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Easter 4 (C)
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Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C 

1. Acts 13, 14 and 43-52

  • Paul and Barnabas continued on and reached Antioch in Pisidia.  Notice: not by bus or plane but on foot.  Maybe I can remind the congregation how the Christians used to walk like servants, not ride like the served.  They are on a missionary journey, and we celebrate the church’s mission especially during Easter.  It seemed natural to them to spread the good news.
  • Many Jews and worshippers who were converts followed them.  I don’t get to read the message of Paul that takes up the missing 30 verses, so I will pause here to show that something important happened for the people to follow the apostles. 
  • On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered.  This seems to be the Sunday of large crowds.  Look at the next reading! 
  • With violent abuse the Jews contradicted what Paul said.  Let me add some roughness to my voice to indicate the opposition.  We may speak politely among ourselves today, but there was little of that on the missionary journey.
  • Unworthy of eternal lifedestined for eternal life.  I am speaking about God’s plan for humanity, not ours.  We are the ones who place restrictions on God’s word.  There is nothing here about ‘Paul’s mission’ or ‘the church’s mission,’ but always the word of the Lord that spreads through the whole region.
  • The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit.  What a positive way to end the reading today!  How appropriate for Easter!  Rehearse until all my inner joy hangs out and becomes contagious within the assembly.
  • Central point: Three times we hear the word of the Lord, to remind us that God is working through the evangelists who preach and the evangelized who receive.
  • Message for our assembly: Three times we hear the word Gentiles.  That is us, and we should give thanks that we were favored so early with the good news.  How do we spread it to others?
  • I will challenge myself: To be true to the word that I am declaring to the assembly.

2. Revelation 7, 9 and 14-17

  • Once again we hear a massive shout of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.  Read that, my Jehovah’s Witnesses neighbors!  I need a voice prepared to speak with strength, not one that needs to be amplified by a sound system, but one that reaches everyone listening.
  • Or let me try something else.  We have seen announcers standing in the midst of excited shouting people during a convention or a sports event.  I have to raise my own voice so that the listening audience can hear me.  Now that’s where I belong, in the midst of the action!  As we sing, ‘O Lord, I want to be in that number.’ 
  • Wearing white robes and holding palm branches.  Revelation is the most visual part of the Bible.  I owe it to my listeners to speak as if I can see the robes and the palms. 
  • They have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  I look for a bit of pride in the voice of the elder, and admiration in my own heart for those who have persevered.  Let me remember some whom I know personally or whose story I have heard.
  • The reading closes with a hymn about the saints – or is it?  I hear what God is doing for the saints: sheltering, shepherding, leading, wiping tears away.  When we stand and worship as we do today we come into God’s presence.
  • Climax: At the very end of the passage.  God will wipe away every tear.
  • The message for our assembly: Why do churches breed so many control freaks?  Who on earth can guide God’s intentions? 
  • I will challenge myself: To keep from reciting a bunch of ancient words, and to make the vision come alive.

 

Gospel. John 10, 27-30

  • It is the shortest of today’s readings, but the most momentous. 
  • My sheep hear my voice.  As Steve Rose says in his humorous song, “it’s not what he says but who he is.”  It is not a matter of satisfying our minds with some book or other, but winning us with a deep trust.  Just as we are put at ease when we hear our beloved or a close friend, our whole life is in play for Jesus.  It saddens me to see so many bright young people willing to give their lives for the wildfire of hatred, revenge and senseless terror - or perhaps desperation – instead of for Jesus.
  • The passage is full of positives.  I know them, they follow me, I give them eternal life.  And then we hear negative assurances.  They shall never perish.  No one can take them (twice).  Our own speech is full of qualifiers, such as “just about” or “a good chance that” or “oh, I guess,” but we will not see any hedging in the words of Jesus.  That makes reading the Gospel so challenging to my credibility, since I’m not used to talking in categorical terms.  I have to raise my consciousness to another level, where I will meet the Lord as he is.  Yes, it is the Lord now, not Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Climax: The Father and I – are one.  The words of the Jewish Shema (‘The Lord our God is one’) are revised by the evangelist, and I hear the connotations.  There is no division, no second voice, no other way.  I would pause very briefly as I say it, so that my listeners can catch the same implications.  It is not just a proposition about the Trinity.  But because Jesus is who he is, it is also an atentado against all establishments that achieve their ends by power, coercion or usurpation of authority.
  • Message for our assembly: Let us consider how we come to know the shepherd’s voice, and how we can tell it from others.
  • I will challenge myself: To repeat Jesus’ words not in boasting or idle pretension, but in as much insight and certainty as I can capture.

From Word to Eucharist: We are many, not a few.  God’s gifts are bounteous.  But each one of us is precious, with an inspiring story of faith.  Let us not undertake such an arduous journey alone, but find strength in that procession that marches in Jesus’ name.

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