Lectionary Preview study materials: 4 march 2021, Easter Sunday
*Please note that there will not be a lectionary preview discussion this wednesday, 31 march 2021, due to holy week*
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The First Reading
Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
The Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
ECUSA COMMENTARY OF EASTER LECTIONARY
EASTER April 4, 2021 Deacon Derek Larson
“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!” The message is posted on street corners in thousands of cities across the Americas. Created in the 1950s, the slogan and sign were adopted not only to attract membership but also to express the church’s deep value of hospitality. We in The Episcopal Church believe that everyone has a place in our communities and are eager to invite them in to sit with us at the Lord’s table.
We see a similar message in our reading from Acts on this Easter Sunday, in which Peter is surprised to find that God has poured out the Holy Spirit even on the Gentile centurion, Cornelius, and his family. “God shows no partiality,” Peter exclaims. Notice, however, that in this passage, Peter is not the one who welcomes Cornelius’ family. Cornelius’ family are the hosts who welcome Peter. In fact, it is Peter who, at first, is resistant to entering the Gentile home. Yet upon entering, he finds the Holy Spirit has already entered ahead of him.
Practicing hospitality is a beautiful expression of Christian love deeply rooted in the tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures; just as Jesus came out of the tomb, the risen Christ calls his people out of their homes and worship places to encounter the hospitality that is given to them by others in places they’d least expect. Jesus calls us out of our communities to join the Holy Spirit at work in “every nation.” Perhaps our signs should say, “The Episcopal Church is coming to you!”
- Who experiences transformation in this passage? Peter or Cornelius and his family?
- When have you experienced unexpected hospitality?
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
“On this day the Lord has acted.” The psalm for today is jubilant with praise and celebration, declaring that God has acted victoriously on behalf of the rejected, the oppressed, the underdog, the ones who are facing death at every corner. The God of this psalm is alive and active. The God of this psalm is one whose “mercy endures for ever.”
It is a God that many of us may find difficulty seeing in this painful year of death and despair. How can God be alive and well when my neighbors are not? And yet the vision of the God of life is often most clearly seen in the valley of death. The God of life presented in Scripture is the God who knows death intimately and has come through it. God is not ignorant when it comes to death, and God is not ignorant of our current struggle. God finds us in the struggle and brings us to life. So today, like the Israelites, we celebrate the God of life who meets us at the brink of death.
- What does it mean to rejoice and be glad in the God of life when we are surrounded by death?
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
My son and I like to walk in the woods near our house and collect acorns. Sometimes I hold the acorns in my hand and think about the tree from which they came. I think about how the forest is made up of hundreds of trees that came from hundreds of acorns from hundreds of other trees. The forest might seem like an unchanging, static presence, but it is dynamic—always growing and passing on life to life.
In today’s passage from 1 Corinthians, the author paints a similar picture of the Church, which springs forth from Christ’s resurrection. Experience of that life-giving resurrection was received by St. Paul from Cephas, the twelve, five hundred others, James, and other apostles (sadly, Paul skips mentioning all the women). It was then handed down by St. Paul to the Corinthians themselves. And some time down along the line, knowledge and experience of Christ’s resurrection has come to us, today.
For this reason, Easter is not simply a celebration of an historical memory, but like the forest through which my son and I walk, it is a celebration of an ongoing mystery that continually takes place in the life of the dynamic, ever-growing, and ever-changing Church. It’s noteworthy that in this passage, St. Paul does not say to the Church, “You were saved,” but rather, “You are being saved.” Thus, on this Easter Day, we not only remember a resurrection that took place 2,000 years ago but we also experience our own participation in the ongoing resurrection of Christ.
- What implications might the notion of “you are being saved” instead of “you were saved” have on Christian living?
- How does seeing Easter as an ongoing saving event differ from seeing it as a one-time historical moment?
“Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” So says Winnie the Pooh in the 2018 Disney film, Christopher Robin. The film features a grown-up Christopher Robin, who has become so consumed with his “important” work at his company job that he scarcely has time for his wife and daughter and has all but forgotten about his childhood friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. However, with a helpful reminder from his childhood friend, Pooh, Christopher Robin learns to slow down again and notice what is really important in life.
It’s a familiar story, particularly in our hyper-productive, consumeristic world. Will we be too busy with our to-do lists to notice the miracle of Easter this year, or will we stop to do nothing in order to find the “very best kind of something?”
That is exactly what we see Mary Magdalene doing in the gospel reading for today when she experiences a life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus. As soon as Peter and the other disciple had seen the empty tomb, they were off again, presumably to find some sort of “fix” to the problem of a robbed grave. Not Mary Magdalene. Rather than running away to find something to do about the problem, she took the time to stop and notice. To notice her own trauma and loss – and to weep. To do nothing but to feel. And it was there in her quiet weeping that she was given the great privilege of being the first person to see the risen Jesus face-to-face. While Peter and the other disciple had gone off to do important things, Mary stayed to do nothing, which led “to the very best kind of something.” We are often called to spring into the action of an important to-do list, but if we never slow down to notice the world within and the world around us, we might completely miss the transformative miracle of the Resurrection.
- With whom in this passage do you most identify?
- How might you find some time to do nothing this Easter season?
Deacon Derek Larson is a senior seminarian at the Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Atlanta. As a Franciscan tertiary (TSSF), he strives to bridge contemplative spiritual practice with social justice and finds joy in the simplicity of everyday things.