Lectionary Commentaries for June 6, 2021
Second Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Mark 3:20-35

David Schnasa Jacobsen

How fitting that 21st-century church-goers should deal with Jesus’ weird apocalyptic teaching on tying up Satan on a Sunday in June between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. 

Close readers of Mark 3:20-35 can’t help but notice that Jesus’ apocalyptic teaching about binding Beelzebul is flanked by stories about Jesus’ own family on either side. Jesus’ family, portrayed in verses 20-21 and 31-32, is demonstrably worried that Jesus is out of his mind. Perhaps they are concerned that Jesus’ Galilean ministry of healing, exorcisms, and controversial teaching looks nothing like nice, traditional familial values. Frankly, we as contemporary readers may feel similarly: Hallmark sells cards for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, which sentimentally reinforce the familial order, but what greeting cards are suitable for a “Happy Exorcism” or “Wishing you all the best with your unclean spirit”? Jesus’ apocalyptic teachings and actions just don’t fit the traditional family.

Then all of this gets complicated by the interests of religious authorities in verse 22. The scribes who show up to intervene “come down” from Jerusalem. They also come down on Jesus by diagnosing his unusual Galilean ministry as demonic behavior. The text describes the scribes’ action as an exercise of power from the religious and cultural center. Mark’s description of scribes ought not give license to any generic indictment of Judaism. Jesus himself later notes that another scribe is “not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). As for Jesus himself, he is and remains Jewish. The point in Mark 3:22 is that the power center is unsettled by Jesus’ ministry and explains his actions as Beelzebul’s influence.

That puts Jesus in dire straits. His family is up in arms and the authorities are raising questions about him. Jesus’ family is attempting to rein him in because they are worried about his eccentric ministry of healing, exorcism, and forgiveness in Galilee. Along come the authorities who wish to delegitimize Jesus with the damning diagnosis of Beelzebul-itus. The outer rings of our pericope (verses 20-22 and 31-32) are closing in on Jesus with the aim of closing down his Galilean ministry. For the sake of familial and religious order, this Jesus should be detained.

But in the center of Mark 3:20-35 are neither familial sentiments nor the good order of religious power elites. At the center of this pericope in verses 23-30 is Jesus’ clever apocalyptic parable about Satan and who really is being detained. Religious order and familial concerns are on the edges of the text, but smack dab in the middle of verses 23-20 is a Satanic power struggle.

Now since Jesus’ teaching is apocalyptic, we should beware. His discussion about Satan is “in parables” in verse 23. Jesus is not speaking in plain speech, but in the language of mystery. Jesus begins by summing up the scribes’ argument about Beelzebul with his own question: “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Having thus reduced the scribes’ argument about Beelzebul to an absurdity, Jesus draws on commonplace statements: divided houses and divided kingdoms are not long for this world—and the same goes for Satan himself (verse 26) who will meet his end. But now comes the coup de grâce: Jesus’ clever statement about the mythological Satan actually reframes the family and the scribes’ narrative about Jesus. “No one can enter a strong man’s house,” Jesus says, “and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered” (verse 27). Comparing Satan to a strong man makes sense since evil does seem pretty intractable. What is more, with Satan all tied up, it might be possible for somebody to plunder Satan’s house and shake things up. But Jesus’ statement begs a question: just who is stronger than Satan? But here’s the good news! Mark has been anticipating precisely this question for three chapters. One is stronger or more powerful, as we learned from John the Baptist in Mark 1:7. Satan is strong; but Jesus is the stronger one to come. The mystery of the tied up strong man is being revealed parabolically through Jesus himself.

The apocalyptic parable also explains the awkward talk about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in verses 28-30. Mark is not just throwing in some arbitrary verses to trip up the spiritually scrupulous for the next twenty one centuries. No; in the apocalyptic turn of the ages, only the sin of misnaming God’s Spirit work in Jesus is beyond the pale and eludes the new age forgiveness already on offer.

