In the season of Easter our Hebrew Bible lection is replaced with lections from the book of Acts that depict the goings on of the post-resurrection believers. Our lection for this week is taken from the missionary narrative of Peter and John (Acts 3-5). In particular we are shown the scene of Peter and John’s THIRD(!) arrest. This very fact tells us that the Easter proclamation of the early church was undeniably radical and threatening to the powers that be. That the uneducated Peter and John stand before the council and announce to the high priest that their Easter witness is seconded by none other than the Holy Spirit also tells us that God had imbibed the early missionaries with incredible faith (some might say reckless bravado). Peter and John are ordered to stop teaching “in the name.” They respond by telling the council that they obey God and not man.
I hope I am not to sacrilegious when I say that this Psalm reminds me of my dog Zoey. Zoey is a wildly excitable and impulsive puppy. She loves to give praise and receive it. When she sees a friend she has not seen in a while she is likely to knock them over with affection. When I make her sit and wait patiently to be approached by said friend her whole body quivers with anticipation. The psalmist of Psalm 150 is a lot like this. This Psalm oozes with a need to praise and show affection to God. The psalmist calls for music of praise to be made on every instrument available! The psalmist calls for God to be praised for every reason! The psalmist quakes and quivers in anticipation and finally impulsively cries out “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
In addition to our tour through the book of Acts in the Easter season we are also presented with an overview of the book of Revelation. Revelation is a difficult book for those not acclimated to the ancient apocalyptic world view (which means all of us!) Suffice it to say the apocalyptic world view was held usually by a marginalized group who felt they had an authentic revelation of God and the actions of God in the imminent future that was not shared by mainstream society and the powers of that society. The apocalyptic world view produced apocalyptic literature which was a literature of resistance against the powers of mainstream society and literature that predicted the imminent coming of God to create a new world order. The literature made its case in a narrative form depicting great cosmic battles and the results that they had on earth. Apocalyptic narratives starred a cast of ancient mythic creatures and images (dragons, mythic horse riders, fantastic heavenly creatures, cataclysmic natural disasters, the sea of chaos, the tree of life, etc.).
Our lection this week is taken from the introduction of the book of Revelation which is written in the form of a letter to the seven churches of Asia. In this introduction John the Seer (the author of the book of Revelation) makes several claims about Jesus Christ. John
claims that Jesus is a “faithful witness”. In other words Jesus is one whose revelation of who God is true. Second John claims that Jesus is the “first born of the dead.” This is an Easter proclamation–John is writing as someone who believes that Jesus rose from the dead Easter morning. Third John claims that Jesus is “ruler of the kings of the Earth.” This third Christological statement provides us a window into the apocalyptic world view. Here is a claim known to be true to John that the mainstream culture does not share.
John continues by saying that at the coming of Jesus “all the tribes of the earth will wail” for Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty!” John radically asserts the sovereignty of God in a world prone to worship the
emperor. This is a bold and brave proclamation.
In our gospel readings throughout the season of Easter we will read of the many post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. We begin in the gospel of John with the famous appearance of Jesus to doubting Thomas. Thomas had not been present at the other resurrection appearances and refused to believe the reports of the resurrection saying, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Jesus then appears to Thomas and reveals his wounds to him. Thomas responds with the famous confession “My Lord and my God!” The significance of this confession is the title of “God” proper that is given to Jesus by Thomas. The Easter event had been revelatory for Thomas, as it continues to be revelatory to us.
Celebration of Worship
As you prepare your hearts, minds, thoughts, prayers, and hymns for worship consider the need for bold Easter actions and proclamations. If, as we said last week, Jesus’ resurrection means that the “powers of sin and death” that held the cosmos in their grips has been defeated then we are set free to resist in “apocalyptic” ways. We can “reveal” the kingdom of God in each new day we live our life under the sovereignty of Christ. We no longer need to acquiesce to the mainstream society around us. We live against the current, knowing that God is reversing the corruption of the world. Our testimony, like that of Peter and John, is wedded to the witness of the Holy Spirit! And our worship is one sign of the power of the kingdom present today.