Easter Day, The Resurrection of our Lord, 12 April 2020

Acts 10:34-43
or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Colossians 3:1-4
or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18
or Matthew 28:1-10
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

During Lent and Holy Week, I used this section of my blog to highlight quotes from notable people on either the day or some of the readings. Today my quote is from Reginald Fuller’s The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives.

“The Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels are by no means the earliest tradition of the Easter events which we have in the New Testament. Writing in the middle of the first century A.D. to the Christian community at Corinth, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the traditions which he had delivered to them when he had established the community there in A.D. 49-51:

‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.’  (I Cor. 15:3-8)

It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition. He did not compose this passage either at Corinth for the occasion or prior to his visit there. He had, he says, ‘received it from others who were Christians before him. This was established first by the presence of non-Pauline words and phrases in the passage, and secondly by the words ‘I received’ and ‘I delivered’.[1]

This is a wonderful rendition of the responsibility of hearing the Easter witness (receiving) and the mission that follows (delivering). 

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43

Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: "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."

This is a crucial lesson in the theology of Luke/Acts. Here Peter, the head of the Apostles preaches at the baptism of Cornelius and other gentiles. He prefaces his speech with an understanding of God’s intentions and will, “God shows no partiality.” It is an echo of the scene at Pentecost when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is seen in a Jerusalem crowded with believers from many nations. Here Peter gives witness to the life of Jesus, and recounts not only his message, but his place in Salvation History. The other comments about Jesus’ death and burial are almost credal in nature. And the final sentences remind us of the mission to which Easter sends us. 

Breaking open Acts:

1.     Whom have we forgotten to include in our community of faith?
2.     How would you state your faith to someone else?
3.     How do you remember your own baptism?


Jeremiah 31:1-6

At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.”

In this reading it is Jeremiah who is called to be a witness. The first two verses of the previous chapter give us insight into Jeremiah’s call and mission – “Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, says YHWH, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah.” Here Isaiah brushes up against a universalist view (“I will be the God of all the families of Israel.”) but does not quite enter it yet. It is however a reconciliation of the north and the south, “you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria.” It is a signal that God will restore fortunes, and peoples, taking them out of the difficult circumstances which they faced. A reading for our own time.

Breaking open Jeremiah:

1.     What words has God spoken to you?
2.     Whom do you see in God’s family?
3.     How has God restored you?

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."
14    The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.
15    There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:
16    "The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!"
17    I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.
18    The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.
19    Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20    "This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter."
21    I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22    The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23    This is the Lord's doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24    On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

We have encountered this psalm earlier in Holy Week, and its appropriate language of thanksgiving makes it especially suitable for this day. In our reading it calls for songs of thanksgiving, and gives it words, “(God’s) mercy endures for ever.” It is seen in God’s care for those who are righteous, and in the victory that God gives to them. And who shall praise this God of victory and righteousness? The psalm acclaims that is the living who shall do so – therefore, “I shall not die but live,” the result of God intervention into life. The scene becomes specific, as it enters the Temple through the “gates of righteousness.” And now the psalm takes its clues and phrases from the building itself – the gates and the cornerstone. All of these are witnesses of God’s deeds and mercy. The God of the psalmist acts.

Breaking open Psalm 118:
  1. For what do you give thanks?
  2. What do you rejoice in in life?
  3. Where do you see God acting in your world?

Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Paul sees the story of Christ’s resurrection not just as an event to be witnessed to, but an event that changes the nature of all things, especially the lives of those who follow him. “If you have been raised with Christ…” This is a participatory theology, one that makes a difference of how we live. It fixes our gaze on the heavenly as opposed to the earthly. When we seek things from above, we will see the Christ who is risen, and we as well be revealed as something different. What might that be?

Breaking open Colossians:
  1. What do you understand about being “raised with Christ”?
  2. What are the dangers of Baptism?
  3. How is Baptism a resurrection?

The Gospel: St. 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.

What a stunning portrait we have here of the first of the Apostles – Mary Magdalene. She comes at night, perhaps a picture of her own emotions and outlook after the death of Jesus. Before the revelation to her, John inserts the revelation to Peter and “the other disciple.” And he gives us evidences of the resurrection – the grave clothes lying on the tomb. They do not understand what must be. But John has a more touching tale to tell in the appearance to the Magdalene, for it is a tale that relates to us. She is again shown in her sorrow. He conversation with Jesus is one of growing faith and recognition. The appearance of Jesus is beyond her knowing, but it is the voice and her name that will reveal all to her – this personal relationship that Jesus had with her and with us. “Mary!” She understands more when she calls him Rabbi – a teacher, for this moment will become an instruction for her. Jesus caution to her nolo me tangere reminds me of how Moses prepares Israel to attend to God at Mount Sinai – no touching the holy. There is more to be done before the relationship can be fulfilled. She does, however, “touch” the disciples with her words, “I have seen the Lord.” 

Breaking open Gospel:
1.        How do you deal with your sorrows?
2.        Why does Mary want to touch Jesus?
3.        What does his refusal mean?


St. Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Matthew has his scene with the Magdalen and the other Mary at dawn, unlike the dark of John. There is more drama here than the psychological drama of the revelation of Jesus rise. We have an earthquake, an angel, the rolling back of the stone, an appearance like unto lightning, and the whitest of white clothing. What comes next is fear, and unlike Mark, Matthew doesn’t end with the fear. The guards are shaken up, but the women, in fear, listen. The angel directs their attention and movements, and the place where they now need to be – the beginning – Galilee. Their fear is now joy and they leave as witnesses. Jesus meets them, and they do touch him. If John’s Mary is somewhat removed in the scene, Matthew’s is fully engaged. 

Breaking open Gospel:
1.        How is Matthew’s Mary different from John’s?
2.        What might your emotions have been at this event?
3.        How have you conquered your fear of death?

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.

or this

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or this

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

All questions and commentary copyright © 2020, Michael T. Hiller

[1]       Fuller, R. (1971), The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, page 9-10


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