EASTER VIGIL – April 18, 2022

Eternal giver of life and light, this holy night shines with the radiance of the risen Christ. Renew your church with the Spirit given us in baptism, that we may worship you in sincerity and truth and may shine as a light in the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The three services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and easter Vigil are one service called the Triduum.

Hebrew Bible Readings:

  1. Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a– Creation.
    Response:Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
  2. Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13– Flood.
    Response:Psalm 46
  3. Genesis 22:1-18 – Testing of Abraham.
    Response:Psalm 16
  4. Exodus 14:10-31;15:20-21 – Deliverance at the Red Sea.
    Response:Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18
  5. Isaiah 55:1-11– Ho! Salvation offered freely to all.
    Response:Isaiah 12:2-6
  6. Proverbs 8:1-8; 19-21; 9:4b-6orBaruch 3:9-15, 32 – 4:4– The wisdom of God.
    Response: Psalm 19
  7. Ezekiel 36:24-28– A new heart and a new spirit.
    Response:Psalm 42 and43
  8. Ezekiel 37:1-14– The valley of the dry bones.
    Response:Psalm 143
  9. Zephaniah 3:14-20– The gathering of God’s people.
    Response:Psalm 98
  10. Jonah 1:1-2:1– The deliverance of Jonah.
    Response:Jonah 2:2-3 [4-6] 7-9
  11. Isaiah 61:1-4, 9-11– Clothed in the garments of salvation.
    Response: Deuteronomy 32:1-4, 7, 36a, 43a
  12. Daniel 3:1-29– Deliverance from the fiery furnace.
    Response: Song of the Three, vv. 35-65 (apocryphal)

Romans 6:3-11 – We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

John 20:1-18 – Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to Mary Magdalene

RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD – April 17, 2022

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon: 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…
OR
Isaiah 65:17-25 – I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – God’s steadfast love endures forever.

I Corinthians 15:19-26 – Paul’s discourse on the resurrection. Death as the final enemy.
OR
Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon: 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…
John 20:1-18 – Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to Mary Magdalene
OR
Luke 24:1-12 – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them find the stone rolled away, encounter an angel, and run to tell the apostles.

Looking Ahead Through Easter

Easter is April 17, 2022. The great 50 days of Easter takes us to Pentecost on June 5, 2022. A week of weeks.

Acts At-A-Glance

  • April 17, 2022 – RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD: Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon: 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…
  • April 24, 2022 – Easter 2C: Acts 5:27-32 – Peter to the high priest: The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’
  • May 1, 2022 – Easter 3C: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20) – Saul’s light from heaven. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
  • May 8, 2022– Easter 4C: Acts 9:36-43 – The resuscitation of Tabitha in Joppa (Peter).
  • May 15, 2022 – Easter 5C: Acts 11:1-18 – Peter’s report to the church at Jerusalem on why he ate with the uncircumcised. His vision.
  • May 22, 2022 – Easter 6C: Acts 16:9-15 – The gospel enters Europe. Paul has a vision during the night: A man from Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’
  • Thursday, May 26, 2022 or Sunday, May 29, 2022 ASCENSION OF OUR LORD: Acts 1:1-11– As they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Note: This is also Mother’s Day in 2016.
  • June 5, 2022 – PENTECOST: Acts 2:1-21 – Day of Pentecost. Roaring wind and tongues of flame.

Easter Gospels at-a-glance

  • April 17, 2022 – RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD: The women at the tomb find the stone rolled away
  • April 24, 2022 – Easter 2C: Doubting Thomas. Revelation: He will come on the clouds.
  • May 1, 2022 – Easter 3C: Breakfast with Jesus on the beach. Be fishers and shepherds.
  • May 8, 2022 – Easter 4C: Good Shepherd Sunday.
  • May 22, 2022 – Easter 5C: New Commandment. Love as the mark of the church.
  • May 29, 2022 – Easter 6C: John’s vision of the Holy City Jerusalem. Jesus’ vision of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, who will teach us everything.
  • Thursday, May 26, 2022 or Sunday, May 29, 2022 ASCENSION OF OUR LORD: While he was blessing them [at Bethany], he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
  • June 5, 2022 – PENTECOST: John 14. In my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.

Note: The Gulf Coast Synod Assembly is May 20-21, 2022 in Galveston.

A Brief Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles, volume 2 of the Gospel of Luke

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
– Acts 1:8

Acts 1:8 is Luke’s exordium, his theme verse if you will. Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth: this is the outline of the rest of Acts.

