Bob Chell–Sioux Falls, SD

Warm-up Question

Where do your encounter Jesus in your life?

Glimpse of the Kingdom

TV stations like to run feel good stories.  Sometimes it is about neighbors who harvest the crops of a sick or disabled farmer.  It may celebrate a high school athlete with developmental or health challenges who scores a touchdown.  Maybe it highlights a basketball game when opposing coaches and players conspire to allow a student with special needs  to score.  Often  a raucous celebration follows with fans and athletes of both sides celebrating the special moment.

We cherish such stories because they remind us that kindness and compassion are precious virtues.  Too often we act as though, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a philosophy worth embracing, instead of a morally bankrupt attitude which produces a combative, harsh society in which no one wants to live. These feel good stories help us  see persons who are often forgotten or regarded as unimportant.  They remind us of our better selves, what we can do when we go beyond selfishness to make our world better.  These stories emphasize what is most important in our lives together.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been a part of one of these celebrations? How did it make you feel? Why?
  • Do you have a friend or family member who is overlooked or invisible, or even bullied because they are different?
  • Is there a student in your school whose name, when mentioned, brings laughter, eye rolls or scoffing?
  • Have you ever befriended someone left out? Did this diminish or elevate you in the eyes of others?

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-19

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The Easter season is seven weeks long. Nearly every week the gospel lesson includes disciples encountering Jesus and failing to recognize him. This week’s gospel encounter is crammed with significance. There is a miracle and allusions to Peter’s failure to stand firm during the horrible events of Holy Week, as Jesus asks him repeatedly, “Do you love me.” Both are important and theologically significant, yet by focusing on them we may miss what is most significant. Namely, Jesus is in the world today if we have eyes to see.

Only in John’s gospel does Jesus appear to witnesses on Easter morning.  In the original ending of Mark’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t appear to the disciples. But the young man at the tomb tells the women to seek Jesus because he is going ahead of them.  From the beginning, Mark suggests, that the proper response to Easter’s good news is to seek Jesus in the world. 

In confirmation we learn that we encounter Christ in the sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion, where God’s promise is attached to an earthly sign of water, bread, or wine.  As Martin Luther says, “This is most certainly true.” 

Yet the Holy Spirit is not shackled to the font and altar but free in the world. Jesus said, “…where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matt. 18:20) Later, he speaks of a time when people will ask, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” The answer comes, …just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

This story from Matthew has been used to scare or shame those who fail to care for others. It is, I believe, a misinterpretation. Jesus’ promise to meet us in our day to day lives is neither test nor threat, but an opportunity to share in the Kingdom of God.

Those neighbors in those feel good stories, sweaty and dirty from the harvest, cannot hide their joy. Those athletes and fans, cheer leaders and officials, all wear beaming smiles because there– for a moment—they caught a glimpse of the kingdom.

Discussion Questions

  • When and where have you encountered a glimpse of the Kingdom of God?
  • Do people hope they can feel good about themselves? Does this matter? Why or why not?
  • Feel good  news stories are one time events yet sickness and disability often persist. Who do you know who is there for others when the cameras are off and no one is looking?

Activity Suggestions

This week watch for an opportunity to speak a kind word, offer hope or encouragement to someone who needs it.  Watch and notice those who befriend and those who belittle others. Are they hurting themselves, trying to fit in, or oblivious to the feelings of others?

Closing Prayer

I first heard this prayer prayed by theologian and bishop, Krister Stendahl, . I don’t know if he wrote it but it captures perfectly the wrestling in my heart.

O God, you call us to follow you. 

O thou eternal Wisdom, whom we partly know, and partly do not know;

O thou eternal Justice, whom we partly acknowledge, but never wholly obey;

O thou eternal Love, whom we love a little but fear to love to much:

Open our minds that we may understand;

Work in our wills, that we may obey;

Kindle our hearts, that we may love thee.