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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
Agreeing with Paul’s I Corinthians 11 reflection on the Eucharist, he’s convinced the Lord’s Supper provides us the best opportunity to die to ourselves, become one with all those around us, and actually “recognize the body” of Christ present in our midst.
APRIL 30TH, 2017: THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
Acts 2:14, 22-33
I Peter 1:17-21
Many of us are so accustomed to relating only to the institutional church that we can’t appreciate the early church’s quest to relate to the risen Jesus. The first followers of Jesus presumed he/she was with them as a “new creation,” a unique individual. As Paul reminded his Galatian community in chapter 3 of his letter to them, the risen Jesus is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.
There’s a huge difference between biblical resurrection and resuscitation. Technically speaking, Jarius’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son and Jesus’ friend Lazarus weren’t raised from the dead; they were resuscitated. Though clinically dead, when Jesus brings them back to life, they’re basically the same persons they were before they died. When Jesus, for instance, tells Mr. and Mrs. Jarius to give their resuscitated daughter something to eat, I take for granted if the girl like pepperoni pizzas before she died, they’d naturally pop a pepperoni pizza into the microwave for her now.
On the other hand, someone raised from the dead is a completely new person. He or she is no longer subject to the restrictions that limit you and me: constraints like culture, genetics, and gender. Resurrection breaks down all those barriers. In Scripture, only Jesus is raised from the dead; everyone else who comes back to life is simply resuscitated. This is the one of a kind person biblical Christians expect to surface in their everyday lives.
In doing so, they’re simply replicating the experience of Jesus’ first followers. As Peter states in today’s Acts passage: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” Somehow, somewhere they came face to face with this new creation.
The big question is, “How did they do this? How does one encounter such a unique individual?”
Between the time Jesus rose from the dead (@30 CE) and Luke composed his double volume work (@85 CE) the Christian community had about 55 years to hone the process, to work on developing the details of today’s gospel pericope – the first time in Luke’s gospel that someone actually recognizes the risen Jesus.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t meet the pair head on; coming from Jerusalem, he overtakes them. He’d warned his disciples not to leave the city until after they’d received the Holy Spirt. These two (probably Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas) are disobeying his orders. In his conversation with them, he first insists they appreciate the necessity of his dying before he could rise. Then he “opens” the Scriptures, demonstrating how he’s mirrored in those sacred writings. Eventually agreeing to stay with them, he finally makes himself known to the couple “in the breaking of bread.”
Scholars point out that, in this encounter, Luke is describing a Eucharist: initially depicting the liturgy of the word, then the liturgy of the bread. In his theology, it was during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper – in the “breaking of bread” - that Christians should most expect to encounter the risen Jesus. He clearly puts that theology on the lips of the out-of-breath couple when they return to Jerusalem.
Luke isn’t just talking about “going to Mass.” Agreeing with Paul’s I Corinthians 11 reflection on the Eucharist, he’s convinced the Lord’s Supper provides us the best opportunity to die to ourselves, become one with all those around us, and actually “recognize the body” of Christ present in our midst. Any other frame of mind during the Eucharist is what the author of I Peter calls “futile conduct.”
If we don’t know how to die right here and now by correctly participating in the Eucharist, we’ll probably have to wait until after our physical deaths to encounter the risen Jesus. What a waste of a life-time!
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