Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Note well: the collect assumes that when we have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body, we do not automatically show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith. We are reborn into that fellowship nonetheless. Nothing can alter God's inclusion.
As the Baptists proclaim, "Once saved; always saved!" The Prayer Book manifests the theology of the Episcopal Church, and we as a church are at one with the Baptists on this one.
Seeing that we are unalterably marked as God's own forever, we may freely ask God to grant that we may show forth in our lives what we profess by faith.
Peter's interpretation of David is just that, an interpretation. The majority of Peter's fellow Jews then and now do not read David's text as referring to Jesus.
We Christians have for the most part allowed Peter his interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures because it concurs with our own perception of who Jesus is in the context of Judeo-Christian history.
Before Jesus' life, few would have read resurrection from the dead into David's short text:
He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.
The passage is too vague to lead inexorably to that interpretation.
Cynics might add, that the passage is "conveniently vague" for Peter to make his claim. (Or more sympathetically, "conveniently vague for Peter to share his new experience in terms already familiar to his audience.")
Peter contextualizes David's comments in the experience of his life and in the lives of other Christians. There can be no doubt that early Christians saw Jesus' death as not final like David's. David's tomb they can still see, Peter notes, but Christ's tomb is empty. Christ was not abandoned to Hades. His flesh did not rot. He was resurrected.
It would be far fetched to claim that David knew about Jesus. Although Peter calls David a prophet, few then or now see prophecy as David's defining gift. Peter makes the claim to accord with his own experience of Jesus.
Should not all Christians understand scripture in the context of our own experience? How else can if fully speak to us?
Obviously we would be wise to test our individual understanding of scripture against the interpretations others have given and continue to give it.
We also would be wise to test our own interpretation of scripture against Jesus' summary of the law and the prophets in the two greatest commandments:
- Does our interpretation hold up when measured against the commandment to love God with our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength?
- Does our interpretation hold up when measured against the commandment to love our qtblg neighbors (or any other neighbors ranked the least among us) as much as we love ourselves?
Those who compiled the lectionary clearly chose this psalm because of Verse 10:
For you will not abandon me to the grave, * nor let your holy one see the Pit.
Fragments in Hebrew scriptures, such as this verse, suggest the possibility of an after-life, yet Hebrew scripture has no clearly articulated or consistent doctrine of an after-life.
1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31
Peter brooks no doubt about Jesus' resurrection nor any doubt about the resurrection of those who believe in Jesus. The resurrection is at the heart of his proclamation.
For Peter the resurrection is the source of all hope: Christ has died, Christ has risen. You and I will rise with him.
Thomas, who loved Jesus no less, is, in John's account, harder to persuade.
Thomas was not present when Jesus made his first post-mortem appearance to the disciples, and they do not persuade Thomas when they claim they have seen Jesus. Thomas demands proof. He wants to put his fingers into the nail holes.
A week later they are all sitting in a room with the doors shut, yet mysteriously Jesus appears without opening a door. Jesus clearly has heard of Thomas' doubts but he does not say to Thomas,
You petty little pipsqueak! After all I have done for you, after all I have been for you, you trust me so little that you want to play Sherlock and conduct an inquest?!
Instead, Jesus says gently, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
The Episcopal Church so much respects doubt that we have named two percent of our congregations for Thomas (153 out of 7933).
I highly recommend that over the weeks of Easter you seek out 5-10 persons whom you most respect and ask them what they believe will really happen to them when they die? Keep your own view out of the discussion for at least the first 10 minutes.
- Will you spend any time in the grave?
- Do you believe in a literal heaven?
- What do you expect heaven to be like, and why would you want to spend eternity there, or in any other place?
- Do you believe in a literal hell?
- What do you expect hell to be like, and why would you want to spend eternity there, or in any other place?
Store all answers in your heart and ponder them.
See also Wikipedia's article on Resurrection.