Walking in the resurrection

Easter 2 (April 15, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I John 1:1-2:2; Acts 4:32-35; Ps. 133; John 20:19-31

We celebrated Eastern Orthodox Easter, April 15, with a sunrise service at Mt. Nebo. The western horizon was hazy, so our view of the Holy Land was not as clear as the famed panorama attributed to Moses (Deut. 34:1); still, it was pretty spectacular!

The Dead Sea and Plains of Moab as seen from Mt. Nebo

In the Middle East, Easter is a time for giving gifts, and visiting family and friends. During Easter season the media often profiles Christian communities in the region. We especially appreciated stories about Christians in Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, an article in the Jordan Times highlighted a recent workshop hosted by the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies (RIIFS), “Christianity in the East, Where to?” Participants from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Iran and Iraq discussed the reality and future of Arab Christians in the region at the MCC-sponsored event.

Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Sarkissian, with MCC staff Nada Zabaneh, Daryl Byler and Suzi Khoury, at RIIFS event

Speaking at the opening session Jordan’s Prince Hassan, chairman of the RIIFS, said that “Arab Christians are the pioneers of Arab thought.” RIIFS Director Dr. Kamel Abu Jaber noted that “Christians should not only stay in the region, but contribute to rebuilding pluralism in its social fabric.” At the end of the two-day workshop participants endorsed a proposal for an Arab “social charter” that can mobilize public opinion towards achieving public freedoms and equal rights, as well as strengthen democracy and achieve social justice and human dignity.

A fragile ceasefire in Syria is being tested, while a small group of U.N. monitors is set to arrive in Syria on Sunday.

On Thursday, Jordanian security officials arrested a Syrian government supporter in northern Jordan, after he was caught attempting to poison the water system for Syrian refugees who continue to come to Jordan. According to the Jordan Times, the Syrian refugees have “become a sensitive issue for Jordan, which has delayed the opening of the Kingdom’s first official refugee camp over fears of Damascus misinterpreting humanitarian assistance as official support for rebels.”

Syrian refugees in Mafraq load supplies on a pickup (photo by Taylor Luck for the Jordan Times)

Meanwhile, Israeli government and European airline authorities are preventing some 1,200 international activists from traveling to the West Bank this week to help open an international school and museum in Bethlehem, as part of the third annual “Welcome to Palestine” event.

In the Common Lectionary readings for this week, eyewitnesses give testimony to the resurrection of Jesus and describe life in the new community of those who follow him.

“We declare to you what was from the beginning,” writes John, “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…” (I John 1:1). John proclaims that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (v.5). All who want to have fellowship with God and with one another must walk in God’s light (v.7)

Luke writes, “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,” (Acts 4:33) and notes that those who believed shared their lives together in extraordinary ways. They “were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common . . . (and) there was not a needy person among them.” (vv.32-34). In short, they put into practice the words of the psalmist: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)

The Gospel reading records the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection, concluding that these and many other signs are written so that you “may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

In God’s design, Easter is not simply a one-time miracle of Jesus being raised from the dead. It is the basis and power for all humanity to walk in God’s light – living in unity, practicing justice and sharing resources.

Christian Orthodox worshipers hold up candles lit from the "Holy Fire" inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

On Saturday before Easter, Christians pack the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem (also known as the “Church of the Resurrection”). The Patriarch goes into the tomb of Jesus and his torch is lit by Holy Fire, which he then spreads quickly to the pilgrims who have packed the church, each holding a candle.

May God’s vision for a human community that walks in the light and power of the resurrection, spread like the Holy Fire, becoming soon a reality around the world.

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