Today’s entry continues a series of short musings about lectionary texts that may soon appear in your line-of-sight. These thoughts may be helpful in interpreting the appointed lessons with sensitivity to the realities faced by those who are older.
APRIL 2020 Background
This month brings worshippers into full contact with a pandemic whose character calls out even more strongly for the themes of Holy Week and Easter-tide. This set of blogged text-ruminations extends its reach beyond the boundaries of “older adulthood”. It is now likely that, regardless of age, all who encounter the texts have similar reactions—a calamity does that! In keeping with the season(s), this entry includes the texts for each day of Holy Week, Easter Vigil and the alternative readings suggested by the lectionary.
From the viewpoint of a hermeneutics based on tragedy, tribulation or terror, these texts join us to the writers and subjects of Scripture, who may have known similar feelings, thought similar thoughts, considered similar reactions. We are not alone.
The Resurrection is central to our theology and our emotions. That’s why, at several points during the month, this body of Scripture readings summarizes the entire Gospel message—including the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for all of our lives. Although the texts are familiar, in these times the light of the Word shines differently. The April lectionary—now proclaimed virtually because we will likely NOT gather together physically—is both more urgent and more comforting. We will not despair.
Sunday, April 5, 2020 (Palm Sunday, Cycle A, *CEV)
Matthew 21:1-11 (Procession of palms) — In these times, a good reminder: “Hosanna” can mean both “Hooray” and “Please save us.” Jesus could have heard the shouts from either viewpoint. We might yell or murmur that word in both ways, too.
Isaiah 50:4-9a – Because of God’s lasting providence, we also refuse to give up. No matter how we are afflicted, worried or threatened.
Psalm 31:9-16 – Our lives now might sound like an eerie echo of David’s feelings. When everything is coming apart, we turn to God with hard-scrabble assurance: God knows how to rescue.
Philippians 2:5-11 – The Christ Hymn reminds us again: Jesus gave up everything to save us, the sacrifice of his identity and privilege included. Truly, “Jesus Christ is Lord”—humbly so.
Matthew 26:14-27:66 (The Passion Narrative) – In only two days, the world as Jesus’ followers knew it completely collapsed. Add to that the terror of a solar eclipse and a swarm of earthquakes—and there was good reason for despair. Through it all, Jesus seems to do nothing to counter the disintegration of everything he has proclaimed. And yet….
Matthew 27:11-54 – A shortened version of the complete story above.
Monday, April 6, 2020 (Monday of Holy Week, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 42:1-9 – God will not quit until justice is done. (Here, “justice” might match what author and poet Ross Gay – The Book of Delights – describes as “tending to what you love.”)
Hebrews 9:11-15 – Christ Jesus already rescued us. It cost him his blood, the essence of his life.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (Tuesday of Holy Week, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 49:1-7 – Two familiar feelings that a suffering servant shares with us: Being totally worn out, and thinking that our time has been wasted. In these times, a legitimate mindset or not?
Psalm 71:1-14 – Being “thrown aside when I am old” – not unfamiliar to any of us. Perhaps this applies especially to those deemed most vulnerable to a pandemic. Even so, we will never give up!
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – What a way to center a religion: Death by crucifixion! And yet, our wisdom—as Jesus’ followers—attaches us to that truth and that way of life. Not many of us may be in places of power or from important families—yet God chose us. Still chooses us….
John 12:20-36 – Death of the seed is necessary for its new life. So with us, too. My death? Now? Even though “the Ruler of this world” has not yet been thrown out?
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 (Wednesday of Holy Week, Cycle A, CEV)
Isaiah 50:4-9a – The Suffering Servant knows all the right words. Sometimes that’s what we need the most….
Psalm 70 – Because of this time of terror, I sometimes feel like one of those who are “poor and needy”. The Psalmist knows me. God knows me.
Hebrews 12:1-3 – A wonderful word picture: Running a race with Jesus in mind, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses! How could anything slow me down? Not even COVID-19….
John 13:21-32 – Jesus has been troubled for awhile now—since Lazarus’ death. Those feelings continue into this week, and become part of Jesus’ suffering. Not unlike my own?
Thursday, April 9, 2020 (Maundy Thursday, Cycle A, CEV)
(NOTE: On this day, the Church also observes the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian. Although the texts selected for that observance are rich in meaning, it might be as valuable to call attention to his life and witness as they connect to the themes of Maundy Thursday.)
Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14 – Overlooked in the larger story of God’s rescue: In certain circumstances, the Passover meal should be shared with neighbors. In these times, that holy sharing continues!
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 – Make no mistake about it: God is still deeply concerned when one of God’s loyal people faces death. Good to remember when many of us are facing death!
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – The Psalmist’s prayer is echoed in our observance of Holy Communion. Together we taste redemption and forgiveness, rescue and resurrection.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – Foot-washing may not be something we’ll be able to observe physically this year. Still, this is not the only way we obey the commandment to love one another!
Friday, April 10, 2020 (Good Friday, Cycle A, CEV)
(NOTE: On this date, the Church also observes the life and witness of Mikael Agricola, Bishop of Turku. This Finnish student of Martin Luther may be relatively unknown, but his short life gave him time to translate the New Testament into Finnish and author a hymn book and prayer book for Lutherans in Finland. The result: Agricola is regarded as the father of the written Finnish language. Some of the motifs of his life might just connect with this most holy day!)
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – Words alone may not be enough for this passage to soak into our souls. Instead of a homily or study, what if we just listened together to the Lenten section of Handel’s The Messiah? And then shared our thoughts?
Psalm 22 – Most of us, especially those of us who are vulnerable right how, know these feelings of the Psalmist—and of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:16-25 – Now, perhaps more than ever, we can “keep encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things.”
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – The time to come before God’s throne—in prayer—is when we’re in need. We harbor no false pride, and have every hope of being heard!
John 18:1-19:42 – This story has one interesting sidebar: Pilate used Jesus’ trial for his political advantage—getting those religious leaders to say in public, “We have no king but Caesar!” Denying their faith in the presence of their oppressors and their peers!
Saturday, April 11, 2020 (Vigil of Easter, Cycle A, CEV)
(NOTE: It is customary during the Easter Vigil to read from among twelve lessons that capture the sweep of salvation history. They are listed here—with a title to frame the message of each. The importance of these readings for early Christian catechumens was that they were a review or a reminder of what these new believers were about to commit themselves to in Baptism. For us, living in times of similar difficulties, this review or reminder offers hope and perspective for our lives now.)
Genesis 1:1-2:4a (Creation)
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 (Flood)
Genesis 22:1-18 (Testing of Abraham)
Exodus 14:10-33; 15:20-21 (Deliverance at the Red Sea)
Isaiah 55:1-11 (Salvation Freely Offered to All)
Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 OR Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4 (The Wisdom of God)
Ezekiel 36:24-28 (A New Heart and a New Spirit)
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (Valley of the Dry Bones)
Zephaniah 3:14-20 (The Gathering of God’s People)
Jonah 1:1-2:1 (The Deliverance of Jonah)
Isaiah 61:1-4, 9-11 (Clothed in the Garments of Salvation)
Daniel 3:1-29 (Deliverance fom the Fiery Furnace)
Romans 6:3-11—A not-so dark thought on this perhaps-dark night: Being baptized into Jesus’ death also means that we come out the other side—being raised to new life.
John 20:1-18 – It’s strange how one word—“Mary!”—changes everything. We are known—by God and those who love us—by single words that bind us together. In these times, what one word would change everything for you?
Sunday, April 12, 2020 (Easter Sunday, Cycle A, CEV)
Acts 10:34-43 – Hear the testimony of a Resurrection witness. Notice anything especially significant? (Remember that Peter is preaching on Pentecost Day to religious pilgrims.)
Jeremiah 31:1-6 – God’s promise—“I will rebuild your nation”—seems especially prescient for our time. But not a nation just like the one that is under great stress.
Psalm 118:1-2,14-24 – “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (And not just because it’s Easter….) What is there to rejoice about on this day, in these times?
Acts 10:34-43 – (See above)
Sunday, April 19, 2020 (Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle A CEV)
Acts 2:14a; 22-32 – Another summary? Or a kind of “elevator speech” that was bound into Peter’s soul? When asked by others, what might be your condensed witness?
Psalm 16—In the darkest night, being protected from fear. Not a bad thing to wish for, work for, pray about.
1 Peter 1:3-9 – Peter’s emotions and intellect agree: Jesus’ Resurrection is a source for new life and a hope that lives on. What might be the sources for your hope in these times?
John 20:19-31 – An epilogue to John’s Gospel, these words—“But these are written so that….”—call to mind the reasons why any of us would chronicle our faith lives, our personal or family histories. Why might you keep track of what’s happening in your context right now?
Sunday, April 26, 2020 (Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle A, CEV)
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 – “What must we do to be saved?” remains a question for any of us who have come to the ends of our ropes—any part of our well-being. Peter’s answer—repentance and Baptism—still makes sense today.
Psalm 116:1-4,12-19 – A plaintive plea echoed in these days of a pandemic: “Please don’t let me die!” What do we have to say to someone wrestling with that possibility?
1 Peter 1:17-23 – However and whenever it happened, we all have been rescued by God in some ways. Now that it’s happened, how might we keep loving with all our hearts?
Luke 24:13-35 – Something small-but-significant: After encountering the Risen Christ in an intimate setting, these two Emmaus-bound disciples walked all the way back to Jerusalem. This would have been a journey of seven miles—taking about two hours at a fast clip—in the dark! The story calls to mind the ancient practice of “walking and talking”, an effective and personal way to learn and to witness!
*CEV – Contemporary English Version