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Wrestling with the Word, episode 72: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C (May 9, 2010) May 3, 2010

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Sixth Sunday of Easter
Looking at the events that occur around us can give the impression that God is absent from the world. That impression provided the basis for apocalyptic literature in the Bible. When the world seemed hopeless and godless, then the people’s only hope was for the end, the promised reign of God. Certainly that promise appears throughout the Old and New Testaments, and thank God that it does. It provides us, as the prophet Jeremiah expressed it, “a future with hope.” At the same time, however, the Bible abounds in the announcement that God is with us here and now. Our lessons for the day, especially Acts 16 and John 14, announce that God is in our midst.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 72: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 67
The psalm is a community thanksgiving, set in the context of a harvest festival (“The earth has brought forth her increase,” v. 6), but the peculiarly Israelite connection is the revelation of the Lord through “salvation,” most particularly the deliverance from the land of Egypt.  The divine gifts to Israel, however, do not give that people alone the right to praise the Lord, for here the prayer is that “all the peoples praise you” (vv. 3, 5), that “the nations be glad and sing for joy” (v. 4), and that “all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him” (v. 7) — all in response to God’s justice (v. 4) and abundant blessings on the whole earth.

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Acts 16:9-15
Working through the vision of a man from Macedonia pleading for help, God called Paul and the others to preach the gospel in Philippi where Lydia, upon hearing the word, offered the apostles the hospitality of her home.

Context
Beginning in 15:36, the author of Luke-Acts reports the second missionary journey of Paul and others; it will continue through chapter 18. The second journey was intended to revisit every city where they preached on the first journey (15:36).  Some controversy arose in regard to the entourage, but Paul ended up refusing to take John called Mark because of his withdrawing on the earlier trip.  As a result, Paul selected Silas to accompany him.  They then journeyed through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe (14:20-23) and Lystra (14:8-19).  At Lystra Paul met Timothy and was sufficiently impressed to take him along.  Immediately preceding our passage, the Holy Spirit would not allow the group to go to Bithynia. Instead they traveled to Troas where this vision occurred.

Key Words
V. 9.  “a man of Macedonia”:  The vision was understood by Paul as God’s calling them to Macedonia. The Macedonian’s identity is irrelevant.

V. 12.  Philippi:  The city was founded by Philip, father of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.  An imposing sight on the mountain and protected by a wall all around it, the city was an important site for establishing the first Christian congregation in Europe.

V. 14.  Lydia:  The woman is described as “a worshiper of God” (sebomenē ton theon), a term that describes a gentile who, though not yet a full proselyte, attached him/herself to Jewish religion, attending the synagogues and observing Sabbath and food laws. The word first appears in the Book of Acts at 13:43 where the expression describes a group people who are not Jews but worshipers with Jews in the synagogue (see also 17:17). At 13:50 the word appears for the “devout women of high standing” along with the leading men of the city, and at 17:4 it refers to “devout men.”  The same words used of Lydia describe Titius Justus at 18:7.

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Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5
God provides hope for the persecuted by giving a vision of a new Jerusalem in which the presence of God and of the Lamb will eliminate the need for any other source of light and in which two trees of life will provide healing for the nations.

Context
At the beginning of the chapter, John the seer writes that God gave him a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, one that existed without the chaos of the sea. Within that vision, one of the seven angels invites him to see the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Key Words
V. 10.  epi oros mega kai hypsēlon = “upon a mountain great and high”:  In the LXX oros hypsēlon is used only for holy mountains (Deut. 12:2; Isa. 14:13; 40:9; 57:7; Jer. 3:6; Ezek. 17:22; 40:2 [the place of Ezekiel’s vision of the temple]).  In NT the words describe the scene of the third temptation (Matt. 4:8) and the site of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2 and Matt. 17:1).

V. 23.  “the glory of God is its light”:  For God as the source of light, see Gen 1:3-13; Isa. 10:17; 60:19-20. Then note how God transfers this honor and responsibility to God’s Son (John 1:4; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46) and even to God’s people (Isa. 49:6; Matt.5:14).

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John 14:23-29
In response to concerns about Jesus’ going away to be with the Father, Jesus assures the disciples through the promised word that he, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, will be present to those who love him.

Context
Continuing his discourse after Judas had left the meal, Jesus responded to questions the disciples asked.  One of those asked by the other Judas was about Jesus manifesting himself to them but not to the world.

Key Words
V. 23.  “If someone loves me, that person will keep my word (logos)”:  Note v. 15 where “commandments” is used in place of “word.” At 12:50. Jesus tells that the commandment God has given him to say and speak is “eternal life.” At 15:12, the commandment that Jesus gives the church is “love one another as I have loved you.”

V. 23.  kai monēn par’ autō poiēsometha = “and we will make a dwelling place with them”:  See Ezek. 37:27 where God promises “my dwelling place will be with them.”  Note the different use of the theme at 14:2. The same promise appears in the final vision of John the seer at Rev. 21:3.

V. 26.  ho paraklētos = “the Paraclete”: The word describes one who appears on another’s behalf, like an attorney. Only here does the word appear in explicit connection with the Holy Spirit.  For the same functions of guiding and teaching, see 16:13.  For other occurrences of Paraclete in John’s Gospel (in reference to the Holy Spirit), see 14:16; 15:26; 16:7).  At 1 John 2:1 Jesus Christ is the paraklētos who advocates for us before God.  The related noun paraklēsis means “comfort, exhortation, encouragement.” The function of the Spirit here is to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Recall the note at John 2:22: “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

V. 27.  eirēnēn tēn emēn = “peace”:  The word “peace” is the English translation of the Hebrew shalom which is a common greeting from one to another.  Here, however, it is “my peace” that Jesus leaves behind for his disciples.  As greeting among Christians, see Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Col. 3:15.

V. 28.  hypagō  kai erchomai pros hymas = “I go and I come to you”:  For previous references to Jesus’ going, see 13:33; 14:4; for coming, see 14:3-4, 18.

V. 29.  kai nyn eirēka hymin prin genesthai … = “now I have told before it takes place … “:  Note the similarity with 13:19 where is added “that I am (he)” (egō eimi); cf. also 16:4.  In Second Isaiah God’s speaking beforehand what will come to pass is evidence that Yahweh and not the idols is God (Isa. 43:12; 44:6-8; 48:3-5; 55:10-11). That same prophet introduces the divine title “I AM HE” (Isa. 43:10, 13, 25; 51:12; 52:6); in all cases the LXX renders egō eimi.