Reading Ramblings – April 28, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

Date: April 28, 2013,
Fifth Sunday of Easter

Texts:
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-7; John 13:31-35

Contextual
Notes:
Easter is not just a day, but a liturgical
season, just as Christmas is. The season of Easter lasts 50 days,
until Pentecost Sunday. The Old Testament readings for this season
are replaced with readings from Acts, representing the newness of
God’s work through the Church. The Gospel readings emphasize the
appearances of Jesus following his resurrection.

As we pray for the world around us,
including our enemies, we do so knowing that Jesus has died and risen
for them as well as us. There is no one who remains safe from the
power of the resurrected Jesus, so we have hope that even the hardest
of hearts can change, and that death itself no longer has the power
to imprison us. We are privileged and challenged to bring this
amazing news to anyone and everyone we meet in the hopes that they
may receive the same faith by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Acts 11:1-18: Is the
Good News sufficient to save by itself? Who is to be included in the
perfect sacrifice of Jesus the Son of God and his resurrection from
the dead? This is the major question the early Christians had to
deal with. Starting as a Jewish movement, it is understandable that
many assumed that to have saving faith in Jesus Christ, one also had
to be an observant Jew. This required, among other things, strict
separation from non-Jewish people. From the beginning, the New Testament records that the Holy Spirit of God worked just as powerfully among
non-Jews as Jews. If God will not require people to become Jews
before receiving the Holy Spirit, how long can the distinctive
practices of the Jewish people be seen as binding on those who place
their faith in Jesus Christ?

This division in the early Church was
very real and very strong. People on both sides of the issue argued
persuasively for their point of view. Not until Acts 15 is the issue
resolved, though the repercussions continue to play out for some
time. The work of Jesus Christ is perfect, and nothing needs, can,
or should be added to it. As such, our dedication to the Christian
life is always a response to what God has already done for us in
Jesus Christ, never an attempt to earn God’s favor or love.

Psalm 148: This psalm of
praise calls on all of creation to be united in praise to God. Just
as all people are invited to the forgiveness of God through faith in
Jesus Christ, the victory of Jesus on the cross and in the empty tomb
brings victory to all of creation. Just as all of creation suffers
by the actions of Adam, all of creation will praise God for
deliverance in Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:1-7:
Though we tend to talk of heaven as our eternal home, Scripture
more often speaks of a new earth, a new creation as our final home.
Just as God and man dwelt in harmony together in Eden, so in this
new earth, God will dwell among his creation once more, and the
blessings of perfect harmony with God will extend to all creation.
The effects of the fall into sin will not exist in this new and
perfect earth.

John 13:31-35:
The central part of this reading draws our attention – the command
to love one another. We are to love one another not as we prefer to
love, or as others would prefer to be loved, but as Christ has loved
us. Love is not an arbitrary action or word, it is grounded
completely in the love that Jesus Christ shows to the world, a love
that is sacrificial not self-serving, a love that is anchored in
obedience to God, not self-centered demands.

While this call is interpreted first and foremost as love for
Christian brothers & sisters, the love extends outwards from
there, as the love is evidence to others of our faith in Jesus
Christ. Love is, moreover, the litmus test by which our faith is
known. Where there is no love for others, there can be no faith. We
cannot claim to love God if we will not love one another.  

As we grow in our faith and our love of our Christian brothers and
sisters, I believe that our faith will grow to include love of those
outside the faith, love even of our enemies. This is the radical
nature of the love Jesus Christ at work in us – we become able to
love those who least warrant it. And this is the way that Christ has
loved us.

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