  • Acts 1-9 Jerusalem
  • Acts 9-12 Judea and Samaria
  • Acts 12-28 The ends of the earth

Luke wrote Acts (Acts 1:1-2. Luke 1:1-4). The author never identifies himself, but following tradition, let us call him Luke. Acts is a 28-chapter volume 2 of Luke’s gospel. “The story in Acts is essential in understanding who Jesus of Nazareth was, and what he means,” said Dr. Ed Krentz as he lectured us in Houston, Brenham and New Orleans in 2009. He encouraged us to use Acts for the second reading during this Lukan year.

Luke claims to be a traveling companion of the apostle Paul on the journey in which they get shipwrecked. Luke speaks of Paul and his team as “they” until Acts 27:1, when all of a sudden, he starts speaking in the first person (“we”). So, we assume that’s when Paul’s entourage picks up Luke. Someone by the name of Luke is mentioned several times in the Bible: Col. 4:14, 2 Tim 4:11, Philemon 24.

Luke is the only one who coordinates the gospel with secular history. Luke is the only gospel that mentions any Roman Emperors. Without Luke we couldn’t date anything. Luke mentions:

  • Caesar Augustus
  • Tiberius
  • Claudius (Acts 18)

The title is The Acts of the Apostles, but it might just as well be the Acts of Peter and Paul. Peter figures large in the first eight chapters, then a little bit after Paul’s conversion (chapter 9). Chapter 13 to the end of Acts, chapter 28, well over half the book, is devoted entirely to Paul’s missionary journeys.

When Stephen was being stoned (Acts 6 and 7), those who stoned him laid their coats at the feet of someone named Saul. Saul approved of the stoning (Acts 7:58, 8:1).

Saul’s conversion happens in Acts 9:1-19a (our text May 1, 2022). It is Luke that tells us that Saul was from Tarsus (Acts 9:11, 30; 21:39; 22:3). Paul never mentions it in any of his letters that we have. Tarsus is the capital of Cilicia, the eastern most region in southern Turkey, abutting Syria.It is where Antony first met Cleopatra 33 years before the birth of Christ.The Romans governed Tarsus in Paul’s day, and as a legacy left a system of roads that facilitated Paul’s travels.The overland route through Asia (modern day Turkey) could be followed even when sea travel was impossible.The trade route went from Troas to Pergamum (the capital of Asia), on to Sardis, through Galatia to Tarsus.Tarsus was therefore linked with the main roads westward, and therefore to the great Roman centers of Ephesus and Corinth, as well as Syrian Antioch and Jerusalem to the east and south. [Paul, The Mind of the Apostle, A.N. Wilson]The ancient writers speak of the Tarseans as pirates, seafarers and worshippers of Mithras. This accounts for Paul’s comfortability with travel, and sea travel in particular.

According to archeological evidence, Mithras worship was practiced in Tarsus until the fall of the Roman empire 450 years hence. A characteristic of Mithras worship was that worshippers would drink the blood of the sacrificed bull, or a cup of wine as a symbol of that blood. (It is easy to imagine how Paul’s Eucharistic theology emerges.) They would bathe in the blood, and it was believed that you would inherit the strength and life force of the bull. A child growing up in Tarsus would be impressed by this. Even a Jewish child.
Paul is a citizen of the Roman empire according to Luke. He writes with a vigorous and distinctive style of Greek prose. This is not his second language. In other words, he is a Greek-speaking Jew, a second class of Jew according to the Hebrew speaking Jews from which Jesus came. And Paul was not a peasant. Any history of Greek prose which omitted Paul would be incomplete. He speaks in Greek. He thinks in Greek. And as a Greek speaker he was a citizen of the world, part of a universe much larger than that of Jesus and his disciples.
In Paul’s day, Roman citizenship could be purchased for 200 drachmae (two-years wages for a laborer). Luke tells us that Paul was a tentmaker. Tents were for the wealthy. Mostly for Roman troops.

Acts in the Revised Common Lectionary

Acts doesn’t fare well in the Revised Common Lectionary. The only time we read from Acts is in the Easter season (including the Day of Pentecost). We read from Acts 1 only on Ascension Sunday/Easter 7. We read from Acts 2 only on Pentecost, and Easter 2A-4A. We have readings from Acts 3-5 in Easter B and C. Lutherans never read from Acts 6, 12-15, 18, or 20-28 in worship. The only time we read from Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13-28) is Easter 6A, Baptism B and Easter 6-7C.

