The Triduum - The Resurrection of Our Lord, 4 April 2010

The Readings for Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
I Corinthians 15:19-26
Saint John 20:1-18

Welcome to the Queen of Feasts – The Resurrection of Our Lord.  This is a day of both promise and hope.  The promise is that we will no longer need to fear death, and the hope is that this promise will be realized in our lives.  Hope is the stuff of faith, and it is that which allows us to live each day.  One Christian writer described the act of getting up each morning as a baptismal exercise, in which we arise as a new man or a new woman each morning.  It is Easter that gives such sentiments their power and appeal, for they are immediately applicable in our lives.

The other aspect of Easter is that the story of the resurrection is one that needs to be applied to all of life, and not only on this day.  What would it mean to us if we actually believed that institutions, families, relationships, and human beings could rise from a death of purpose and potential?  What a world we could make if we took this day seriously, and followed it deeply into our souls and hearts. 

In the lectionary for this day, one of a week of Sundays of Easter, we notice that the first reading is not a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, but one of a series of continuing readings from the Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how 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. 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, not 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. He 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. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Acts of the Apostles is really the Gospel According to Saint Luke, Volume Two.  Someone commented that the correct title (The title of Acts stems from Iranaeus) should really be the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  At any rate, the book represents the continuing ministry of Jesus as realized by his followers.  Of special interest is the role that women played within the book.  Ivoni Richter Reimer’s Women in the Acts of the Apostles is an excellent study of the book from a feminist point of view.  Also interesting is Luke’s handing on of the acts of Jesus.  First it is Peter that re-enacts certain of Jesus’ miracles and wonders, and then it is Paul, who is given that honor.  Luke literally traces the transmission of the story to the gentile audience for whom the book was intended.  In this reading Peter preaches a sermon that outlines the kerygma, the teaching of the apostles about Jesus, and ties this proclamation to the prophets of old.

Breaking open Acts
1.  What are the important parts of Peter’s sermon – can you outline the presentation?
2.  Who made up his audience?  Where was this done?

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 Confitemini Domino

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.

Let Israel now proclaim, *
"His mercy endures for ever."

The LORD is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.

There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:

"The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! *
the right hand of the LORD is exalted!
the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!"

I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the LORD.

The LORD has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.

Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the LORD.

"This is the gate of the LORD; *
he who is righteous may enter."

I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.

The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD'S doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Some medieval manuscripts divide this particular psalm into five separate psalms; so disjunctive are the themes of this thanksgiving psalm.  Indeed we last encountered it at the beginning of Holy Week in the Palm Sunday Liturgy.  In the context of the Easter Day celebrations, other verses take on a significance that they didn’t have a week ago.  The important theme in the psalm is God’s action.  For the author it was God’s defense over some issue.  For Christians on this particular day, it is God’s actions in raising Jesus from the dead.  Indeed, “we shall rejoice and be glad in it”

Breaking open Psalm 118
1.     The Psalmist says, “I shall not die, but live”.  What do you think he means by this statement?
2.     How is Jesus the stone that is rejected?
3.     How is he the “chief cornerstone”?
4.     What are the military and victory themes in the psalm?

I Corinthians 15:19-26

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

It is in I Corinthians that Paul gives one of the oldest recountings of the Easter message, predating that in the Gospels.  In this reading he moves from proclamation to theology, and as an argument uses the example of Adam.  The first man, Adam, sinned, and thus we all sinned.  The new Adam, Jesus, was raised, and thus we are all raised.  This, simply put is his message.

Breaking open I Corinthians:
1.  Who are the enemies that Paul speaks of in the last verses of the reading?
2.  Why would Paul say that “every ruler and every authority and power” must be destroyed?  Who are these?
3.  Has death been destroyed for you?  How?  What do you think and feel about dying?

Saint John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

The role of women in the Easter story is utterly profound.  In the Gospel of John we meet three characters who will each proclaim this story with power.  The first, whom some have called “the Apostle to the Apostles”, is Mary Magdalene.  She is the one who witnesses the empty tomb and then goes to tell Peter.  Peter is the second of the characters, and enters the tomb after Mary – but nothing is said about Peter’s reaction to the sight.  The third character, “the other disciple” (that is John), goes in as well, “and believed.”  It is Mary, however, who interests us.  She has experienced a bit of a renaissance in Christianity lately, but not until after being almost scrubbed out of the story.  He John devotes some time to her, and an especially tender scene between her and the risen Jesus.  She is the one who is honored with the appearance, and again it is she who runs to tell and proclaim.  She was indeed not only the apostle to the apostles, but is an apostle to the Church today.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.   Characterize how John sees Mary.
2.   Characterize how John sees Peter.
3.   What do you think of these two individuals, and how do you read his “self-characterization?”
4.   What are the popular myths about Mary Magdalene?  How are they affected by this reading?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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