Monthly Archives: April 2015

April 26, 2015 (Year B, Easter 4) Celtic Meditation

John 10:11-18

In this short passage, Jesus twice refers to himself as the Good Shepherd and three times tells his disciples that he, as the Good Shepherd,[1] lays down his life for his people.

Jesus begins this parable by explaining the difference between the hired shepherd and the true shepherd of the flock. The hired shepherd does not defend the sheep from danger but seeks his own safety first. In contrast, the true shepherd of the flock is so invested in the well-being of the flock that he will risk his own life for the flock. From this metaphor, Jesus explains that he, out of his care for his people, willingly sacrifices his own life for our safety. While we, as Christians, are called to imitate Christ, sometimes we forget our place in this parable. In what ways do we, as church, attempt to serve the world in the place of the Good Shepherd rather than as the sheep who are loved by the Good Shepherd?

Jesus’ identity is based upon God the Father knowing him and his knowing the Father. Part of this knowing between God the Father and God the Son is the knowledge that the Son will lay down his life for the people of God. Just as Jesus’ identity is based upon the mutual knowing and being known by God the Father, our identity as Christians is based upon being known by Jesus and knowing Jesus. In this parable of the Good Shepherd, this knowing looks like sheep listening to their Shepherd. The sheep respond to the Shepherd’s voice, not the “bleating of other sheep,”[2] and are joined into one flock. How can we, the non-Jewish fold of sheep[3] known as the church, offer a place where others can join us to hear Jesus’ voice as we worship and serve?

The Son of God is loved by God because, as the Good Shepherd, he lays down his life in order to take it up again. Our Good Shepherd chose to give his life for the sake of us sheep, not merely as a sacrifice, but also as demonstration of his power that he exercises on behalf of his people. This act of power is not only approved by God the Father, but it is integral to God’s plan of salvation. What does it look like for us, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we recognize and trust the Good Shepherd’s power to die and to rise from the dead?

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[1] For a detailed analysis of the development of this metaphor of God as the true shepherd of God’s people, see Andreas J. Köstenberger’s “Jesus the Good Shepherd Who Will also Bring Other Sheep (John 10:16): the Old Testament Background of a Familiar Metaphor,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 12.1 (2002): 67-96.

[2] Philip E. Thompson, “John 10:11-18,” Interpretation, 51 no 2 April 1997, 185.

[3] The “this fold” sheep refers to the Jews; the “sheep that don’t belong to this fold” refers to Gentile believers. What is shared in parable will be revealed fully after Jesus’ resurrection.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

April 12, 2015 (Year B, Easter 2) Celtic Meditation

John 20:19-31

On the evening of his resurrection, Jesus went to his disciples and showed them the proof that he was the same person they had always known by showing them his pierced hands and side. The disciples rejoiced that Jesus was, miraculously, alive![1] Jesus commissioned them with a message of peace and reconciliation and empowered them with the Holy Spirit. How do we, as church, demonstrate that we have been commissioned and empowered to participate in God’s mission of peace and reconciliation?

Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples on that first Easter. John doesn’t tell us why Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples. When Thomas returns, the other disciples describe what they have seen and experienced. Thomas doesn’t trust them. By his request to touch Jesus, he expressed his grief and frustration. He wanted to know that the same Jesus that he ate with, that he bumped up against on the road and in boats for the last three years was the same Jesus that they are talking about. Dead men don’t suddenly appear in locked rooms, show their death wounds, and bless those who abandoned them in their hour of need. Resurrection is hard to understand, especially when grief is so fresh. Thomas needed to see Jesus for himself. He needed to not only see, he instinctively knew that he needed to use all of his senses in order to get his head wrapped around the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. This is understandable; we who live in the “Show Me” state recognize that until we are convinced with our senses, some of us can be as stubborn as Missouri mules. Either the truth of the resurrection was just too much or somehow the other disciples had lost Thomas’s trust. What attitudes and dispositions do we, as church, have toward each other, and especially towards those who are suffering, that makes trusting us difficult?