This year (C), with all our jumping around (Acts 10, 5, 9, 11, 16, 1, 2), we only read once from Pauls’ journeys, Easter 6C, May 1, 2016: The gospel enters Europe. Paul has a vision during the night: A man from Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’

Easter: Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how 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. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not 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. 42He 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. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

God shows no partiality.

Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. God does not make distinctions between Jews, Muslims or Christians. God does not show partiality to one race or another. Rich or poor. Male or female. Anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable Peter says. Gentiles who believed in God were called God-fearers.

After John’s baptism, this Jesus went about doing good and healing those oppressed by the devil. Nevertheless, they put him to death by hanging him from a tree.

Peter’s message in Acts 10 (Easter) and Acts 5 (the Sunday after Easter) is the same as the message in his Pentecostal Sermon (Acts 2): This Jesus was put to death by hanging him on a tree, but God “exalted” him on God’s right hand. Of this we are witnesses.

Hanging from a tree was considered a curse in Jewish tradition. Jesus had aligned himself with the outcasts, by eating and drinking with them. He was executed as a powerless man.

But God raised him from the dead, and called us to preach forgiveness in his name. Have you fallen short of the justice to which God calls you? Have you failed in your self-powered efforts at righteousness? Forgiveness is free. All who call upon the Lord receive full pardon and forgiveness for their sins.

That forgiveness frees us to move forward into grace. The knowledge of the resurrection frees us from fear of death, fear of the powers that threaten to destroy us. We are free to move into the new world with joy.

Paul proclaimed the same message. Have this mind that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name which is above every name. Exaltation comes from humiliation. Life comes from death.

We are invited to see death not as the end, but as the beginning. We are given a glimpse of what we cannot see with our mortal eyes: that there is more to life than meets the eyes.

But death and resurrection isn’t just for the afterlife. It is to be lived now. In Acts, Christianity is called The Way (8:2, 9:25, 18:25, 18:26, 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22). It is not a belief system alone, but a way of life, a way of being in the world. The cross, the resurrection, grace, forgiveness, empower us to live as new creations. We die to ourselves, so that we can arise to new life in Christ, now.

So, what grave clothes will you be leaving behind?

Easter Sunday

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

—1 Peter 1:3

If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more

human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.

—Archbishop Oscar Romero, March 4, 1979

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in

Springtime.

—Martin Luther

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

—Philippians 3:10-11

Prodigal God: For those who have been in the series Prodigal God, here are some notes for Easter Sunday that pull the series together, under the heading “Redefining Hope.”

Paul’s understanding of the resurrection: Earlier this year, we had a couple of weeks of readings from 1 Corinthians 15. In 2019 I shared some perspectives on Paul’s understanding of resurrection, with the help of James Tabor. Paul does not understand resurrection as we often do in today’s society.

The Isenheim Altarpiece: David Lyle Jeffrey invites us to a Holy Week meditation on the Isenheim altarpiece, the largest work of the late Medieval painter, Matthias Grünewald. The artist painted it for the monastery of Saint Anthony in Isenheim, located outside a town known for caring for the sick. The monks cared for those with the Plague and various skin diseases.

(Note: Our Gulf Coast friends, Vonda and Jim Drees, direct the Grünewald Guild, 14 miles northwest of Leavenworth, Washington, on the Wenatchee River in the Plain Valley. Go visit for snowcapped peaks, rushing waters, golden meadows, art and faith.)

The wings of the Isenheim altarpiece are closed for most the year, showing a stunning crucifixion scene. The crucified Christ is covered with plague-like sores. This demonstrated to patients that Jesus not only understood, but shared their afflictions. The realism of Grünewald’s depictions of these diseases is unique in this period, and instructive.

To the left is Mary Magdalene on her knees, with an alabaster jar. Unfortunately, Mary comes to be mistakenly associated with the “sinful woman” with the alabaster jar of ointment in Luke 7:37. The apostle John comforts Mary. A surrealistic John the Baptist with a surrealistically large finger points to Jesus.

On Easter, an a few other holy days, the doors open at the center, and an equally amazing resurrection scene is revealed. Jeffrey calls it, “ perhaps the most stunning representation of the resurrection in all Christian art…”

On the right panel is a transfigured and ascending risen Christ, with Roman soldiers at his feet and rising sun behind his head. It is a new day dawning, a turning point in history as Jaroslav Pelican put it.

