Easter 2A

April 21, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    John 20:19-31

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Acts 2:14a, 22-32

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 16

    Author: Doug Bratt

    Comments and Observations

    Most biblical scholars recognize that Psalm 16 is especially difficult to categorize.  Yet most also recognize that the poet’s trust in the Lord is at the heart of this psalm.  It shows he knows just where to turn when he’s in trouble.

    The psalm’s beginning suggests the poet is under some kind of duress as she writes it.  “Keep me safe,” literally, “Watch over me,” she begs God in verse 1.  “For in you I take refuge,” she continues.  The term “refuge” is the kind of place to which beleaguered people would flee for protection.  So the psalmist quickly suggests that she trusts in God to her shelter from whatever (or whomever) is harassing her.

    This gives those who preach and teach this psalm to reflect with hearers on to where we naturally turn for protection.  People vulnerable to war or terrorism often turn to their government.  Those who fear for their personal safety often look to public safety officers.  Those who are ill often turn to medical professionals and medicines.  The destinations for flight from danger are nearly as diverse as the threats.

    So it’s counter-cultural to profess that protection comes from “God” (1).  Even the most faithful sometimes turn to God only as a last resort when neither we nor our other protectors can give us what we need.

    This counter-cultural profession extends to verse 2 where the psalmist adds, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  Scholars note this was counter-cultural already in the poet’s day.  “Lord” was, after all, a title generally assigned to human masters (and maybe to other gods).

    Her profession shows the psalmist recognizes, as James Mays points out, she’s someone who belongs to another.  After all, the implication of her confession, “You are my Lord” is, “I am your servant.”  Yet the poet doesn’t belong to the variety of masters among whom and which she lives.  No, “God” (el) is her Master.  For her there is no other Lord.  All other “lords” are sources of not joy, but “sorrows” (4).

    Yet the poet’s trust in God as Lord isn’t, as Craig Satterlee notes, “a right belief, a warm feeling, or an impulse in times of trouble.”  “Trust,” he continues, “is a way of acting and living that opens the self to God as the most important reality in life.”  The kind of trust about which the poet writes in Psalm 16 is, in other words, a way of behaving as much as it is a way of thinking.  In fact, as Satterlee adds, “We do not take drastic action because we necessarily feel trust; our actions are a way of maintaining or cultivating our trust in God.”

    How, then, does that trust in God manifest in the life of the psalmist?  She refuses to “run after other gods” (4), opting, instead, to seek her protection in God’s faithful care.  The poet praises God (7) and sets the Lord “before” her (8).  She also “rejoices” in God’s promises to remain with her even when she goes down to the grave.

    In response to the poet’s trust in God, God has graciously poured out a variety of “good things” on his life.  God, he professes, has assigned him, in language Joshua uses to describe the land of promise, his “portion” and “cup” (5), his “lot” (5), as well as his “boundary lines” and “delightful inheritance” (6).  The good things the poet has are gifts from God.

    Such a profession is deeply counter-cultural.  After all, citizens of the 21st century assume that we get what we earn through our hard work and good character.  Vulnerable people sometimes turn to human agencies to provide for their needs.  In other words, people assume that their “portion and cup,” their “lot,” “boundary lines” and “inheritance” come from other people.

    The psalmist invites God’s people to see all those good things as coming from God’s gracious hand, even when God channels those good things through people.  This requires a fundamental reorientation of the way God’s people think about nearly every good thing.  It requires the kind of trust that recognizes that even the good things we assume we “earn,” our daily bread, our health, our strength, are somehow gifts from God’s parental hand.

    God will share those good things with her, insists the psalmist, even beyond the grave.  “You will not abandon me to the grave,” she professes in verse 10, “Nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”  Her Lord will not abandon the poet to Sheol and the Pit, the realm of death.  While her contemporaries thought of death as including the loss of God, the poet professes that not even death can separate her from the love of her Lord.

    Of course, Christians can scarcely hear these words without thinking of God’s raising of Jesus Christ from the dead.  In fact the gospel reading the Lectionary appoints for this particular Sunday is John 20’s account of the risen Jesus’ appearance to his terrified disciples.  God the Father did not abandon God the Son Jesus to the grave or let him “see decay.”

    Peter also affirms God’s refusal to abandon Jesus to the grave in his famous Pentecost sermon that the Lectionary also appoints for the second Sunday of Easter.  Peter, in fact, quotes Psalm 116 quite faithfully.  Now the path to life, the apostle insists, is found through the risen Christ.

    Illustration Idea

    The kind of trust the psalmist professes is more than an intellectual assent.  It’s a way of life.  The poet seems to understand that one of the ways to build trust is to put himself in places where God can prove God’s trustworthiness.

    It’s the concept at the heart of what we sometimes call “trust games” that are particularly popular with adolescents.  Trust games include games like “Mine Field” in which one person verbally guides a blindfolded partner through a minefield that’s been created by various objects that have been scattered around the room.  Another is called “Trust Lean.”  In it one person falls backwards into the arms of a similar sized partner.

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    1 Peter 1:3-9

    Author: Stan Mast