Maybe what Thomas was asked to believe was beyond what even the most trusting person can believe in the midst of that much sorrow. Either way, the week between that first Easter and the next Sunday must have been miserable for Thomas. When Jesus appeared the next time, Thomas is present. Jesus offered Thomas exactly what he said that he needed to believe, but just being in Jesus’ presence was enough. In Thomas’s joy, belief, and relief, Jesus didn’t rebuke him for not trusting the other disciples. Instead, Jesus used whatever had caused Thomas to suffer through a lonely week to bless us. We who can’t see Jesus the way that the disciples did (because we live after Jesus’ ascension) are called to trust the very people that Thomas had trouble believing. Trusting in the testimony of these disciples is a life or death proposition: by believing that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and living accordingly, we have real life. How can we, as church, more fully live into our baptismal vows to embody the trustworthy teaching of these apostles so that others can come to know Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, the life-giver?

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[1] Jesus also appears within a locked room, apparently without going through the doors, so while he is still the same Jesus, something is now very different about his body.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

April 19, 2015 (Year B, Easter 3) Celtic Meditation

Luke 24:36b-48

This reading describes the events back in Jerusalem on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. Earlier in the day, the women had gone to anoint Jesus’ body, but found the tomb empty. In that confusing moment of discovery, two angels[1] explain to the women that Jesus was not in the tomb because he has risen (Luke 24:1-7). The women told the disciples, but the disciples didn’t believe the women.  Peter, however, went to the tomb to investigate. He saw the strips of linen that Jesus’ dead body had been wrapped in, but what he saw didn’t make sense (Luke 24:8-12). Sure, he had heard Jesus say that after his death that he would rise from the dead. He had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but in the midst of grief, how could any of this make sense?

In the midst of all this confusion and sorrow, two disciples left to return to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They encountered the resurrected Jesus along the way, but didn’t recognize him until after he explained, from Scripture, his mission to them. But it was when he stayed to eat with them and served the meal that they recognized Jesus for who he was. Jesus disappeared; they got up immediately from the table and went back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples (Luke 24:13-33). In the meantime, Jesus had appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The addition information from these witnesses must have made for a wild conversation!

While the disciples were discussing these events, suddenly, Jesus was among them. Whatever had been the mood in the room before, now the room is full of startled and terrified people. Jesus immediately responds to their fear that they are seeing a ghost by demonstrating that he is present with them in a physical body that can be touched and can eat. The bodily resurrection of Jesus has been central to the Christian faith from this moment in time. Why is it important for us, as church, to recognize that Jesus’ body was resurrected, not just his spirit?

After settling their anxiety by proving to them that he was really alive,[2] Jesus explained to them how his death and resurrection is in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.[3] But in order to understand the scriptures, Jesus had to open their minds. The two men on the way to Emmaus described this experience as having their “hearts burning within them” as Jesus taught them (Luke 24:32). How does knowing that even the disciples who were eye witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection needed God’s assistance to understand what the Scriptures teach about Jesus affect how we, as Church, read, study, and discuss Scripture?

Understanding who Jesus is—the Messiah—and what the mission of the church is—to continue being a witness to the truth of the gospel that the Messiah suffered, died, and was raised on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures—is necessary for the next stage of God’s work of restoration. Through Jesus, repentance brings forgiveness of sins. How can we, as Church, more fully live into the confidence that God will finish the work of redemption because of Jesus’ resurrection?

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[1] Luke describes these two persons as men in gleaming clothing (Luke 24:4). In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene talks with two angels (John 20:12).

[2] Not only is Jesus alive, but he is also still fully human. To be human requires having a body.

[3] That the “law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms” are explicitly mentioned demonstrates the importance of accepting the entirety of the Old Testament as Christian sacred scriptures.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved