Reading Ramblings – May 19, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

Texts: Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-7; John 16:12-22

Context: The Holy Spirit is loose in the world. While we look forward to the formal inauguration of his arrival on Pentecost in a few weeks, it is difficult to speak of the power of the resurrection apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. His work in the world is at times unexpected, but a glorious outpouring of God the Father’s love and care for us. We are never alone, and we should never think that our God is absent or mindless about any aspect of his creation.

Acts 11:1-18 – Peter’s vision and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit on non-Jews sets a new direction for the early church – outwards to whomever will receive the Good News. This was unexpected, but it doesn’t take long for the leaders of the church to recognize that this is of God and their responsibility is to acknowledge and praise God. This will, in short order, necessitate some clarification and further leading by the Holy Spirit in terms of what is required of those seeking to follow Jesus – do they need to become Jews first, or are Gentiles welcome? In the meantime, the scandal of preaching to and baptizing and even associating with Gentiles must have been very unnerving for Peter as well as the others who listened to his story! The Church must always be on the lookout for the Holy Spirit’s leading even in unexpected directions.

Psalm 148 – I’m frustrated that we had this psalm just a few weeks ago, and we’ll have it once more before the end of the liturgical calendar. Aren’t 150 psalms enough to avoid this kind of repetition!? In any event, this psalm calls on all aspects of creation to give God praise. He is praised first and foremost for his act of creation in the first place (v.6). But ultimately He is to be praised for the personal relationship He has with his people (v. 14).

Revelation 21:1-7 – The effects of the resurrection are eternal, reconciling the faithful to God . God once again will dwell with his people. Suffering will be banished and death will be removed from creation as perfection once again reigns as it did in the initial days of Adam and Eve. Here it is pictured as a divine city rather than a garden, but it is clear that as in the beginning, God is firmly in charge of all things according to his master plan. The new beginning He will inaugurate can be trusted because it is God the Father himself who will initiate it, and it is not dependent on our efforts, only our acceptance of the victory of God the Son.

John 16:12-22 – As Jesus prepares for his ordeal, He instructs his disciples at the last supper pertaining what will happen after his departure. While they will not have his presence, they will have the Holy Spirit of God who will guide them into truth as He reveals whatever the Father desires to have revealed. In the process, Jesus doesn’t become irrelevant but serves as the focal point for praise and honor. The revelation of the Holy Spirit is only possible because of the victory Jesus is about to win through his suffering and death. Jesus says to his disciples what He has said on several other occasions to his accusers – they will not see him much longer. Like his accusers, his disciples don’t know how to interpret his words, despite his clear explanation of things on multiple occasions. However the ultimate result is that they will see him again, and this will be a cause for celebration even though He will not stay with them indefinitely. Their joy will be such that they don’t remember the sorrow and anguish they will endure over the next three days as they watch their Lord suffer, die, and rest in the tomb.

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