Reflection on This Week’s Readings

PHANTOM PAINS

After an amputation a majority of patients experience phantom pains. The arm is not there, yet he feels it cramping. The hand is gone, yet she feels it throbbing. The foot has been removed, yet he feels it twitching.

Today we meet the disciples, gathered together on the third day after the crucifixion, afraid they are experiencing nothing more than the phantom pains of grief. They had become one body, then on that gruesome day a part of their body was severed from the rest. On this day, Christ returns, but they think they know better. He is just a figment of their imaginations, a phantom pain of the way things used to be, a ghost.

We live in a world full of phantoms. City centers that once were thriving are lonely ghost towns. Forests and plains have been churned up and cut down and turned into housing developments. At our own Easter gatherings, members of the community who once were present are now missing.

In a phantom world we come to expect nothing but disembodied hope and fleeting memory. But God is not a phantom. We are witnesses to an Easter God who raised Jesus from the dead, who dressed Christ in flesh, and who is at work today. This Easter God is restoring places where creation has been cut off from creation, resurrecting our hollowed out, hazy, ghost town world and dressing the earth and all her creatures in flesh and bone, in life once again.

We are people who “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed). We have become accustomed to those phantom pains, but behold! This is no trick of the imagination. That which was severed from us has been restored. Alleluia!

 

READINGS FOR

Third Sunday of Easter
Easter continues. Each year, the gospel on the third Sunday of Easter is a resurrection appearance. All three readings this Sunday contain fragments of early Christian preaching, with the Johannine emphasis quite different from that of Luke-Acts.
The risen Christ is here among us, eating with us, and that meal is part of the proclamation of the Messiah risen from the dead on the third day and offering forgiveness to all nations.
We need to beware of perpetuating the primitive Christian tendency to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. Here critical biblical studies are a welcome gift for the preacher. The most profound Christian theological understanding is that we, our sins, were the cause of Jesus’ death. But we stand with Acts 3 when it calls Jesus the servant of God, the holy and righteous one, the author of life, the messiah of God, through whose suffering we are saved.                  Response                                                                                                  Having heard Luke’s message from Peter’s sermon, we respond by singing Psalm 4. We hope to know the wonders that God is accomplishing in Christ, and, paradoxically, we do so with ancient Israelite religious words about sacrifices. For Christians, Christ is the sacrifice already offered to God on our behalf, and in this faith we rest secure. Along with the disciples gathered in Jerusalem, we will see the light of Christ’s face.
The baptized live in the hope that through the power of the risen Christ, their lives will be marked by extraordinary countercultural love. Yet it is Christ, not the community itself, who is righteousness. Christian tradition has admired 1 John but balances its depiction of communal perfection with Pauline realism about sin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Copyright © 2018 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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