Around this time every year I begin to feel like we are forgetting something; like something is being left out of our worship service. It is because during the Great 50 Days of Easter, we do not have an Old Testament lesson. I grew up in a congregation that loved the Old Testament, and I don’t mean that in a law-and-bible-thumping way. I learned stories from that half of the bible as a child and young adult and they were fascinating and full of adventure, intrigue, drama, and miraculous amazement. There are good ecclesiological reasons for omitting it during the Easter season but, well, the truth is, I MISS THE OLD TESTAMENT READING!! Ok, there, I said it and it’s pretty much out of my system.
Sort of. How long, O Lord, how long until it returns? Trinity Sunday, is God’s reply. Several weeks away.
So between now and Trinity Sunday, we linger a bit longer in the Book of Acts. The reason we do this, and why I don’t just read whatever I want to read from the bible each week is because we, like many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, follow the Revised Common Lectionary. It is an orderly set of texts that you see every week on the back of the bulletin and they are designed to tell an overall story throughout the church year. That’s why we don’t often hear from the Gospel of Mark, for example, this year (between last December and this November), because this is the year of Matthew and most all of our Gospel lessons are from Matthew. Don’t worry though if Mark is your favorite, that’s next year and Luke the year after. John gets a sprinkling throughout all three years, just like today. So, we almost always follow the selected texts for the day from this lectionary.
It might seem like the reason the people who compiled the lectionary chose to not have a reading from the Old Testament was because there is no ‘good news’ in the OT and since we are in Easter, we don’t want to spend too much time trudging around the law and all that other “pre-Jesus stuff”. However, the truth is that there is no such thing as “pre-Jesus” stuff and there’s also plenty of God’s grace and good news in the left side of the bible—most especially though not only the parts that speak of the Messiah.
Instead, the reason is a bit more logical, even if it is not to my personal liking. We, the church today, are the continuation of what happened before Jesus was born into our world. That’s all the stuff that happened in the Old Testament; the story of the people of God before Jesus’ earthly ministry began. Then, when we read about the early church in the book of Acts, we are reading about ourselves, our beginnings, our ancestry and it is read in the same place that we usually hear about the people of God before Jesus birth.
This week, we hear a sermon from the Apostle Paul. He is in Athens at the Areopagus, also known as the Rock of Aries, also known as Mars Hill. This is not really Paul’s most successful revival from a certain point of view. The verse right after this section we heard today does say that some followed Paul, but it also says that when they heard him speak about the resurrection from the dead, they scoffed at him…..