As a preacher, I usually want to focus on where I encounter gospel in a text. This is especially true in the strange apocalyptic Gospel of Mark. In this pericope, I hear gospel most clearly in Jesus’ weird parable of the tied-up strong man in the middle of his struggles with family and religious authorities. The parable is gospel not because Jesus is being nice (like you’re supposed to be in a family) nor because Jesus is respecting the authorities (like you’re supposed to do when you’re from Galilee and the officials waltz in from the Jerusalem home office). It is gospel because it portrays Jesus himself in the struggle for God’s coming reign. The word for gospel “good news” is not just a New Testament word, but goes back to Second Isaiah as well as Hellenistic culture. Mark commentator Eugene Boring even describes gospel as “good news from the battlefield.”1

Now I do not usually like Bible references that sound militaristic, but I find myself fond again of the phrase “in the struggle” to elaborate on the good news of the gospel. The good news here is that God is not far off and disengaged, but already mixing it up, “in the struggle.” There is a beautiful grace in the notion that God, or in this case the Markan divine agent, Jesus, is not pleased that people are in bondage, subject to illness, mired in something less than life. I take comfort from that. Even when good institutions like family and religious order are arrayed against the thriving of human beings (think of our own church struggles over LGBTQ inclusion, how long it took to get it right and how long it takes to continue to be reconciled), the good news invites us into the central gospel struggle which has already begun with Jesus and his persistent ministry of healing, exorcism, and unmistakable forgiveness.

Notes

  1. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary, (Louisville: WJKP, 2006), 30.

 


First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 3:8-15

Juliana Claassens

In an intriguing vignette that forms part of the creation narratives in Genesis 1-3, one reads how God is walking in the garden “at the time of the evening breeze” (Genesis 3:8). 

This side remark speaks of intimacy; of a God who is present with God’s people. God’s presence, though, may be viewed as a mixed blessing—serving as a source of comfort, but also and particularly in this account as a rather ominous reminder that despite their best attempts, the man and woman in this garden are unable to hide from their God.

The primordial story in Genesis 3:8-15 forms part of the ongoing process of the current (and future) generations discerning what is good and moral and upright. For instance, Lyn Bechtel challenges the traditional view of reading this story in terms of “The Fall” by reading this text as a story of human maturation—one could say, of “falling upwards,” as the humans in the garden are moving beyond a childlike state of naivety, their loss of innocence associated with growing up and facing the realities of life in a grownup world.1 This ancient coming-of-age story thus speaks of the importance of humans embracing their roles as adults who are prepared to take responsibility for their actions as well as for those around them.

For instance, amid this encounter with God wandering in their midst, the man and woman realize that they are naked (ʽêrūmmīm in Genesis 3:7). William Brown highlights the intriguing wordplay in this text that draws a connection between “being naked” (see also ʽărûmmîm in Genesis 2:25) and “being crafty/clever” (ʽārûm in Genesis 3:1). According to Brown, increased knowledge associated with the man and the woman eating from the tree of knowledge in this text leads to the recognition of their vulnerability. As Brown writes: “By partaking from the tree, the primal couple gained a level of self-consciousness, an awareness of their vulnerable condition, and of their newly acquired ability to make decisions of their own. Unwittingly, in their choice to become fully divine, they became fully human.”2  

Being, or becoming “fully human,” thus implies that one is willing and able to embrace one’s vulnerability. Failure to do so has led all too often to individuals, and men in particular, to think and act stronger than they really are. In her recent anthology of poems, Dearly, Margaret Atwood poignantly writes in her series of “Songs for Murdered Sisters” how many “lost sisters” have been “[k]illed by fearful men/ [w]ho wanted to be taller.”3 The same can be said in the case of so many instances of hate crimes, whether incited by white supremacy or homophobia.

However, being or becoming a responsible and mature human being also implies that one takes responsibility for one’s actions. In this week’s lectionary reading, it is evident that it is all too human to seek a scapegoat when things go awry. In Genesis 3:12, the man blames the woman, who in turn relegates the blame for transgressing God’s commandment to the snake (verse 13). That the blame game worked is evident from the fact that the serpent, in much of the Judeo-Christian tradition, has been demonized, considered the epitome of evil, and the rightful recipient of the curse inflicted on the snake (verses 14-15), which resulted in perpetual enmity between the snake and humans who will look for every opportunity to hurt or kill one another.

