Easter 5A

Thoughts on Today’s Lessons for May 14, 2017

Laying the cornerstone: The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah

Laying the cornerstone: The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah (1847 drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60

As we pass the midpoint of Eastertide, our readings turn from the resurrection of Jesus to our own hope of new life and resurrection through Christ. Why did Stephen suffer such a horrific death at the hands of his fellow worshippers with the not-yet-converted Saul looking on? Stephen, one of the first deacons, argued with fellow worshipers in the synagogue. They regarded his stories about Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the prophets as blasphemy. When he declares his fellow Jews “betrayers and murderers” for their role in Jesus’s crucifixion and death, their anger overcomes them and they stone him to death. His last words echo the hopeful cry of Psalm 31 that Jesus repeated on the Cross: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

“Our times are in your hand.” These words, familiar from their use in the Birthday Collect in the Book of Common Prayer, express the Psalmist’s strong faith in the loving-kindness and protection to be found by placing one’s self in God’s hands. He asks God for safety from enemies and persecutors; he begs God to listen, to be his stronghold, his rock and castle. He asks God to listen and to save him. But ultimately he puts his faith and trust in God: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10

These verses recall the words that the Prophet Isaiah had used to promise that the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt on a mighty cornerstone, a living stone that the builders had at first rejected. Now the author of this letter in Peter’s name calls on Christians not to stumble and fall on this stone as Isaiah’s people had done, but to grow into salvation like infants nourished on pure, spiritual milk, to proclaim the mighty acts of Jesus, who called us out of darkness into his light.

Gospel: John 14:1-14

For the last three weeks of Eastertide we will hear excerpts from John’s long account of Jesus’ last talk with the disciples before he is betrayed, arrested and crucified. Jesus tells them that he will go ahead to prepare a place for them. He tries to reassure them, but they are confused. Thomas asks how they will know the way, and Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” To know Jesus is to know God, not only in resurrected life but here and now as we seek God’s kingdom on earth.

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