Reflection on This Week’s Readings


What is Easter anyway? Christians consider Easter to be the “first day.” From Easter comes the practice of worshiping on Sunday morning. It is the first day of the week. It is also the first day of new creation, sometimes called the “eighth day” of the week, for on it Christ restored the image of God in the human and in so doing also brought restoration and renewal to all of creation. The Easter season proceeds from and celebrates this first day. In the resurrected Christ, there is time after the end, life after death, restoration of what was broken, the brightening of what had gone dark. In the fifty days of Easter, Christian communities around the world strive to worship God in a way that illustrates that the body of Christ lives now in the heavenly places and also in the gathered body in the world. Worship is where heaven and earth meet.



Resurrection of Our Lord / Easter Day
By the second century, Christians had shaped Passover into an annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection, and by the fourth century they had agreed to keep this Christianized Pascha on the eve of the Sunday following the Jewish festival. By medieval times, the full Easter Vigil had been relegated to monasteries and convents, and so the Sunday morning celebration of Easter assumed priority in most churches. Since to be Christian is to believe in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observing Easter became the primary mark of a practicing Christian. The term “Easter duty” arose from the regulation that to be considered Christian, a person was required to make penance and then to attend eucharist at least once a year, at Easter. Since even now many Christians attend worship only on Easter, the challenge is to tell the whole story of salvation while focusing on only three readings and to distinguish Christ’s resurrection from a springtime flower show. Luke’s resurrection account, by referring to Christ’s death, is helpful for this task.
Current liturgical advice suggests that John 20 be proclaimed at the Easter Vigil, following the Johannine gospels throughout the Three Days, and that Luke 24 be used on Easter Sunday, following the gospel of the year. Luke highlights the role of the community: the group of women, more than the named three; the eleven and the rest; and Peter. Luke does not attempt to describe the resurrection itself, which is an article of faith, not an observed and reportable fact narrated in the Bible.
Throughout the eight Sundays of the fifty days of Easter from Easter Day through Pentecost, the three-year lectionary appoints first readings from Acts. The idea is that the Spirit extended the power of the resurrection from the empty tomb to the whole Christian church, spreading throughout the Greco-Roman world. Thus we can think of each Sunday’s reading from Acts as another telling of the resurrection. In the sermon credited to Peter in Acts 10, Luke referred to the witnesses of the resurrection who “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” We believers see ourselves as among these witnesses.
The psalm response for the day is  a song of thanksgiving for victory. Although the psalm is cast in the first-person singular, the setting is after a battle, in which “the right hand of the Lord,” presumably brandishing a weapon, has conquered. Christians understand that Christ has conquered the powers of sin and death, and medieval art depicted Christ rising from the tomb holding up a cross-shaped standard. The “rejected stone” is Christ, now the cornerstone of the church, on whom the baptized build their lives; this resurrection day is the day that the Lord God has made. It is interesting that in 1559, when Elizabeth I was notified of the death of Queen Mary, she received the news that she was no longer a rejected stone but finally acclaimed queen by calling out v. 23 of this psalm: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
The reading from Isaiah 65 relies on an ancient belief about the perfection of the first creation, and this passage from Paul suggests the perfection of a final creation. Here we are in the middle, with death and other enemies still powerful forces to contend with. We hope in Christ, the first fruit of the tree of life.
                                                                                                                                        Copyright © 2019 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #SAS103532.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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