This demonization of the serpent is furthermore coupled with the scapegoating of Eve, whose daughters throughout the ages have been overtly or covertly afflicted by what has been called the Curse of Eve. Described in Sirach 25:24 as the source of sin, Tertullian goes even further by calling Eve “the devil’s gateway” and the mother of “a demon’s offspring.”4 Given the dangerous consequences associated with scapegoating experienced by women, as well as the LGBTIQ+ community, minorities, and migrants in communities all around the world, it is imperative that such past and present acts of demonizing the other are not tolerated. 

It is for this reason that feminist scholars have sought to reread this narrative. In particular, the encounter between Eve and the serpent has been viewed by Judith McKinlay as a sign of the woman’s inquisitiveness, of her ability to cross borders, of engaging with what is considered “other” as evident in the associations of the snake as a symbol of all that is foreign.5 According to Bechtel, it is only much later (3rd century BCE) that the snake came to be associated with negative symbolism. Before that, the snake was viewed as a “wild and uncontrollable animal,” which, on the one hand, is considered to be useful for “ridding forms of rodents that consume crops and stored grains,” but on the other hand, also poisonous and hence potentially deadly. As Bechtel contends, the snake as the “ideal symbol of oppositional forces of life” serves as a good reminder of the necessity of discernment. 

In these times of polarization, extreme hatred, and fear of the other, it might be a good idea to take our cue from these reinterpretations of Genesis 3. This text challenges us to break through the multiplicity of negative constructions that have been transmitted over centuries and cemented in gender, racial, and sexual stereotypes, and have become an integral part of prejudiced thoughts and actions. 

Returning to the divine image that introduced this week’s lectionary text of a God wandering in the garden, we take solace in the fact that Genesis 3 reminds us of God’s continual presence with the flawed, vulnerable human beings in this story. This text suggests that God will continue to walk with people and engage with them amidst their flawed endeavors as they learn to become the responsible, caring adults they are meant to be.

Notes

  1. Lynn M. Bechtel, “Genesis 2.4b-3.24: A Myth About Human Maturation” JSOT 67 (1995): 2-26.
  2. William Brown, A Handbook to Old Testament Exegesis (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press 2017), 91.
  3. Margaret Atwood, Dearly (New York, NY: HarpersCollins Publishers, 2020), 37.
  4. Gale Yee, Poor Banished Children of Eve: Woman as Evil in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), 59.
  5. Judith E. McKinlay, “To Eat or Not to Eat: Where Is Wisdom in This Choice?” Semeia 86 (1999): 73-84.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 1 Samuel 8:4-11 [12-15] 16-20; [11:14-15]

Klaus-Peter Adam

Negotiating a rotten compromise in light of a foretold end

How may the people of God find a way of living under God’s rule? We are near to numb from innumerable cases of power abuse and corruption. On one side, generations of advocates for “lean government” have called into question the value of political leadership itself, while on the other side, we experience the importance of governance in the area of public health. In such a time, we learn again of God’s guidance of Israel. Though God saved Israel from slavery under Pharaoh, the people of Israel became ungrateful. Selling their freedom short, they clamor for rulers with more privileges than what had previously emerged from God’s redeeming guidance. First Samuel 8 invites us to consider this question through the varying perspectives of God, the prophet Samuel, the elders, and the people. 

A prelude to empire in light of a foreseen, impending failure

When the people decide for a monarch to rule over them, God’s immediate rule vis-à-vis the people of Israel is at stake. The people have “forsaken” their God and have forgotten how they owe their history to their God’s bold, immediate leadership. Even the best result from this exchange will prove to be a rotten compromise. Any rule of a dynastic king will fall short and reveal itself over time as ungodly, marked by blatant power misuse and exploitation. 

God’s speech to Samuel specifies the cause of the breakdown as Israel’s loss of historical memory. The scathing criticism of the monarchy in 1 Samuel 8:4-20 serves as a prelude to Samuel’s later anointing of Saul in 11:14-15. Beyond what the monarch could accomplish in the short term, this passage fosters awareness of the monarchy’s eventual downfall. From God’s perspective, Israel is selling short its own freedom gained in the exodus for a form of royal oppression. Freed to be God’s servant through the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites turn and subscribe to the very yoke of royal oppression that Samuel details to them: drafts for war, corvée labor for the king, land appropriation, taxation, livestock confiscation, and finally, permanent enslavement. In God’s eyes, a king’s unbridled, brutal rule would amount to Israel changing her identity and selling her freedom drastically short: from a dynamic and unique servanthood directly under the leadership and vis-à-vis their God Yahweh, to the servanthood of a despotic human ruler.  

