Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Second Sunday in Easter, Year B
April 11, 2021
In this excerpt from Acts, we get a snapshot of an early Christian community. One of the more striking descriptions of this community is that there was “not a needy person among them.” How different from the communities in which we live today where we see need all around us! With regard to possessions and material goods in the early Christian communities, there apparently was no private ownership; everything was held in common – everything belonged to everyone. Consumption of any material good happened only when a person had need. The economy of such a community was apparently driven by need, not want. Competition was not a factor in such an economy. The other description of this community is that the Resurrection was preached with great power and grace in the midst. One wonders if the lack of desperate need might be related to this powerful proclamation of Resurrection.
I am not a student of economics. I cannot pretend to understand how our own system of capitalism works; neither do I understand how a system might be implemented where all things are held in common and disbursements are made only when people have need. Sometimes, I think we have great difficulty distinguishing between our needs and wants. Perhaps we might consider starting with the proclamation of the Resurrection. What does it mean for a community when their Lord has conquered death? How does release from the tyranny of death and darkness change our need for material goods? How does it change the need to get ahead of the other person? How does it change the need to have more than the other person? If Christ has conquered death, could it be possible that there is enough for everyone?
This is a great Psalm to be placed in the lectionary with the preceding reading from The Acts of the Apostles! It describes the kind of felicity and unity that abound when humanity dwells without malice and wickedness, without evil intent for one’s fellow human. Such unity is described as the presence of fine, aromatic oil used for anointing and for making holy. This oil is a reference to the holy anointing oil that is described and prescribed by God in Exodus 30:22-33. It is aromatic oil containing cinnamon, myrrh, cane and cassia. It was intended for Aaron and his sons to use as priests and also as a sign of hospitality and protection.
How can we understand, even if just metaphorically, the presence of a fine oil of unity in the midst of our households and communities? What do we offer as a sign of setting apart of sacred time, a sign of hospitality and protection? Is it a simple meal shared with someone who is struggling? A cup of tea or coffee offered to a friend who needs to talk? A making room for someone who is lonely in our midst? How good and pleasant it is when all dwell together in unity!
1 John 1:1-2:2
This epistle of John speaks of revelation. The writers are testifying as to what has been revealed. They speak of this revelation as having come through the senses. They speak of what has been declared through what they have heard, what they have seen and what they have touched. Their revelation is simply this: as beloved of God, we have fellowship with those who have received this revelation and also with Jesus and with God. The circle is complete. Through this revelation, we are all included in the fellowship with the divine and with those who love them. Jesus, who is our advocate, has made a complete atonement for all of human sin. We are no longer bound by this sin. We no longer walk in darkness but have been called into light. We might be tempted to deceive ourselves and claim that we have no sin, but we can more fully embrace freedom if we acknowledge the sin that clings to us and simultaneously offer that sin into the hands of Christ who has already taken care of it.
Think about the Christian fellowship that you share with others. Your interaction with your fellow Christians should be a sign of the freedom that Christ has purchased for you. You are free to care for your brothers and sisters even as they care for you. You are free to acknowledge that the sin that has clung so closely to you has now been discarded. You are not a sign of darkness, but of light.
Jesus’s death has been terrifying. But what is more terrifying is the news that He has been raised from the dead. The disciples do not know what to do with this news, so they lock themselves in a room. Jesus, however, is not deterred by these locks and somehow breaks into the room to stand among them. He declares peace to them and then gives them a mandate. The mandate is that as God has sent Him, so He now sends the disciples. He gives them the Holy Spirit so that they will be empowered to go. Later, when Jesus encounters Thomas who has not had the benefit of seeing him that the disciples earlier received, Jesus gives him the revelation of his Resurrection that Thomas needs. The lesson, then, is that even when the disciples are paralyzed by fear and doubt, Jesus shows up and gives them what they need in order to go and be His Church.
As we emerge post-pandemic, we are afraid. We are cautious and timid. Are we venturing out too soon? Would it be better for us to stay locked in our rooms? How can we be the Church when a disease seeks to destroy us? We too are beset by fears, timidities and doubts. But Jesus is not deterred by the locks we put on our spiritual doors. He stands among us and bids us Peace. He offers us His Holy Spirit so that we too can be sent forth to be the Church. No matter what hinders us, no matter what barriers we have erected, Jesus comes and gives us what we need in order to send us forth. What are you afraid of? What fear can you hand over to Christ so that He can send you forth? Where might He be sending you?
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.