Easter 2 B: Resurrection Oneness

Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter are

First Reading         Acts 4:32–35

Psalm                    Psalm 133

New Testament     1 John 1:1–2:2

Gospel                   John 20:19–31

Throughout all my years of ministry if I had a choice of things to do with the youth of the parish I would take them to the wilderness.

In confirmation classes, church dances, or big youth gatherings in hotels, the kids were all on the make. Boys were competing for the girls’ attention. Girls were competing for the boys’. Acting out and acting mean as hormones raged. Everybody felt on edge and awkward; especially me.

In the wilderness of the high Rocky Mountains, or in the Boundary Waters we had to help each other and work with each other. Why? Because we are all we had. You might not even survive at all if you don’t survive together. You could say the wilderness opened our eyes to how precious we were to each other.

This kind of awareness and togetherness is a rare thing in America today. On top of the social isolation we have all lamented, we have created for ourselves forms of social polarity and divisiveness that are doing far more damage. We have inherited pernicious inequities and forms of segregation; but we have invented industries that have wedged us further apart and walled us off from each other with well funded, well organized, and well practiced lies about the feared and hated “Other.”

The message from God that comes our way through these lessons for the Second Sunday of Easter must awaken to God’s church both to how we need each other, but how this unity is a gift from God. Christ rose from the dead to enable us to make it work.

So, in the collective and ancient wisdom of the Lectionary, three key texts of Oneness come up this Sunday.

Psalm 133 is effusive: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together I unity.” Two key Hebrew words jump out at us. First, we are ahim, or kindred. We didn’t make ourselves this—God did. We are related by blood, fellow tribesmen—we are all in this together. Second is the word yahad, or unity or togetherness. The Psalm has us praying about how beautiful it is when we quit acting like competitors, or enemies, and get along so we can survive this difficult thing called life. Sure, the psalmist herself may have been thinking of her next-door neighbors in her village. But the whole epic of Israel makes it plain—through grandpa Noah we are blood kin with EVERYBODY. And what a relief when we stop shooting arrows at each other and start trading and bringing in the crops together.

If we listen to our first reading from the Book of Acts…listen again, listen deeply, for the first time, we will be shocked with the story of the first Christians being thoroughly communist. Not property but cooperation was their holy grail. Their purpose not to get ahead, but that on one goes needy—no one is left behind. And the deepest dimension of it all—they can realize the greatest gift of all, that they live with one heart and soul.

The First Letter of John deepens our appreciation even more. Our whole ethos as Christians is built on the awareness that Oneness is built into our world. Here the Hebrew yahad has melded into the Greek word koinonia that many Christians are familiar with. It is frequently translated “fellowship,” but that word conjures up a rather weak feeling picture of church pot-lucks. Unfortunately we all know that before and after the smiles and happy sounds of church pot-lucks we all too often must endure the squabbles about the color of the table-cloths, who is going to clean up, and, in these times of pandemic, how soon to open the church to in-person worship.

No, koinonia isn’t simply playing nice-nice at pot-lucks. It is thoroughgoing Oneness. It is solidarity. It is working and loving together like our lives depended on it.

John’s letter says we have this Oneness with the Father, and with the Son Jesus Christ, so that we can reach out eagerly to make it real with one another. And, the main point of that whole letter, together with the drama of Jesus breathing Peace and inviting us to touch the wounds in the Gospel, is that truly believing in the real flesh and blood Jesus, enables us to truly believe that his Resurrection means the fulfillment of Oneness among all God’s people. Flesh and blood Jesus enables us to love flesh and blood people at the pot-luck and around the world.

All these varied voices of Scripture, and of the church, are calling to us here at the onset of the Easter season. We know the Resurrection means something. Here we are told it enables us to live the Oneness we have been given.

We, the church, must be the ones to hold out this great promise to our broken and divided world. We are all we have. We are in this together. And it’s time to take full advantage of this. It’s a gift, not a threat. The risen Christ holds out to us this great gift of  Oneness.

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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