April 22 – Saved by the One Who Was Rejected

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Some city teenagers often scorn and reject farm kids. Yet it’s no exaggeration to say that humanity owes its life to farmers who care for the world’s crops and livestock. This week’s scriptures remind us that Jesus was as rejected as a shepherd, a farm boy, yet we owe our very lives to him. In this Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter tells the people that salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the one who was rejected. In John’s letter we hear that we have become God’s beloved children through Jesus, whom the world did not know. Lastly, in the Gospel Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Will you join Jesus in laying down your life for God’s beloved flock?

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Throughout the Easter season, all three of the Sundaybvreadings are taken from the New Testament—the Christian scriptures. Together they explore what it means to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the One who fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures. Today’s selections refer to our human weakness, yet they emphasize the forgiveness and peace that are available to those who put their faith in “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 John 2:2). In the Acts of the Apostles Peter invites everyone to “repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). The First Letter of John calls Jesus Christ “expiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). Finally, in the Gospel Jesus greets the disciples with “Peace” and urges them to preach “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).

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April 8 – So That You May Believe

It is not often that the author of one of the books of the Bible comes right out and tells us directly why he is writing what he is writing. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, taken from the conclusion of John’s Gospel, the author tells us that he has chosen to record these events so “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (20:31). The letter of John echoes this idea by saying that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God” (5:1)—what we might refer to as being “born again.” Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles for this Second Sunday of Easter shows us exactly what it looks like when believers are born again through faith.

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April 1 – Proclaim the Risen Christ

On Easter morning everything—the spring weather, the flowers, birds and butterflies, the people around us in their finery, the beautiful liturgy and music—everything seems to bear witness that Jesus Christ is risen today! Like the eyewitness accounts in today’s scriptures, the glorious and joyful life all around us helps us to believe the good news of the Resurrection and sing “Alleluia!” In the scriptures today we hear from Peter and Paul and John. All three speak with conviction about witnessing the resurrected Christ. John’s Gospel account includes Mary of Magdala, who also was privileged to witness the Resurrection and tell others the good news. On this glorious Easter Sunday can we ourselves give eyewitness accounts that Jesus Christ is risen today, alive and active in our lives?

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March 25 – Passion

The contrast between the processional reading in today’s liturgy and the proclamation of the Passion is striking. We are given a glimpse of how profoundly the word of God is fulfilled in Jesus. First he must be hailed as the Messiah, the One who is to come. He must be acknowledged by all, though they do not know what they are saying. They think he is the promised king, a worldly king of the Jews who will free them from the Roman occupation. They do not yet understand, even the disciples, exactly where this triumphal procession is leading. In our lives, we too do not know where we are going. It is in faith that we can follow Christ wherever he may lead us, trusting that death is not the end, nor evil the victor.

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March 18 – Saved by God’s Love

Because the people broke the old covenant, God promised a new covenant, not in the blood of oxen and other animals, but in the blood of the Son, Jesus Christ. This new covenant, foreseen from afar by Jeremiah and the prophets, was not to be engraved on stone, or written on paper, but carved on our hearts, so that we might know God intimately. Not by keeping many laws are we to be saved, but by the love of God, living and real in our hearts through the sacrifice of Christ.
Our Eucharist is the pledge of that indwelling of Christ, and of our response of praise and thanksgiving to God for the mercy, love, and kindness shown to us in forgiving our sins and cleansing our hearts of everything evil. God issues this invitation to intimacy by offering us the chance to have our sufferings transformed into the perfect love of the Savior, who first loved us.

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March 11 – Communal Responsibility

The people of God forgot the covenant and flouted God’s laws. They did not listen to the prophets among them, who spoke for God in warning them. Prophets are sent from God to remind us why we are here, but they are often, even in our own time, mocked, disregarded, and mistreated rather than thanked and listened to.
The book of Chronicles tells the results of these sins: the destruction of the temple and all of Jerusalem, murder, mayhem, and finally exile to a foreign land. Why are these stories in the Bible? Just to inform us of what happened to our ancient forebears? What good would that be unless there were a message and a warning for us as well? Are we people who follow the teachings of God, who obey the words of Christ in the second covenant in his blood? Or do we continue to wreak works of darkness and violence? We are reminded by these readings that we will be judged as a people, not just as individuals.

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March 4 – Keep Holy the Sabbath

There’s no better way to deepen our Lenten practice than to review the Ten Commandments. The first three, having to do with our right relationship to God, get the most ink. The one we busy people probably have the most problem with is keeping holy the Sabbath. If we take this commandment literally, babies will go undiapered and dishes will stay on the table, or perhaps meals will not be served. The sick will go unattended and nothing that has anything to do with physical labor will be done. Is mental labor really work? How about changing that dirty diaper (poor baby!)? We need to depend on God to discern how to observe real Sabbath time in our lives. The point of this commandment is that God has given us a great gift: one whole day per week when we are free to rest, worship God, sing, feast, love, and rejoice. As Psalm 19 proclaims: “The law of the LORD is perfect, / refreshing the soul” (19:8). Our Sabbath rest is a great gift, to be received from God with joy, not with nitpicking.

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God tested Abraham by asking not for an ordinary sacrifice, which would have been a partial burning with the meat divided between God and the people and eaten by those who sacrificed, but for a holocaust, a total burning of the sacrificial animal. This type of sacrifice consecrated the entire offering to God alone. This is what God was asking of Abraham in offering his only son, Isaac. When Abraham demonstrated his obedience, that was enough. This story from today’s scriptures foretells the completion of the blood sacrifices of the old covenant in the new covenant: the blood of God’s own Son, offered to us on the cross and in the Eucharist. Abraham’s obedience foreshadows the obedience of Jesus to God’s promise of salvation. The obedience of Abraham is rewarded in the birth to him, through Isaac, of many nations. The obedience of Jesus is rewarded in the salvation of all people for all time.

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February 18 – People of the Covenant

If there is one word that stands out in today’s readings, it is “covenant.” God’s faithfulness and goodness serve as examples to us of how to live. Genesis tells the story of Noah and of God’s covenant not only with all people, but with all of nature. Never will the cleansing waters of the flood bring their destructive power to all the earth again. The sign, the reminder to both God and nature, is the rainbow in the heavens. The psalm reminds us of this compassion of God, and begs God to remember us, not because of our goodness, but because of God’s goodness and fidelity to the promise. God shows us how to be good, not by decree, but by example.

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