Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; I John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18 Oremus Bible Browser

(short notes, tape malfunctioned!)

It is easy to make an idol of Jesus and the “name of Jesus” rather than appreciate the “power” of Jesus being revealed and made real in and through the activity of the disciples.

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us”. It is not “for us” as in ‘on our behalf’, and it is not “for us” so that we don’t have to for ourselves. Rather it is “for us” in the context that Love is hereby revealed “for us”.

Christ (WE) can (are called) to lay down our life in Giving: This is the womb of resurrection and the power of creation – that we lay down our life in Giving – in creating life…

Each time we hear the Scriptures or read them there is an opportunity to find new insight and/or to drawn into a deeper/clearer understanding……
The first reading Acts 4:5-12, gives us some insight into the understanding and the activity of the early church, the community post-Easter, and those seeking to live in the light of resurrection…. The disciples are questioned (in verse 7) with these words…. “By what power or by what name did you do this?”… and we can see therefore that “power” and “name” are synonymous or very much related in terms of the community at that time….

The Acts of the Apostles provides us with an account of a community, living in the light of resurrection, proclaiming a new world view and a new world order… by their being, and by their activity….
On the surface – a simple reading of the narrative - this text appears to validate the claims of the Evangelical/Pentecostal church… However, the same ‘church’ does not equally reflect the depth of the text!

Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit”(v8) – heals the sick and proclaims (v12) “we must be saved”… in the name of Jesus… for “there is salvation in no one else.”
It is easy to see how this text can so readily be taken out of context…. It can so easily succumb to what might be called “The Gary Ablett Syndrome” – that is kick a couple of goals and people think he’s God!
In this instance, it is easy to make an idol of Jesus and the “name of Jesus” rather than appreciate the “power” of Jesus being revealed and made real in and through the activity of the disciples.

Easter is not an event that serves to create a cult following for the person of Jesus.

If we consider this narrative in its post-Easter context we can appreciate that it is about Revelation – received and responded to.

There is not a mechanical formula for being “Spirit filled” and there is no eternal insurance policy for salvation that is underwritten with “the name of Jesus”.
Certainly, stepping out of the Tomb – the womb of resurrection - into a paradigm of “Life in Christ” can very much give the appearance that the Evangelicals/Pentecostals seek to indoctrinate; however, this is a text of Incarnation not indoctrination!

We find in the second reading (1 John 3:16-24) a more refined and contemplative appreciation of the Easter revelation…..
In verse 16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us” - a simple summary that has occasioned a variety of understandings….
And the “for us” in this expressions is the key to such understanding.
It is not “for us” as in ‘on our behalf’, and it is not “for us” so that we don’t have to for ourselves. Rather it is “for us” in the context that Love is hereby revealed “for us”.
And in verses 17 & 18 we find that such a revelation illuminates that the Easter revelation is one that calls for our participation:
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Not in word or speech, but in truth and action:
Not in the name of Jesus but in the divine activity, the power of Jesus
in truth and action:
The movement (paradigm shift) into truth (full humanity/integrity) and into (Divine) action, IS the process of Resurrection.

The Gospel reading (John 10:11-18) continues to emphasise the resurrection process…
Verses 11,15,17 and 18 all contain “lays down his life”

Most (many) will only lay down their life in death
Christ (WE) can (are called) to lay down our life in Giving.
This is the womb of resurrection and the power of creation – that we lay down our life in Giving – in creating life…

The contrast of the ‘good shepherd ‘ and the ‘The hired hand’ in the Gospel reading is the echo of the contrast between the leaven and the lump….
Many will Retire their lives – they will lay down their lives almost as a consequence of retirement….
Some – The Shepherds – will lay down their lives in Giving…
And such an understanding echoes the adage from Thomas Traherne that we considered during Lent – “Live to Give”.

As the appreciation and the implications of resurrection took shape in the early church it is easy to understand the Gospel writers using the image of “The Good Shepherd” – for it was an image already alive for them in the Hebrew Scriptures….

Psalm 23 – so often read at funerals – and so appropriately as it looks beyond death –– already has within it the characteristics of life in the resurrection (It has a resurrection orientation)…

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
The Shepherd takes away our wanting
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
Makes/creates an abundance in the desert
he leads me beside still waters;
Leads me to the still water of Clarity and Peace
3 he restores my soul.
Restores me to wholeness and integrity
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
Leads me – provides an orientation toward Life
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-- they comfort me.
Comfort is given to take away fear
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Hospitality in the face of Hostility
you anoint my head with oil;
you bless, crown and honour me

Life from the womb of resurrection
Life in Christ
Love incarnate – made flesh in Humanity
my cup overflows.

The Lord be with you.

Peter Humphris

Textweek Easter 4