Women, The First Preachers of the Resurrection: Luke 24:1-12

I read Luke 24 as one who strongly believes that the women went to the tomb before dawn to anoint the corpse and found instead an empty tomb. It is the one constant in the varied accounts.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Mikeal Parsons, in his excellent commentary, says,

Luke narrates four events after Jesus’s death: his burial (23:50–56); the empty tomb (24:1–11); and two postresurrection appearances to his followers, first to Cleopas and his companion (24:13–35) and finally to the Eleven (24:36–53).

  1. Burial (Palm/Passion C)
  2. Empty tomb (Easter 3C)
  3. Appearance on Road to Emmaus (Easter 3A and 3B, Easter evening C)
  4. Appearance to the eleven (Ascension A, B and C)

All of the postmortem texts appear in the Revised Common Lectionary, although they are spread out over three years and range from Palm/Passion Sunday for the burial, to Ascension day for the appearance to the eleven. (The Narrative Lectionary, Year 3, includes the first three of these events consecutively, on Good Friday, Easter, and Easter 2, but excludes the fourth entirely.) Curiously, we do not read Luke’s unique Road to Emmaus account on a Sunday morning in RCL Year C.

Who are the women at the tomb? They vary from gospel to gospel. Marilyn Salmon at United Seminary in St. Paul points out that this story appears in all four gospels, and in each gospel, Mary Magdalene is present. While the stories vary, there is consensus about this. And there is also another Mary in each gospel, one of the seven in the New Testament. Matthew includes “the other Mary” (28:1). Mark adds “Mary the mother of James and Salome” (16:1). Luke includes Mary mother of James (24:10). In addition to these Marys, there are “other women.” Who are they? Luke told us in the previous chapter, just a few verses ago (23:55-56), that they had followed him all the way to Jerusalem from Galilee:

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

These are the same women that were with Jesus in his ministry in Galilee. Women play a vital role in Jesus‘ story in the Gospel of Luke. Elizabeth, Mary his mother, Anna, Joanna, Susanna, Mary Magdalene, the women who funded Jesus’ ministry, the five other Marys, and so on. The women follow Jesus in Luke, literally from Galilee. They are followers, disciples.

How many “other women” are there? We are not told. However, earlier in his gospel (8:2b-3), Luke told us that there were “many” women who were with Jesus and the twelve:

… Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Perhaps two. Perhaps 20. The women find an empty tomb and are understandably “perplexed,” perhaps as Mary was “perplexed” when the angel appeared to her as a young, pregnant teenager three decades earlier.

Two angels appear to them, saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here for he has risen.” And then the angels tell the women to remember what Jesus told them, back when they were “in Galilee,” that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, be crucified and on the third day rise.

They immediately go to tell the eleven, but the eleven do not believe. It seemed to them an “idle tale.” This is a sexist slur. Even today we still hear phrases like “an old wives tale” to discount the veracity and testimony of women. Luke is not critiquing the women. Luke is critiquing the disciples.

It was women who accompanied Jesus in his ministry. It is women who helped to fund his ministry. It is women who stood by Jesus even when Judas betrayed and Peter denied. It was women who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross, in his most difficult hour, until he breathed his last breath. And it was women on Easter morning, who proclaimed the good news of the resurrection. Sadly, it would be women upon whom an institutionalized church would turn, to marginalize, and exclude, within only a few generations.

Jürgen Moltmann has famously said,

Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.

Perhaps we are like the women at the tomb, announcing the resurrection to an unbelieving world, that often sees the story as an “idle tale.” We announce a new day dawning, a turning point in history that frees us to love unconditionally, live hopefully and give generously. We are privileged to share a foolish story that suggests that death does not have the final word. To announce what the angel said to a young, expecting Mary:

For nothing will be impossible with God.

(Luke 1:37)

New Life

I am expecting a harvest this year. I have planted flowers, herbs and veggies. God grows them. Some plants I thought were dead are sprouting up through the soil. Each year, Spring brings the promise of the Resurrection. Are you planting for a new season of ministry, as an act of faith in God’s resurrection promise? What new life is God even now sprouting up from the cold, dead earth?

This year in our Synod Assembly we are pressing forward, acknowledging that every church leader is a church planter. The winter of the pandemic, like the cold grave on Holy Saturday, has left us out of sorts. We have died to what came before. Now we look toward what lies ahead. The resurrection dawn.

...this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:13b-14

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? 

Isaiah 43:18-19

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25