Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)

The Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)

Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; I Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Religion played many roles in the ancient world, including personal comfort, public ceremony to augment cultural identity and philosophical inquiry. Luke presents Paul's encounter with philosophers in Athens. Paul starts with a deist argument that would have made immediate sense to his listeners. Noting an altar to an unknown god, he then proclaims that all past religious/philosophical striving now comes to fruition in one whom God "has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

The psalmist recounts past ordeals and regards them as God's testing. Switching to the first person singular, he testifies "what God has done for me."

The epistle writer moves with agility between practical admonitions to believers for personal behavior and cosmic claims about God's actions through Christ. He suffered so could we. God brought Noah safely through the flood which destroyed the world, so we come through baptism to a safe place. All this is possible because Jesus Christ was raised and now reigns in heaven.

Although placed by John just before his arrest, the church places these words of Jesus in the liturgical year as preparation for his ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus commands love among those who believe. He then promises "the spirit of truth," " an Advocate," literally an ally in court. Evidence of this spirit will be found in those who believe. Revelation will continue in this new community bound by Jesus to God and supported by the Spirit.

Whether one takes the approach of Derrida's endless deferral of final meaning with its concomitant passion for the impossible or Marion's superabundance, postmodern impulses reject Western Modernity's tendency to confine God to human reason and understanding, which limit or eliminate possibilities for new revelation.
Among the gospel writers, Luke and John insist on God's ongoing revelation and provide the means for it-- the promises of Jesus of his continuing presence and revelation, the gift of the Spirit/advocate and the identification of the church as the community for further revelation.
"Pure fidelity [to past interpretation, "tradition"] is death but so is pure infidelity. The art of the heir is to maintain the greatest possible tension between fidelity and infidelity...," writes John Caputo (
The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, p. 184). However, which is more deadly? New revelation can be corrected by the community of believers, although there are risks. But eliminating the possibility for God to speak anew, (or at least to be heard) is death by self-satisfaction. Those who live by the biblical promises are invited insistently to hear God anew.