3.27.2008

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 2: 14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1: 3 - 9
John 20: 19 - 31

Here is an interesting term (to us at least): Historical Revisionism. The term basically refers to folks being able, after an event has passed, to do further research (or apply newly discovered evidence or facts or opinions) and revise the understanding or meaning of the
event.

A recent example would be President Bush confidently launching our country in to our current grouping of wars with great confidence in the information that was available to him (and his inner circle); and then, not too much later, further information came to light that
negated most of the initial reasons for launching in to the war(s).

Now, some folks believe taking new / current information and changing the way we understand what has already occurred is inappropriate-understandings and opinions have already been formed, choices have been made, events have taken place and we cannot change them..so there is no need to look back and criticize. And, there are also some folks that want to commit to taking all of the possible information at any particular moment to be able to understand what actually happened in the past.

Part of this is an issue of context. It is easy for us to pass judgment on folks that draw (what turn out to be) wrong conclusions or make bad decisions when they did not have all of the appropriate information available to them.

This week's selection of scriptures gives us vignettes of people's view of God before Christ, shortly after the Resurrection of Jesus, and a couple of views of God long after Jesus had Ascended.

In the Psalm we see a person who completely and totally believes in and trusts in God. This is a beautiful poem of devotion that reflects the Hebrew covenant with Yahweh. This song of praise tells us a bit about what sort of faith choices exist for the readers. The author
chooses the one God of Israel in which to put his/her faith rather than a selection of gods to whom offerings of blood are made.

Then, in John, we see Thomas the Realist interacting with Jesus. Thomas had been a believer of Jesus. He had been a follower of Jesus. He was distraught after the death of Jesus. In his grief and in the days that followed the crucifixion, he was caught in a crisis....he wanted to believe this man he had been following...and at the same
time he had never known anyone that had been brutally killed and came back from the grave. Jesus uses this appearance to the disciples as another teaching moment. He encourages folks to investigate and touch and see AND he encourages folks also to believe the stuff they have heard and also to share what they have seen so that others might also
believe.

In both Acts and in 1 Peter we see two examples of some early, detailed, elaborated, precursors to early church creeds. These statements mark an important transition: people were moving from believing in Jesus while he was there with them to passing the belief
on to later generations of folks. And these early creed-type statements are in a sense documenting the pedigree of Jesus. They are drawing the connections of Jesus from the Jewish / Hebrew stories and expectations, and connecting them to the what Jesus said about himself. They are also connecting what they have heard and witnessed
to the events that took place to their early insights and understandings. They were processing history through their experience in order to assemble it into a whole picture for themselves and the next generation.

Acts is often attributed to the author of Luke, continuing the narrative of this gospel. The passage chosen this week is actually a fulfillment of one of Jesus' teachings in Luke 24:47 - 48 (that the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed among all nations, beginning
in Jerusalem). Peter stands and addresses this Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, launching the disciples' mission into the world to build the church. Peter proclaims Jesus' message through the lens of history that is well-known to the Jewish community. Suddenly they have
information and connections that they didn't have days, weeks or months earlier.

1 Peter is written to a community that has fully embraced the divinity of Jesus without actually witnessing any of his life. Out of response to what they understand, they have chosen to live outside the dominant culture and they reject the teachings all around them in favor of this one. From what we read, it is safe to assume that it isn't always easy to adopt their read on history in their greater community.

Our daily experiences shape our faith. Our history and tradition shape our faith. Both positive and negative viewpoints and understandings shape us and our viewpoints and understandings of history. As we learn and grow, we add dimension and depth. Others
add dimension and depth for us. We have moments where we need to see and touch the wounds. We have moments where a leader can point us in a new direction. We read books, we share our experiences and our understanding of our faith grows. Sometimes it happens individually and sometimes it happens in community, but always History is Revised.

So what does this mean to us? Aren't we still revising the history today? Isn't the very act of studying scripture and drawing our own conclusions a revisionist history? Is a faith that is constant and unchanging really growing?

And if we take that view, what happens to our view of other faiths? Can we consider how the histories and traditions of other faiths - and maybe specifically the Abrahamic faiths - have been shaped and might continue to shape one another?

Gracious God,
let your will for all of us be known.
Let all be partners in shaping the future
with a faith that quarrels with the present
for the sake of what yet might be. Amen.

Anonymous, from Taiwan
Printed in This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer
by Laurence Hull Stookey

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