Easter again!

Sixth Sunday of Easter (April 27, 2008)
Common Lectionary Texts:
Ps. 148; Is. 41:17-20; Acts 17:22-31; I Pet. 3:8-18; John 15:1-8

While traveling on a speaking tour in the United States, we had the opportunity to celebrate Easter, March 27, at the Evergreen Mennonite Church in Seattle, Washington. What a delightful congregation and service!

This Sunday, we plan to celebrate Easter again – this time in the Orthodox tradition in Jerusalem.

With the challenges in the Middle East — most notably, the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Gaza – one cannot have too many reminders of resurrection!

This Sunday’s Common Lectionary readings emphasize God’s mighty acts and power and character.

God is to be praised from the heavens and the earth (Ps.148:1,7) — because God created all things and fixed their bounds (vv. 5-6). None are exempt from the call to praise God. Not angels or animals (vv. 2,10). Not kings or common people (v.11).

Likewise, in the reading from Acts 17, Paul speaks of “The God who made the world and everything in it … (the one) who is Lord of heaven and earth . . .” (v.24). This God “made all nations” and “allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live” (v. 26). According to Isaiah, this God answers the poor and needy when they cry out (Is. 41:17). Peter writes: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (I Pet. 3:12).

Why does such a great and caring God seem so slow to act in today’s world, when dozens are slaughtered daily in Iraq and the poor in Gaza are squeezed into ever tighter binds? Jesus asked as much on Good Friday: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And yet God does act. God does bring resurrection in the time and place of God’s choosing. God makes “the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Is. 41:18). God’s face “is against those who do evil” (I Pet. 3:12). The one whom God raised from the dead on that first Easter morning, will someday judge those who have opposed God’s will and way (Acts 17:30-21).

As for us, we are called to stay connected to the true vine (John 15:4) if we wish for our lives to bear fruit amidst a world filled with hatred and violence. And rather than joining in the turmoil and divisions, we are called to “have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (I Pet. 3:8) We are not to “repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse,” but rather, to “repay with a blessing” (v.9). We are to “turn away from evil and do good” (v.11a). We are to “seek peace and pursue it” (v.11b).

At a particularly low point this week, Israeli police were called to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to break up a fight between an Armenian Orthodox priest and a Greek Orthodox priest!

We may ask why God is so slow to bring justice and peace in our world. God probably asks the same thing of us.

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