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Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
Alternate Mother’s Day Reading (my suggestion): Proverbs 8:1-3, 22-9:6
I’ll get to Mother’s Day near the end of this reflection, but first, I will look at the lectionary readings.
Luke’s passage is the Walk to Emmaus story, a story found only in Luke’s Gospel that takes place after the women have found the tomb empty, but before Jesus has appeared to all of the disciples. The women have been told by angels (men in dazzling white) that Jesus has risen. Only Peter (as in John’s Gospel, along with the beloved disciple) has also gone to see the empty tomb. The rest of the disciples do not believe that Jesus has risen, but they have heard that the tomb is empty.
Two of the disciples, whose identities are not revealed to the reader and are apparently not part of the eleven remaining disciples (see vs. 33), are walking to a village called Emmaus outside of Jerusalem when they are met by a stranger, and they do not recognize that it is Jesus. This is a common theme in the Gospels–the disciples do not recognize the risen Christ, and it’s not clear why. In John’s Gospel, it isn’t until Jesus calls Mary’s name that she recognizes him, and it isn’t until he appears before all of the disciples that they recognize him. It says that Jesus explained about himself by interpreting the scriptures from Moses through the prophets, but they still do not recognize him until he has broken bread, blessed it and given it to them–then they recognize him, and he vanishes.
A very, very odd story–and yet another story about faith and belief. Just as we read from John’s Gospel last week, so too, we find that even the closest followers of Jesus did not understand, nor did they believe.
There are a few ways one can read this story: one, it is another story about believing even when we don’t see, or another–it is about the freedom to reinterpret, to review, to gain new understandings and insights from Scripture. Through the lens of Jesus, we can see differently and understand more deeply the relationship of God and the people, God’s children. Through the lens of Christ, we have to re-interpret and look at the Scriptures, the laws and the covenants, the prophets and the writings, with new eyes. But the understanding comes from the experience of Christ at the table. We understand, interpret, and see all new things in Scripture and in the world through the lens of Christ, who gave his life, and calls us to remember in the breaking of the bread. It is through the feast at the table, the blessing, the forgiving, the selflessness of Christ that we understand all things in a new way.
We understand that the role of the law through Moses is not to bind us to rules but to bind us to Christ’s way of life. We understand that the call of the prophets to care for the poor, to cry out for justice is the way Christ has called us to live. We understand that when we come to the table, we remember that Christ has given his body for us, that there is forgiveness of sins, that there are no longer walls and borders to keep us out of the reign of God but that through Christ all are reconciled to God, all are part of God’s family, all are welcome. Jesus said all commandments and laws were summed up into two: love the Lord our God with our whole being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These two commandments are shared in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup: Christ gave his life for us out of love, and Christ forgives us out of love. When we come to the table, we proclaim our love for God through the sharing of the bread; we proclaim our love for our neighbors through the sharing of the cup of forgiveness.
The passage from Acts (also written by Luke) begins with the same introduction as last week’s passage and continues Peter’s discourse to all those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast-day of Pentecost, who have now experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit. No longer do we see the Peter that denied Jesus, but a bold Peter, ready to proclaim the Gospel (although, as we continue to read in Acts, we’ll find that Peter still has trouble with old interpretations of rules and laws, even though he has experienced something different in Christ’s grace). This Peter proclaims to all those who have gathered and witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit that day in Jerusalem to repent and become baptized, to see God through the person of Jesus the Christ and to experience God in a new way, the way the disciples have with the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon them.
The passage from 1 Peter echoes these passages in the call to understand relationship with God through the lens of Jesus the Christ. It is a call to be born anew, and it is a call to understand that this Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, has been present throughout the scriptures, from the beginning of time, in the way Jesus himself opened to the two travelers to Emmaus a new understanding of Scripture, of the Messiah’s presences from Moses through the Prophets.
