Easter Day A

April 14, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 28:1-10

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Acts 10:34-43

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 114

    Author: Doug Bratt

    Comments and Observations

    Few preachers or teachers will likely choose this as the sole passage for reflection at Easter.  In fact, worship leaders must take a few homiletical steps to even get to Easter through Psalm 114.  Yet it doesn’t just have significance in the light of the “exodus” that is Christ’s passage from death to life.  It might also stand alone as a subject for reflection and proclamation.

    Psalm 114’s focus seems to be on God’s liberation of God’s Hebrew children from Egyptian slavery.  However, a couple of more themes echo throughout.  The poet refers twice to God’s presence in and with Israel.  “Judah became God’s sanctuary,” the poet writes in verse 2a.  In verse 7 she adds, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord …”

    What’s more, the theme of water is also prominent in Psalm 114.  In fact, the psalmist refers to some form of it six times.  “The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back,” the psalmist sings in verse 3.  “Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back,” he asks in verse 5.  In verse 8 the poet asserts the God of Jacob “turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.”

    If Psalm 114 is a hymn of praise to the God who freed Israel from Egyptian slavery, it’s Exodus with a twist.  The narratives of the Scriptures refer to the Israelites passing through the sea in order to continue on to the land of promise.  This psalm’s Israel, as it were, “stops” at Rephidim and Meribah.

    So what’s going on here?  Scholars such as Richard D. Nelson suggest the psalmist is synchronizing and making present to worshipers the creation and exodus.  He portrays both creation and the exodus as battles between Yahweh and the forces of chaos.  The primordial chaos and Jordan’s waters don’t simply dry up and divide.  They turn around and run away in the face of God’s creating, sustaining power.

    In a similar way the unformed creation and wilderness hills don’t remain the immovable objects they seem.  In the face of God’s creative and sustaining power they get up and jump around like spring lambs.  In a similar vein, the psalmist suggests in the face of God’s great power, rocks turn into puddles and springs.

    In the face of God’s gracious onslaught, the poet invites the forces of chaos to “tremble” (7).  Yahweh has shown, after all, that God can turn death-dealing desert into land suitable for cultivation, chaos into order.  In other words, not even chaos and death can resist the life-giving power of Yahweh.

    Is there a hint here of post-exilic Israel’s deathly status?  The psalmist, after all, asserts when God led Israel out of Egypt, she became “God’s sanctuary” and “dominion” (2).  At the Exodus, in other words, God made God’s home among the Israelites.  They became God’s “dominion,” the people whom God graciously ruled.  This is not a picture of a dead folk, but a very lively one.  Interestingly, the word English Bibles generally translate as “dominion” (mamslotay) can also be translated army.  Might this hint at the role God’s redeemed people can play in helping to tame nature’s chaotic forces?

    Christians have long linked the symbols of the Exodus to Easter.  We’ve seen in the waters that fled before God’s power a symbol of the waters of death through which Christ passed when the Romans crucified him.  Like the mountains that skipped like lambs and the rock that turned into water, God turned death’s tomb into a portal to life when God raised Jesus from the dead.

    However, in Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery, Christians have also always seen a reflection of our own story, by God’s grace.  God has rescued us from the dominion of sin and death to be God’s own people whom God graciously rules.  In the face of God’s creating and sustaining power, even death must turn back and flee.  From the “hard rock” (8) that is life-giving streams of water flow, nourishing God’s peoples’ whole selves.

    Psalm 114 serves as an ancient reminder that neither chaos nor death gets the last word in the life of either God’s creation or God’s “sanctuary” and “dominion.”  Where there is life, there is hope that the various waters will turn back and mountains will dance before the Lord of life.

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Colossians 3:1-4

    Author: Stan Mast