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Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150:1-6, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31

Human life is lived in the midst of a much larger reality, to which we are called to be faithful. It is finally, Paul says (quoting a poet of his day), in God that” we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

This sometimes put the early Christians, as well as believers in all ages, in conflict with the authorities of the day. In Acts, chapter five, we find the early apostles causing such a stir that they get the attention of the Jewish Council. The apostles are told to stop.(Acts 5:27-28) The apostles response: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (vs. 29) It is a declaration which is a challenge to our living everyday. Are we simply following the winds that blow as governments and people around us try to tell us how to live, or are our choices responsive to some deeper internal compass?

The book of Revelation, from which one of this week’s readings comes, was written to encourage Christians in a time of Roman oppression, kind of an underground document full of symbols which the readers in that time would have understood. There have been those in every age that have applied the symbols to nations and leaders in their day, with absolute certainty. The truth of the book can be applied in every age, but that truth is larger than the deciphering of symbols. It is simply this: “No matter how oppressed you are, God has the last word. God does not intend for your lives to be snuffed out with no meaning.” Someone once said of the book of Revelation, “I’ve read the last chapter; God wins.”

This week’s reading from Revelation is from the beginning of the first chapter and declares that truth right up front. God is not a passing fad, not someone who fades away in the face of a moment (or even a week or year or lifetime) of suffering and oppression. God is one “who is and who was and who is to come.” (Revelation 1:4 & 8) Jesus is described as “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” to whom “glory and dominion” belong “forever and ever.” (vs. 6) The reading ends with the Lord God saying, “I am the Alpha and Omega,” Alpha and Omega being the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. God is there at the beginning and at the end and in all the time in between. Revelation calls us to remember that in troubling times. The meaning of life is much bigger than one little (or maybe not so little) setback.

This is the third Sunday in a row the lectionary has offered Psalm 119 as a reading or an alternative reading. It is a wide-eyed celebration of life that “is marvelous to our eyes.” (vs. 23) “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (vs. 24) “The Lord is God, and he has given us light.” Let’s celebrate! (vs. 27)

Psalm 150 might offer us an occasion to reflect on how to celebrate. There are instruments (trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, cymbals). (vss. 3-5) Where are the drums? I want to see drums! I love it when we get the drums going on some Sunday mornings, including Chris’ enthusiastic pounding!

There is dancing! I’ve been part of congregations that have used various forms of dance as part of worship on occasion. How do we express our joy and enthusiasm before God? There is not just one right way to worship. It doesn’t always have to be emotional and exuberant. Times of quiet reflection and meditation are important. Sometimes (probably more often than occurs now) we need to let go and get a bit carried away. What do you think? Or feel?

Finally, the Gospel lesson from John, chapter 20. The risen Jesus appears to the fearful disciples who are hiding behind locked doors. (vs. 19) Notice that all those gathered are shown Jesus’ hands and feet. (vs. 20) Thomas wasn’t there in the room that day. (vs. 24) He asked for nothing more than the others had already been given—to “see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side.” (vs. 25) A week later, in another meeting, he is given that opportunity. (vss. 26-27)

Are we sometimes slow to believe something a friend tells us? That seemed to be the case more than once as the disciples (including the women) tried to tell one another what they had seen. The story raises for us the question, “How do we know what we know?” Thomas comes at it with a scientific mind, as do many today. Show me proof. Unless I can see and touch and feel, I won’t believe. It’s an understandable but pretty limiting perspective.

Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (vs. 29) We’ve sometimes heard it said, “Seeing is believing.” Are there other ways of knowing? Is there more to life than can be seen and touched and felt?

We were not in that room, yet somehow or other we have declared ourselves connected. Others have told us and shown us and we have responded. We can’t always put it into words—nor do all of us use exactly the same words—but we have cast our lot with a community that tries to live according to the truth of a higher power which cannot always be captured in a scientific syllogism.

J.B. Phillips wrote a book with the title Your God is Too Small. If we take this week’s scriptures seriously we won’t settle for a God who is too small. We’ll open ourselves to be “blown away” by sweeping vistas that reach across the entire universe and beyond, and into the minutest detail of our daily existence. Now there’s something to celebrate with all the instruments and postures and movements and actions of service we can find!

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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