Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mama Bean is thinking about Easter - 3rd Sunday

So I'm realizing that the Easter season celebrates the entire time of Resurrection, that is, all the time Jesus lived on Earth after leaving the tomb, before ascending to Heaven. That's why it takes seven weeks, he did a lot of stuff! Of course, he did plenty of teaching in his first Earthly life, so the miracles and teachings during this Resurrection time must speak to the new implications of what being a follower of Jesus will be.

Last week's gospel reading of the story of Doubting me-I-mean-Thomas taught us being a disciple will involve belief without seeing, will require faith. This week's gospel reading is the story of Jesus' third appearance after rising from the dead. First, he miraculously fills the disciples' nets with fish and then eats with them. (It's always about eats! It's biblical!!) Then Jesus questions Simon Peter's love three times, at the risk of hurting Simon Peter's feelings (He must know his repeated questioning will have that effect. What other ways does God risk hurting our feelings to convict us of the importance of what he's trying to say? There is no biblical promise that choosing discipleship will make us feel good.) because his instruction is so important: take care of his sheep. Being a disciple means taking care of each other, in Jesus' name.

[Extended digression: I spent some time pondering the meaning of the super-fish-filled miracle. I was thinking how Simon Peter is so excited to see Jesus after he's been blessed with all this fish, but so quick to feel hurt when Jesus really questions his love, when Jesus really gives him the gears about doing the true work of discipleship. It's really easy to feel loving toward God when we're being blessed. But it's easy for that loving feeling to turn into lip service when God starts asking us to get to work. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm taking the metaphor too far. One word that really came up for me was abundance. God blesses us abundantly, with fish/food/sustenance. He also blesses us abundantly with work to do, sheep to care for, opportunities to be the hands and feet and giant bleeding heart of God. Okay, end digression.]

The usual OT lectionary reading is replaced with passages from Acts during Easter, again to examine the implications of the Resurrection, particularly in re: the formation of the early Church. This week's story is of SaulPaul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Nobody took care of the early church like Paul, amIright? But Paul's work wouldn't have started if not for Ananias' willingness to obey God, and find Saul even though he was afraid of the persecution Saul had wrought upon Christians. Ananias understood the implication of the Resurrection that we are God's hands and feet now.

Paul's conversion is an integral piece of the Church's story, with a Depth of Detail to be examined and learned from. What sticks out to me this time is when the Lord says to Ananias, "Go, for he [Paul] is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." God affirms he is going to use Paul for his glory, and he immediately identifies it will be through suffering. So, discipleship will involve work (caring for the sheep) which will glorify God, but must involve suffering. It's not all nets full of fish, people.

This week's Psalms reading has an interesting question from the suffering author: "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!" This Psalm (30) has another phrase that is a lyric in a popular worship song; "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning." But noone's yet written a song based on the downtrodden's plea to God that at least he can worship better than dirt can, as if that's some kind of leverage against the Creator of the Universe. I'll have to get to work writing that worship song. Because the Psalmist is right, we must be alive to be of Use, and Jesus' instruction to Simon Peter, and Paul's conversion to be an instrument of God clearly demonstrate we are to be just that, Useful.

All of the NT readings during Easter are from Revelation, which is a picture of the ultimate, future implication of the Resurrection - Jesus' life/death/life are what will allow the realization of the visions in Revelation. I don't tend to interpret Revelation as a direct prophecy of The Endtimes, I read it more as a dream, a description of the Kingdom of God. I find a lot of peace and joy in the book, and this week's reading is a good illustration of why.

It is a word-painting of angels surrounding the throne of Heaven, in constant worship. Of every creature "in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea" singing to the Lord. This ocean of praise and light and love and music for God. And the four magical creatures, whose most magical feature is that they are Living, and their affirmation of this worship, their affirmation of the music and joy, that all they can say is Amen. An amen that fells the elders. One day I will experience this true life, this true worship. And I will become alive in a way that is nothing like what I call living here.

I'm pretty staunchly against any attitude that treats Christianity as a ticket to heaven, that turns this life into merely a waiting station, with nothing meaningful to be done until we die. Jesus' mandate to care for his sheep, and Paul's conversion to suffer for God's glory tell us the implications of the Resurrection are for us to Be more and Do more than sit and wait for our reward. (Not that we earn our reward, this always gets so thorny, and hard to say, please bear with me as I muddle...) Revelation's picture of the Kingdom of God motivates my faith, because I see myself as a member of that vision, a participant in that heavenly congregation. As such, the light and beauty of the Kingdom inform and infuse my life now. Here. For all of us. We work now, we care for Jesus' sheep now, and yes, we suffer now, because we carry inside ourselves the light of that Tomorrow. And this is all because He Rose. All the life in me says Amen to that.

1 comment:

  1. I saw your comment over at Conversion Diary regarding the Rosary/praying it. I'm protestant and can not bring myself to pray the actual rosary, but some research led me to learn that there are other beads and prayers. I ended up going to wal mart, buying beads and making my own "rosary." Here are a few links to explore.