And Jesus would not fare any better at human hands today, even those who call themselves by His name. 

His words would be as challenging and disturbing today as they were then. We cannot rewrite the past, but we can write the future from a new and enlightened perspective.

The author of 1 John had high ideals but was also a realist. He truly believed that one abiding in Christ should not — even could not — sin. Perhaps with a bit of resignation, he admitted that sin was a possibility but that we have an Advocate with the Father. Jesus had become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world so He could ensure that no one was beyond forgiveness or redemption. 

John had a foolproof authentication for religious claims. Only those obeying God’s commandments can claim to know God, and these commandments are expressions of love. Religious claims in which this is missing can only be suspect.

Chaos and confusion must have reigned in the upper room for some time. Scarcely had the two disciples related their encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus Himself suddenly appeared in the room. 

His disciples were frightened out of their wits even as they rejoiced. They did not know what to make of it. Jesus tried to make it easier for them. He showed them His hands and feet, but His wounds appeared for their benefit and were probably not a permanent feature. 

Even though He had no need of food, He asked for and ate some fish. He demonstrated that He was not a ghost or phantasm and that it was truly He that died on the cross. Jesus repeated what He had told the two disciples on the road: The suffering and death of the Messiah was according to divine plan and all had been foretold in the Scriptures. 

The suffering and death of the Messiah was a major stumbling block for the first believers. Jesus challenged them to find God in the midst of suffering and heartbreak. He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures, for this involves far more than a literal or superficial reading of the text. 

So much of human familiarity with the Bible remains on the surface with predictable results: dogmatism, confusion and endless controversies. His mission to them was to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the ends of the Earth — a fresh start and new life for humanity. 

The message is just as valid and urgent today, perhaps even more so.

 

Third Sunday of Easter, April 18 (Year B) Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

Sometimes terrible things are done by people thinking that they are doing something worthy of praise — even pleasing to God. 

Peter laid an indictment before a stricken crowd. The God of their tradition — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — had glorified and empowered Jesus as the anointed one. But some were unable to accept that and handed Him over to the Romans for execution. Particularly bitter was their request that a murderer, instead of Jesus, be released by Pilate. Peter even twisted the knife a bit, stating that they had killed “the Author of life.” 

What hope is there after such a disastrous deed? But God always has the last word, which in this case was to raise Jesus from the dead. By doing so, God declared that Jesus had spoken and acted on His behalf and that all He had said and done was absolutely true. 

But people had acted in ignorance. Most of the negative and destructive things that people do flow from ignorance that often masquerades as wisdom, insight or fidelity to a tradition. Unfortunately, good intentions alone are not enough. Peter offered hope: Even now repentance and baptism were an option, and many accepted. 

Today nations, organizations, societies and churches are examining their own collective pasts, recognizing systemic injustice, violence and oppression. No religion gets a prize or free pass, for all have been guilty at one time or another. This should not be an exercise in self-flagellation, but an opportunity for enlightenment and repentance. 

We cannot smugly assume that we would have behaved differently if we had lived in previous generations. Ignorance and twisted understandings of reality have a long life and can poison a culture. And Jesus would not fare any better at human hands today, even those who call themselves by His name. 

His words would be as challenging and disturbing today as they were then. We cannot rewrite the past, but we can write the future from a new and enlightened perspective.

The author of 1 John had high ideals but was also a realist. He truly believed that one abiding in Christ should not — even could not — sin. Perhaps with a bit of resignation, he admitted that sin was a possibility but that we have an Advocate with the Father. Jesus had become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world so He could ensure that no one was beyond forgiveness or redemption. 

John had a foolproof authentication for religious claims. Only those obeying God’s commandments can claim to know God, and these commandments are expressions of love. Religious claims in which this is missing can only be suspect.

Chaos and confusion must have reigned in the upper room for some time. Scarcely had the two disciples related their encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus Himself suddenly appeared in the room. 

His disciples were frightened out of their wits even as they rejoiced. They did not know what to make of it. Jesus tried to make it easier for them. He showed them His hands and feet, but His wounds appeared for their benefit and were probably not a permanent feature. 

Even though He had no need of food, He asked for and ate some fish. He demonstrated that He was not a ghost or phantasm and that it was truly He that died on the cross. Jesus repeated what He had told the two disciples on the road: The suffering and death of the Messiah was according to divine plan and all had been foretold in the Scriptures. 

The suffering and death of the Messiah was a major stumbling block for the first believers. Jesus challenged them to find God in the midst of suffering and heartbreak. He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures, for this involves far more than a literal or superficial reading of the text. 

So much of human familiarity with the Bible remains on the surface with predictable results: dogmatism, confusion and endless controversies. His mission to them was to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the ends of the Earth — a fresh start and new life for humanity. 

The message is just as valid and urgent today, perhaps even more so.

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