Yet the people find themselves at a crossroads. At this point they wish for a dynastic succession as a seemingly more stable, reliable alternative instead of trusting in a spiritual leader like Samuel or his sons. While the prophet accepts Israel’s choice, Samuel knows that the monarchy is born out of rejection of their God. Seen through Samuel’s lens as prophetic kingmaker, Saul’s drama will soon unfold, beginning with his installation as part of a rotten compromise like any other rule. First Samuel 8 soberly and painfully evaluates the pitiful failure of Israel’s dynastic kingship against the backdrop of the grandeur of God’s everlasting rule over Israel. As through prophetic hindsight, the perspective of Samuel embeds into the narrative the view of historiography, revealing a critical overview of the monarchy and its systemic inadequacies. How might our call as people of God to public servanthood in our days emulate and adapt Samuel’s function of a pragmatic, foreseeing participant and at the same time remain cognizant about the end and the limits of any rule?

The elders, the prophet Samuel, and the people at large

As we find ourselves navigating many political discourses from anarchism, populism, establishment centrism, and many alternatives between, 1 Samuel 8 reminds us of our responsibility in light of the many groups and expectations that make up the hopes for the future. It is a local collective’s leadership of elders that emerges from among the people to embody and represent the request to establish a ruler. First Samuel mentions these elders of Israel only here (1 Samuel 8:4). These elders confront the prophetic leader Samuel with their hope, and give voice to one alternative for a future beyond the unstable rule of prophetic mediators such as Samuel. 

Their request provokes from God a reminder of how this sudden wish for a king reveals at the same time the people’s forgetfulness of how God had led them out of slavery. As the elders in this passage represent and express the will of the people, they simultaneously show how the leadership elite of the people falls short in thinking through the possibilities for what could replace the prophet. In a rush to confront and move forward, whose voices and memories are left behind? How does a spontaneous wish for change from Israel’s elders shed light on our own impulsive claims and hasty anger? How might our own circles and preferred talking points take shape out of an obliviousness to the full scope of God’s redeeming grace? 

God endorses a rotten compromise

Despite sober warnings to the people, God encourages Samuel to continue serving as a mediator between God’s will and the realities of the people on the ground. Eventually, God even charges Samuel with renewing the ambivalent monarchy in Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14-15). Samuel’s role as prophetic authority positions him at the interface between support, legitimization, and God’s spokesperson with a sobering warning as a message. How might we today reaffirm our engagement in our country’s future, reclaim agency in complex times, balance the failure and the promise of our people, and most constructively accompany our people through any second best option? 


Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 130

Mark Throntveit

Psalm 130, best known by its Latin incipit De Profundis, “Out of the Depths,” has inspired church musicians for centuries, usually in the context of a Requiem Mass.1

One need only mention Johan Sebastian Bach’s magnificent cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir (BWV 131) inspired by Luther’s 1523 paraphrase, Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, for corroboration.  A cursory check, however, reveals that no fewer than thirty-six other works by major composers such as Mozart, Handel, Mendelssohn, and Schoenberg could also be cited.

Psalm 130 has obviously played a major role in the Catholic and evangelical piety of the Western Church. But what accounts for this popularity? One reason may be its association with a sub-group of the Psalter known since the days of Augustine (354–439 CE) as the Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These psalms often express deep sorrow for sin and ask God for help and forgiveness. Psalm 130 encourages fervent prayer to God (verse 1) the source of forgiveness to those who wait for the Lord (verses 4-6).