Psalm 116 is a song of praise for God’s deliverance, for God’s faithfulness, and a call of commitment to the singer/reader to fulfill their vows of faithfulness. Images that reflect Jesus are found here in the lifting up of “the cup of salvation.” Again, it comes back to the table. While we remember how Jesus died for us, the important thing is the act of remembrance itself–the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. It is the act of physical remembrance that leads us to following Christ’s commandments. Sometimes, in a general sense Christians our focus relies heavily on statements of repentance and outward expressions of faith through testimony. When we look back at the ordinances (being a good Baptist I choose ordinance over sacrament) of baptism and communion, we recognize that these are acts of remembrance. It is the physical participation in remembrance that is key to our faith, not the praises we sing or the prayers we cry out, not the testimonies we give or the sermons we preach: it is the action of our remembrance that is central to being tuned in to the call of God and the body of Christ.
I chose the reading from Proverbs to reflect similar themes found in today’s Lectionary readings but from a feminine view. Wisdom is also found at the beginning, when we look back–this passage is a reinterpretation of the acts of Creation by God, but now understanding that Wisdom was there from the beginning as well. In chapter 9, Wisdom mixes her wine, sets her table, calls out to those who are simple-minded and foolish to turn away from their immaturity, and to live, and to come to her table. “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed.” How cool would it be to read these words at the communion table? In the New Testament, Wisdom is found in the Holy Spirit, but in the Gospels it is clear that Christ continues the tradition of Wisdom.
Mother’s Day began in the late 1800’s as a peace movement. After so many mothers lost their sons in the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe declared Mother’s day as a day to celebrate peace and honor mothers, especially those who had lost their sons. Mrs. Howe, who had written the Battle Hymn of the Republic, an anthem carried by the Union Soldiers that speaks of her view of God’s divine will for the Union Army to be victorious, now began a tradition centered on peace, thinking of mothers on both sides of the war who lost their sons. This tradition was continued by Anna Jarvis who founded the Mother’s Day celebration that we know (for more information go to: http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/about-mothersday/history/) While this has become a “Hallmark Holiday,” the roots of this particular holiday are in the Christian Peace movements, and it is important to note, honor, celebrate and remember. As we are caught up in two wars (possibly a third in Libya) and civil unrest may lead to civil war in Syria and other places around the world, not to mention the genocide in Sudan that continues to rage on, let us remember all those, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, children, who have lost loved ones in war. Let us all work towards peace and remember Christ’s blessing: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Call to Worship (from Proverbs 8):
Leader: Wisdom calls out, understanding raises her voice!
People: Come in, all who seek wisdom!
Leader: On the heights, at the crossroads, she takes her stand
People: Come in, all who seek knowledge!
Leader: Beside the gates, at the entrance she cries out
People: Come in, all who seek insight!
Leader: Hear her words, for she speaks the truth:
People: Come in, all who seek righteousness and justice.
ALL: Come in, and let us worship the Lord!
Prayer of Confession:
Prince of Peace, we confess to You that our actions do not always reflect Your ways. When we have been wronged, instead of forgiveness at times we seek revenge. When we feel left out, instead of seeking understanding at times we judge. When we see injustice, at times our own actions are unjust. Forgive us, O God, when we seek our own ways and not Your ways. Hold us to the path of peace, justice and reconciliation, mercy and forgiveness. Forgive us, O God, when we insist on our own way, our old understandings and comfortable interpretations, rather than opening our heart to You, who gave Your life for us. In the name of Christ, our companion on this journey of faith, we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon (from Luke 1:78-79):
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Christ calls us on the path to peace. All who have been on the highway of violence are welcomed into the pathway of peace; all who have been lost are welcomed into the ways of reconciliation. Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Amen.
Mother and Father of us all, we give You thanks for our earthly families, for our mothers and stepmothers, for grandmothers and aunts, for all those who have been like mothers to us. We thank You for their love and care, for their strength and courage, for their guidance and wisdom. We ask that You continue to bless the mothers in our midst and all those who have imparted their grace and understanding upon us. May we know You in the ways You have Mothered us. As Jesus wanted to gather the children of Jerusalem the way a mother hen gathers her chicks, so we know that You long to gather us up. Guide us back when we wander astray, away from Your teachings, and lead us on the path to be Your family, welcoming the stranger, bringing in the outcast, and lifting up the lowly. May we always know Your love, our Mother and Father. Amen.