Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 15, 2018
Lessons: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people seek deep relationship with Jesus so that their minds and hearts will be opened to his word and will.
Key Scripture: Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Luke 24:45-47
A lot happens in the final chapter of Luke’s gospel: from the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, the other women with them, to the disciples’ disbelief and Peter’s visit to the tomb, to the encounter on the Emmaus road, and now Jesus’ showing up among the disciples back in Jerusalem, and then the Ascension of Jesus as the grand finale. Our lesson this week is the portion of the story where Jesus visits the disciples. Their response ranges from terror and fear to wonder and doubt. The disciples don’t get what they expected, but they do get everything they had hoped for—and then some.
Jesus is most certainly NOT a ghost, and he proves it by showing them his wounds, inviting them to touch him, and eating a piece of cooked fish in their presence. Even in their joy, the disciples doubt what they are seeing and wonder how this could be happening. As if this experience were not mind-blowing enough, Jesus proceeds to open their minds so that they understand the scriptures. This is the moment where the disciples finally seem to “get it” and begin to make sense of Jesus and his ministry among them. It must have been a real “WOW” moment for them as they begin to put the pieces together, to see their journey with Jesus in the rearview mirror of experience, and to regain hope, energy, and courage. And they, Jesus tells them, are the witnesses. Stewardship of this life-changing, radical, good news story is theirs to treasure and share.
We know the rest of the story—how the church caught fire at Pentecost and how the flames of the good news continue today. Yet, that was then and this is now. Just how does this lesson apply to our lives and ministries today? It’s not exactly likely that Jesus is going to show up in flesh and bone at the congregational fish fry or lutefisk supper.
Well, of course Jesus shows up all the time and in many ways. Christ is with us in the Eucharist, in the waters of baptism, in the word proclaimed in worship, wherever two or more are gathered in his name, in our congregations, and in the faces of our neighbor AND the stranger. We are also still the witnesses. Jesus still sends us out to share the good news and love and serve everyone we encounter.
The piece that may need some work is the part about opening our minds to understand scripture. Sure, we know the story, but how comfortable are most folks with sharing their faith? How deeply into the study of scripture are most congregants diving? I remember well one very dear former parishioner who didn’t feel equipped even to study scripture and who had even been made to feel at one point that the way she and others in her small group studied was all wrong. What a shame! God was surely speaking to her in her earnest and prayerful study.
How can those of us who are called to lead and serve God’s people nurture a culture of discipleship that includes deep integration of scripture study, prayer, and worship? What bridges can we craft between the word and world and between study and service? Discipleship, as we well know, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes the Body of Christ in all its imperfect human iterations to help move 21st century witnesses into action and embodied faith. Let this week’s lessons speak to that process and provide encouragement and challenge to be the beloved community for the sake of the world. We may still be full of fear, doubt, and wonder, but we are never alone, and we are called into relationship with God, one another, and this beautiful broken and blessed world. Amen.
How do you open scripture in your community? Is it your practice to read from your Bible? Does your congregation or organization provide Bibles for worship and study? Do you encourage folks to carry and use their Bibles? If not, why not? Consider making it common practice to give Bibles at various points in a person’s discipleship journey: a board book Bible or toddler Bible at birth, a child’s Bible as one begins school, a study Bible when Confirmation or middle school rolls around, a prayer Bible when new members are received. You can probably think of many ways to encourage disciples to break open the word of God and enter into deeper relationship with word and Word made flesh. Consider a blessing of the Bibles in worship, perhaps as a kick-off to a community-wide study or sermon series. Importantly, don’t be caught without your own Bible—be it a physical text or a digital app. Let your community see you immersed in your own study.
Food and faith go together like macaroni and cheese or bread and butter! Sharing a meal with others is a great way to break down barriers, build relationships, and share God’s love. Host a dinner church experience with your youth group. Invite others in your community to join you. Plan for music, art, poetry, and other celebrations of God’s creative goodness to accompany your meal. Click here to watch a video about how an apartment hallway became a community dinner space. Click here to learn more about the Dinner Church Network in Seattle. Click here to learn about St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn.
We are ALL God’s Children!
Begin by showing the children photos from your family. Tell them briefly about your various extended family members—quirks and all. Ask the children about their families. Next, if your community has a member directory, show the children some of the pictures. Tell them that this is also your family—and their family. Read 1 John 3:1a: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” Tell the children that all of us belong to God’s family. God’s family knows no boundaries. We have sisters and brothers in countries all around the world. We are one BIG extended family, and we have much more in common than we have differences. Finish with a simple prayer for all of God’s children of every time and place.
Going Deeper: Consider making a photo booth that the children can help you staff. Take photos of every worshiper who wants to be photographed and make a photo collage to share. Be sure to get permission to post photos (or have a stated “opt out” policy).
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
We are all witnesses to and stewards of the story of Jesus and the very good news he brings. Consider this week how you can dig deeper into scripture. Invite God to open your eyes and heart to better understand the good news so that you can live it well and share it with others.
Stewardship at Home
Almost everybody loves a party! This week find ways to gather at the table with family, friends, and/or neighbors. If the weather is nice, host an impromptu block party or invite the neighbors immediately surrounding your house. Keep it simple—even make it potluck. We all crave and need deeper connections, but not everyone is willing to set foot in a church to find it. As people of faith, we have to find ways to take our faith out of the building and into the world. A shared meal is a great way to begin!
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/04/potlucks-comfort-food-and-faith/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/04/a-fish-tale-and-a-love-story/
Photos: Stan Dominguez, Art in the Christian Tradition, and Carson Coots, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2018, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.