Our psalm is also part of a collection of psalms known as the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120–134). Though this is the clearest example of a collection in the Psalter, due to their common superscription “a song of (Psalm 121: “for”) ascents,” and the only one that includes the constitutive psalms in a self-contained unit, the function of the collection as a whole continues to baffle interpreters. Not that proposals are in short supply! These range from a prayer book for devotional use on pilgrimages to the three prescribed annual festivals, to liturgical usage at specific Jewish festivals such as Booths, and the Mishnah’s suggestion of assigning one of the fifteen psalms to each of the fifteen steps in the Jerusalem temple (Ezekiel 40:26, 31) where the Levites supposedly sang their praises.

Then again, perhaps the “steps” refer to a poetic trope found often in these psalms, the staircase, terraced, or step-like repetition of words from previous verses (in our psalm “my soul waits” appears in verses 5 and 6; “I hope/O Israel hope” appears in verses 5 and 7; “those who watch for the morning” appears in verse 6b; and “redeem” appears in verses 7 and 8; the trope also appears in Psalm 121–123; 126–127; 129–130; 133). Others, noticing that in addition to “ascent,” or “step” ma’alah can also refer to the exiles’ journey back from captivity in Babylon (Ezra 2:1; 7:9), have drawn plausible connections to the exiles returning to Jerusalem.

The genre of Psalm 130 is also a question mark. The basic problem is that no one genre is clearly represented. Usually, one distinguishes between the very similar individual lament and the song of thanksgiving by verb “tense.” The lament employs verbal forms that indicate a description of present distress and a prayer for relief. The song of thanksgiving, however, relates the same event(s) with verbal forms that recall the distress as a past event followed by a report of answered prayer. But the 1st person common singular perfect verbs in verses 1 and 5 (“cry” and “wait”) are ambiguous in Hebrew. If they are translated as present tense in English, as in the New Revised Standard Version, we have a lament. If they are construed as past tense in English, as in the KJV, we have a song of thanksgiving.

Further complicating matters, important aspects of both genres are missing. Unusually for a lament, the psalm fails to actually ask for anything besides God’s attention; and it is just as strange in a song of thanksgiving not to relate the divinely answered prayer, since that is what is being acknowledged and testified to in the community. Nevertheless, the most common designation, individual lament, is probably best, and is represented in verses 1-2 if they are read as a present tense prayer or petition for help, and one takes seriously the Qina (3+2, or lament) meter that punctuates the psalm.

Apart from these matters, however, the structure of the psalm is fairly straightforward falling into four two-line sections: An Appeal for Yahweh’s Attention (1-2); Trust in Yahweh’s Desire to Forgive (3-4); Hopeful Expectation (5-6); and Address to the Community (7-8). Following the initial appeal in verses 1-2, a concentric pattern stitches the psalm together and argues for the originality of verses 7-8 against those who would omit them:

A “Iniquities” (3)

B “For (“But,” NRSV) with you” (4)

C “my soul waits” (5)

C’ “my soul waits” (6)

B’ “For with the Lord” (7)

A’ “Iniquities” (8).

At its simplest level the psalm begins with a poignant, though very general, appeal to be heard by the Lord (verses 1-2). Elsewhere in the Psalms, “depths,” the most memorable aspect of Psalm 130, only appears in another lament, Psalm 69:2, 14. The metaphorical nature of this term allows it to convey a great deal of emotion while at the same time remaining non-specific enough that contemporary sufferers can appropriate this classic address to God for themselves. The psalm then moves to a poetic affirmation of God’s readiness to forgive couched in the form of a rhetorical question (verse 3).

It is usually best to take rhetorical questions in Hebrew as expressions of absolute confidence.2 The theological basis for such confidence is proclaimed in verse 4 along with the divine motivation, “that you (Yahweh) may be revered.” This confidence in God stirs the psalmist to express his eager anticipation of God’s response (verse 5-6). Finally, moved by his own sense of forgiveness, the psalmist encourages the community (and us!) to bring that which is troubling them to the Lord in the certain hope that they will find a gracious, loving God, intent on their redemption (verses 7-8).


Notes

1 Commentary first published on this site on June 12, 2012.

2 Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautsch, trans. A. E. Cowley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), 150e.


Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Jennifer V. Pietz

It is common for Christians to think about resurrection mostly at Easter, celebrating Jesus’ victory over death two thousand years ago, or at funerals, embracing the promised future that awaits our departed loved ones. While such thinking is appropriate, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 calls us to consider how the ultimate end we hope for is also a source of strength and new life in the present.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul attempts to repair his strained relationship with the Corinthian church that his ministry established. We do not get all the details of what went wrong, but the Corinthians are now drawn to other so-called apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12-15) and Paul is deeply concerned that they are being led astray from the one true gospel that he preached to them (11:2-4). By defending his authority to the Corinthians, Paul reasserts the very gospel that both made him an apostle and gave birth to the Corinthian church.

The core of this gospel is expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:14: “…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.” 

Before and after this declaration of faith, Paul describes the affliction that he and his co-workers endure to spread the gospel (4:7-12, 16-17). Indeed, their suffering shows that they embody their preaching of the gospel of the One who died to liberate people from sin and death—a victory made complete by God raising Jesus from the dead. Paul’s focus on Christ’s resurrection in verse 14, therefore, presupposes Jesus’ death (see also 4:10-11). 

Embedding talk of the resurrection in the reality of human weakness and suffering is significant for a couple of reasons. One is that the Corinthian believers apparently considered themselves to already have the fullness of resurrection life because of their powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit, which often did not translate into a communal life of mutual care that reflects a mature grasp of the gospel (for example, 1 Corinthians 1:5-7, 10-11; 4:8-13; 15:12). Paul’s talk of suffering that incites longing for a future, eternal life in God’s own presence (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), thus reminds the Corinthians that their current experiences of the Spirit are only part of the fullness of life that is yet to come (5:5).

It also serves as a defense of his ministry and apostolic authority. Paul argues that persecution and suffering are not signs of failure that should cause the Corinthians to doubt his leadership. Instead, these demonstrate that Paul’s ministry on behalf of the gospel—and indeed, all of Christian life—involves continual death and resurrection in conformity with the crucified and risen Christ.

Resurrection life is apparent not only in the absence of suffering or strife, but also—and even especially—in the midst of these, as God’s Spirit is present and working to bring new life in ways often unseen. Paul’s loving commitment to the Corinthians is, in fact, demonstrated by his willingness to endure suffering to bring the gospel to them (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 15). Suffering itself is not redemptive, but it is an inevitable part of living and preaching the gospel of life and truth in a world where the powers of death and deception still attack, until the fullness of God’s purposes is realized. 

Paul’s claims that our “outer nature is wasting away” while our “inner nature is being renewed,” and that “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 4:16; 5:1), need to be understood in this light. To see the “inner nature” as a person’s true self that longs to escape the trap of a physical body (“outer nature”) at the end-time resurrection is contrary to Paul’s understanding that even then, life will be embodied (1 Corinthians 15:44), and that resurrection life is present now in believers to some extent. These statements instead reflect the reality that believers live in a time “in-between,” when their embodied lives can still be wounded by sin and decay even while Christ’s Spirit sustains and renews them.

In this context, Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 4:14 to look forward to Christ’s ultimate victory over death in the final resurrection is not meant to promote an escapist spirituality that is indifferent to the real struggles of embodied life in the present. To the contrary, it gives Christians the hope and grounding in the life of God needed to face the unavoidable pain and struggle of life in this world. It allows us to envision God’s healing and new life coming into painful circumstances in such a way that motivates us to act in accordance with this transformation. 

The resurrection, in fact, is a powerful pillar of Paul’s appeal for reconciliation with the Corinthians. The fact that the God who raised Christ from the dead is alive in both Paul and the Corinthians presents the real possibility that their strained relationship can be renewed. Paul invites them to envision the end of time, when human distinctions between various groups of people will be leveled in the glorious presence of God (2 Corinthians 4:14), as the foundation for a new beginning of mutual trust in Christ in the present.

Considering the resurrection beyond Easter and funerals can inspire similar visions for reconciliation in our own relationships and communities. The powers that alienate people from God and each other have been defeated, even though they continue to assail. Preaching the reality of the resurrection now provides hope that God is present in broken lives, relationships, and communities, working to bring new life out of pain and strife. It also reminds us that life in the Spirit means living in conformity with both the death and resurrection of Christ, which compels us to acts of other-oriented service that may be costly to ourselves, but that are expressions of the future we claim now in hope.