18 April 2021
The resurrection is more than just a past event or a ticket to life after death. It is a lived reality that has the potential to change us and our world, if we can only believe, open to the change it brings, and proclaim its life-giving power through our lives. This is the message of this week’s Lectionary, and it is both joyful and challenging. The call to be witnesses to Christ is one of the most transforming messages we can receive, because it requires us to live, speak, think, and act like Christ.
May the message and mission of Christ fill us and send us out as agents of God’s grace, justice, and love.
Acts 3:12-19: Immediately after the healing of the lame man, Peter addresses the crowds, explaining that the power to heal the man came from the same Jesus that they had crucified. Peter then calls the people to turn back to God.
Psalm 4: A plea for God to remember God’s faithful servant, and an affirmation of how God cares for those who trust in God. Finally, a call for people to stop chasing lies and turn back to God.
1 John 3:1-7: Because of God’s love, we are God’s children, and we have hope that when we see Christ we will be like him. Therefore, we resist sin and seek to live in righteousness as Jesus is righteous.
Luke 24:36b-48: Jesus appears to the disciples, showing them his hands and feet, and eating a piece of bread to prove that he is not a ghost. Then he shows them how he has fulfilled the Scriptures, and he calls them to proclaim repentance and faith in Christ as his witnesses.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
If there was ever any doubt that God expects the resurrection to have an impact on how we live, this week’s Lectionary readings should lay it to rest. All of the readings are very clear that, because of God’s work in our lives, we should live differently, and we should be witnesses to God’s grace and love. The Acts reading describes how Peter, after healing the lame man at the Temple, bears witness to Christ and calls his listeners to turn back to God. The Psalm speaks about God’s goodness to God’s faithful ones, and exhorts people to turn back to God. John’s letter teaches, in a clear and direct way, that following Christ has to change how we live, with sin no longer being welcome in our lives, and Christ’s righteousness being the pattern by which we now live. Finally, in the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus challenges his disciples, who are now witnessing him as the Risen One, to believe and to be witnesses that call others to repent and believe and find life in Christ. The implication this week is that, as all of these biblical witnesses teach, we are also called to become witnesses to Christ, changing our own lives to live as true Christ-followers and calling others to repent, believe, and find life.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
The task of witnessing to the resurrection, historically, has been one motive behind colonialism, Christian triumphalism, and even Christian violence against people of other faiths. This is tragic and horrifying, since nothing could be further from the Gospel of peace and grace that Jesus lived and taught. Even today, in a mistaken belief that we are somehow “witnessing” to Christ, Christians have engaged in crusades against evolution, climate change, Islam, abortion, homosexuality, and even social justice. Yet, the economic, political, and social implications of the resurrection have largely been ignored. However, when we place the resurrection, and the teaching that accompanies it in the New Testament, in the context of Jesus’ message of God’s Reign, we see that the resurrection is far more than just a promise of life after death. Rather, it is a challenge to everything that brings death into our world, and a call for all people to live differently – in ways that bring life to others. This means that we, who seek to follow Christ, need to begin by repenting ourselves, as John directs, seeking to remove sin – whatever would bring injustice and death into our world – from our lives, while embodying the same grace and love that Jesus showed. Then, through Christ-like lives and words, we are able to call others to a new, loving, gracious, and just way of being. The true power of the resurrection is felt not so much after death, but here and now when God’s life is brought to all who are dying under oppression, poverty, persecution, and hatred.
The resurrection is usually seen as something we wait for. We may speak about receiving Christ’s life now, but we tend to define that as simply a promise of everlasting life when we die. However, in every family, community, and individual life, there is a longing to be fully alive – creative, contributing, filled with meaning and purpose, and connected with other people and with the earth. It is exactly this longing that Jesus’ resurrection life fills. The promise of life after death only has meaning if we can know and experience something of the resurrection now – and we can when we allow Christ’s message and mission to change us, shifting us away from behaviours and attitudes that bring pain, darkness and division into our neighbourhoods and communities, and moving us toward generosity, peace-making, inclusivity, service, and advocacy for justice. Our calls for repentance must first be manifest in our own lives, and then we can challenge others to work for justice. The call for repentance is not about imposing some puritanical moral code on others, so much as it is about living in such a way that we bring life and love to others. And the call to believe in and follow Jesus is less about assenting to some intellectual ideas than about embodying in our own lives the message and mission of Christ. In this sense the resurrection and the Reign of God are really synonymous, and together, they are the heart of the Christian message and life.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Committing To Life
Responding To Life
The Life That Is Truly Good
I Cannot Tell Why He Whom Angels Worship
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Lord Of The Dance (Link to YouTube video)
Jesus, Lord, We Look To Thee
Father Forgive Us
Because He Lives (Link to YouTube video)
Lord Jesus Christ (Living Lord) (Link to YouTube video)
Lifesong (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for the Sacrament
Children Of God
Because He Lives