Acts 2:14a, 22-32, John 20:19-end
To see and hear — https://youtu.be/s2WRMCeKcWI
In the name of God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen.
I want to take you back to that first reading we heard today and it may help to have it in front of us whilst we are reading or listening (and particularly if you are looking at it in an actual bible).
This is a reading from near the beginning of Acts. The disciples including Peter, who is speaking to the gathered crowd, have just received the Holy Spirit in power. Most of the reading we heard is from just after the part of this chapter we are more familiar with – which we hear each Pentecost. When everyone has been able to understand in their own language despite there being all kinds of different nationalities present. Peter also referred to the prophet Joel about how our young men will see visions and our old men will dream dreams, and ending ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved – Acts 2:21’
Peter then addresses the Israelites present. But let’s first marvel at how eloquent Peter is being. This is Peter, a rough fisherman not accustomed to being in the spotlight and giving speeches. We will remember him putting his foot in it frequently and frankly getting things rather wrong in his journey with Jesus. (I have to say I have a very soft spot for Peter as I have the capability of putting my foot in it and getting things rather wrong too!) But from those humble and unlikely beginnings we now have quite a gifted speaker. How did that happen?
The simplest answer is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter made it possible. Just as it is equally possible if we are open to it that the power of the Holy Spirit can work in and through us. We can do things to that frankly amaze us and we would not be capable of by ourselves or in our own strength. Relying on God and God’s love and care for us is a good start for this.
Peter is about 50 days on from Jesus’s rising again, and may be about 10 days on from when Jesus ascended into heaven. He has had time to think about what happened. He then starts to tell it how it is to his own people gathered there. He also is talking to people who are likely to have seen Jesus themselves or at the very least heard of him. He decides to go back to David – always good to use a respected ancestor to give a bit of credibility to what we are saying.
How Peter does this is really clever! As well as telling Jesus story in a few pithy verses – he recognises the importance of David to his fellow Israelites. As he does that he recognises the differences between David and Jesus. He quotes one of David’s psalms (16:8-11) to do this. David he says is in his tomb – but Jesus was raised up. He was freed from death – it was impossible for him to be held in its power. It is not language we would use today in all likelihood – but a really good way of getting it across in terms his contemporaries would have needed. I am not sure the translation ‘Let your Holy One experience corruption’ (Acts 2: 27) really helps make this very clear – in another version it says ‘you will not let your holy one see decay.’ This is clearer that death did not have its usual effect here.
What I particularly admire here in the likely uneducated Peter, is a targeted communication in terms his ‘fellow israelites’ would have needed to hear. Yes David is great – but Jesus is greater. Yes, David spoke of resurrection but Jesus was raised up. Yes David is a prophet – but Jesus is the son of God who saved us… And we have all seen it…
What can we learn from this – well I think we have to look at scratching where people are itching in our communications with others. Though we are mostly limited to phones and communication aids currently – we can all talk about how we are getting on in the current circumstances. It can be as simple as I am finding my Christian faith helpful in these challenging times. Or maybe, prayer is giving me the strength to take each day as it comes. In our communications, taking time to pray for our friends and families is important, and offering to pray (and of course following through) are good for those moments when we encounter the tough stuff of life too. The message of God’s love could not be more important to share than it is right now.
I don’t know how many of you caught up with the streamed performance with Andrei Bochelli on Easter day, which he so rightly described as prayer. Here’s a link to it – it does go into frequent adverts (sorry – but they can be clicked away!)
IF you haven’t seen it – I can recommend it warmly. Andrei said at the beginning – I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter – a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone whether they are believers of not, truly needs right now.. thanks to music, streamed live, bringing millions of clasped hands across the world we will hug this wounded Earth’s pulsing heart together.
I also believe in the power of prayer, in the Risen Lord Jesus, and in living our lives and hearts hugging our wounded Earth’s pulsing heart – communicating God’s love for everyone. Amen.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 #
New International Version – Holy Bible , copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011
Picture from roots on the web.com – copyright © rootsontheweb.com