Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Easter 2 - Year A
There is much sound and fury here regarding Jesus' death and who is responsible for it: G*D or nonChristian Jews.
How much different would our history be if Peter had spoken of what he knew -- his own experience of Jesus of Nazareth and the difference new life made for him and how that might be possible for others who did not have his years of experience with Jesus -- instead we get deep theological constructs being built to set up a vast chasm between us'ns and you'ns.
There may be something to not letting preachers go to seminary, even a seminary taught by Jesus. As soon as they come out, so the accusation goes, they lose their humanity and talk about coming over to the "right" side instead of living righteously enough to do greater things than this Jesus.
In today's world we get altogether too much of this divide and conquer approach to life. Recently we have heard much about those "activist judges" and blame them for killing Terri in the same way that the Jews have been accused of killing Christ. When will we get down to wrestling through choices that don't set up such sides and recognize the limits of life? We are called to advocate for our perspective, but not at the expense of backing others into a corner and hammering them.
Now, as then, the issue of conflating religion with government is dangerous business.
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In keeping with taking ourselves lightly so we can fly with the angels -
Humor is not just cute, it can also have a bite. For a mild example, try church satire. [MISSING URL]
Joy is not in what is currently going on, but in participation with a vision of a Peaceable Preferred Future always before us. [Look at "Peaceable Kingdom", an early American painting by Edward Hicks, and wonder about what changes are needed to update it.]
This is a loose translation of a phrase from Acts 2:25, "I saw the Lord always before me." It was from this that David affirmed, "therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh shall live in hope."
The word "Lord" is fraught with overtones. It does not mean one thing to all people. So it is important to figure out what one means by the old language of "Lord" when using it and begin to use the meaning (even if it is a more awkward phrase that does not run trippingly off the tongue, thus rejoicing it on one level) rather than the shorthand.
Here it would seem we are speaking of a particular vision. Peter casts it in terms of escaping Hades, but we might well speak of it in a positive way by referring to some aspect of what might loosely be called "Paradise" or a preferred future come on earth.
What vision would you hold before yourself to stimulate joy?
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in your presence is joy
every love song and hymn
secular and sacred music
every separation we construct
our specifics to generalities
lovers into love
love into lovers
joy to presence
Ahh, prophets who foresee what is to come based on what now is. In today's world we don't call them prophets, but consultants.
The C-Monkey [MISSING URL]
A tourist walks into a pet shop in Redmond, WA and is browsing around the cages on display. While he's there, another customer walks in and says to the shopkeeper, "I'll have a C monkey, please".
The shopkeeper nods, goes over to a cage at the side of the shop and takes out a monkey. He fits a collar and leash and hands it to the customer, saying "That'll be $5000".
The customer pays and walks out with his monkey. Startled, the tourist goes over to the shopkeeper and says "That was a very expensive monkey - most of them are only a few hundred dollars. Why did it cost so much?"
"Ah, that monkey can program in C - very fast, tight code, no bugs, well worth the money."
The tourist looks at the monkey in another cage. "That one's even more expensive - $10,000 dollars! What does it do?"
"Oh, that one's a C++ monkey; it can manage object-oriented programming, Visual C++, even some Java, all the really useful stuff."
The tourist looks around for a little longer and sees a third monkey in a cage of its own; The price tag around its neck says $50,000. He gasps to the shopkeeper, "That one costs more than all the others put together! What on earth does it do?"
"Well, I haven't actually seen it do anything, but it says it's a consultant."
It is one thing to make an appeal based upon a generally recognized prophet and another to bring a king into the role of prophet to make a point. It is hard enough for a prophet to make their point.
To what are you witnessing and how many witness do you feel compelled to bring forward to bolster your witness? It seems we are always looking for numbers – my witnesses outnumber your witnesses, or my witnesses can beat up your witnesses.
What would happen to Peter and his affirmation if the passage jumped from verse 24 to verse 32? I am still struggling with the significance of this David reference, particularly since he is not referred to as a prophet in the TaNaKh.
[NRSV] But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power."
[NIV] But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
[KJV] Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
[CEV] But God set him free from death and raised him to life. Death could not hold him in its power.
[MESSAGE] But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.
[TEV] But God raised him from death, setting him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner.
And so the confusion between G*D and Jesus continues – to whom does each pronoun refer? While it may seem here that G*D is the actor who raised Jesus, it is the raised one who becomes the focus throughout the rest of the passage.
This ambivalence about actor/actee also allows a question about why baptism is the appropriate response to G*D's power to raise?
We can look back to see that baptism was a volitional choice that began Jesus' ministry, just as Moses response to a burning bush was volitional. How many other ministry starts are there and why do we get trapped into particular symbolizing of those starts?
I still remember the story of a pastoral acquaintance who heard his call, "I want you to serve me" and only had the experience to interpret that call in terms of ordained ministry. Many years later they thought that perhaps their interpretation was too narrow, that service is a pretty broad category, and it may be time to find another service opportunity.
Peter exhorted folks to save themselves from their "corrupt generation" when it was exactly that generation that Jesus engaged. Baptism, here begun as psychic or spiritually coerced symbolism, will later kill many so many others would simply become baptized, as differentiated from raised.
Yes, shared symbols are important, but they are also limiting. Ahh, to have the wisdom to know the difference.
God grant me the power to accept the baptisms I cannot avoid; to challenge any forced baptism coming my way; and to have the wisdom to know the difference.
Contrast this assurance that Jesus had no contact with Hades with the “Holy” Saturday and Creedal report of his descent to Hell. Also, Jesus had no real association with death - we move without pause from life to being killed by crucifixion to being raised.
When tracking reports, it is good to pay attention to what isn’t said as well as what is.
As a followup on Thomas’ doubts, here we have a resolution of many stories into one line focusing on the deity of Jesus. Apparently this is an easier selling point than the hard moral work of living and commending one’s life to G*D and Neighbor.
G*D’s raising power clearly outweighs Jesus’ living power. How do you weigh out such categories?