Isaiah 65:17-25: For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
Acts 10:34-45: Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Dear Ones in Christ Jesus:
Both of these texts are a part of the lectionary readings for Easter. In over 40 years of preaching and teaching in the church, I have rarely veered from the gospel or epistle readings. But for whatever reason (come Holy Spirit), these two texts came center stage for me this year. Let me say a bit of why.
The Isaiah text answers the question of what new life and resurrection look like on a day-to-day basis. It is a magnificent vision of what God hopes and dreams and toils for humanity, the world and the cosmos. Jesus, God’s Christ and our savior, has embodied this in his life, death and resurrection. In the power of the Holy Spirit the Risen Christ calls, sends and empowers us as co-missioners to make the vision the lived reality.
The reading from Acts is a constant reminder that what we are witnesses to is not just for us. We are called as disciples and Church to proclaim in word and deed the vision of what can be and the truth that it has changed and continues to change our lives.
My prayer for you, one and all, is that you will proclaim with as much gusto as you can that new life is possible, the resurrection is real and that you are a living witness.
Yours in Christ,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer