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Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2024

Today’s Invitation

Today we invite you to explore communality and redistribution of resources as shown in the gospels; engage solidarity with the poor as a sacramental action; and embody this necessity to a deep solidarity with the help of Doubting Thomas.




Commentary by Ryan Felder

Second Sunday of Easter


Reading 1

Acts 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one mind
and one heart. None of them claimed
anything as their own; rather, everything was
held in common. The apostles continued to
testify with great power to the resurrection of
Jesus Christ, and they were all given great

respect; nor was anyone needy among them,
for those who owned property or houses
would sell them and give the money to the
apostles. It was then distributed to any
members who might be in need.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 118

Response: Give thanks to Our God who is good, whose love is everlasting.

Let the house of Israel say it, / “Your love is everlasting!”
Let the house of Aaron say it, / “Your love is everlasting!”
Let those who fear our God say it, / “Your love is everlasting!”
R: Give thanks to Our God who is good, whose love is everlasting.

I was pressed, pressed, about to fall, / but our God came to my help.
Our God is my strength and my song. / Adonai, You are my savior.
Shouts of joy and safety ring in the tents of the righteous.
R: Give thanks to Our God who is good, whose love is everlasting.

It was the stone rejected by the builders / that proved to be the keystone;
This is our God’s doing / and it is wonderful to see.
R: Give thanks to Our God who is good, whose love is everlasting.

Reading 2

1 John 5:1-7

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah
has been born of God.
Everyone who loves God
loves the One who has come from God.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
when we love God and do what God has commanded.
The love of God consists of this:
that we keep God’s commandments.
And these commandments are not burdensome.
Everyone born of God conquers the world,
and the power that has conquered the world
is our faith.
Who then can overcome the world?
The one who believes
that Jesus is the Only Begotten of God.
Jesus Christ came by water and blood —
not by water alone,
but with water and blood.
It is the Spirit who testifies to this,
and she is truth.

Gospel

John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day,
the first day of the week,
the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were,
for fear of the Temple authorities.
Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”
Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.
The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus,
who said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.”
After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.
If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas  — nicknamed Didymus, or “Twin” —
was absent when Jesus came.
The other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen Jesus!”
Thomas’ answer was,
“I will never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks
and my hand into the spear wound.”

On the eighth day, the disciples were once more in the room,
and this time Thomas was with them.
Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying,
“Peace be with you.”
Then, to Thomas, Jesus said,
“Take your finger and examine my hands.
Put your hand into my side.
Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!”
Thomas said in response,
“My Savior and my God!”
Jesus then said,
“You have become a believer because you saw me.
Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs as well — signs not recorded here —
in the presence of the disciples.
But these have been recorded to help you believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Only Begotten,
so that by believing you may have life in Jesus’ name.


The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.

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Explore

Resurrection Communality: Solidarity and Communism in the Body of Christ


It should not be lost on us that in today’s readings from Acts and the Gospel of John, both 

point towards the resurrected Body of Christ – quite literally in the case of John’s Gospel and “corporally” in Acts. We might ask ourselves: What does the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas” have to teach us alongside the unfamiliar experience of a Christian community redistributing its wealth to meet the needs of everyone? In this season of Easter-tide, we find new hope, salvation, and eternal life in Christ’s death and resurrection. Unable to believe that his beloved teacher is standing before him, St. Thomas must first see and touch the wounds inflicted upon Christ’s body by empire and the cross before he recognizes Christ. 

Concomitantly, in Acts, living in the wake of Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven, we find the early Christian community in Jerusalem living out a resurrection faith through social and economic practices that might lend themselves to being identified with the modern political concept of communism. Considered together, during Easter-tide, Christians are pointed to the broken body of Christ as a source of resurrection faith. This faith is grounded in wounds of empire, Christ’s conquest of death, his resurrected body, and the living out of Christ’s ministry as the Church engaged in unapologetic solidarity with the poor and oppressed. 

***

Wherever Christians are engaged in real solidarity and liberatory work, it is seemingly quite inevitable, particularly in our North American context, that the accusation of “communism” is tossed around. Presbyterian minister and organizer Claude Williams faced such allegations when he worked with the Southern Tenant Farmers Union in the 1930s and throughout his life. In a 1936 sermon given at Owen Whitfield’s church in Crosno, Missouri, Williams taunted his anti-Communist and white supremacist critics, particularly those in the Church:

“They call their sermons good news. This darned stuff they preach isn’t good news for the poor. It isn’t good news that a man must die before he can get to heaven. This is red – as red as the blood of Jesus. And that’s how red I preach. Now there is a new Pentecost in the land and it’s the union. After Jesus was lynched, the disciples were told to go to Jerusalem and wait until they got the power. How did they get it? When they became of ‘one accord’ – when they were organized. It was when they were all agreed together that there was power. So Pentecost is unity – a condition met” (Gellman and Roll,  The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America, 71-2).

In our readings from Acts, we are presented with a Christian community living out the implications of the Resurrected Christ – a community coming into its own power, in one accord.  Following both their experience of the Resurrected Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, early Christians in Jerusalem are continuing to act out Christ’s ministry. In the chapters prior, the new Church establishes itself in various contradictions to civic and religious authorities in Jerusalem. These contradictions begin with pronouncements of judgment upon the people of Jerusalem coupled with a prophetic vision of salvation in the Resurrected Christ. Keep in mind, these are the people of Jerusalem of whom theologian Rowan Williams describes in his book Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel as neither a neutral or innocent audience. He writes that it is an: 

“…audience of participants, an audience with blood on its hands. The proclaiming of Jesus crucified and risen is not a matter of giving information; the rhetoric of this preaching assumes that the hearers already belong in the story, that they are agents, that ‘the things concerning Jesus’ have concerned and will concern them” (2).

Establishing the audience’s victim, Jesus, as the judge of the oppressors that executed him, the apostles of Christ both proclaim the salvation of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, but also set out bringing salvation to others by building the Church through ministry to the sick and the disabled. Peter heals a man who previously only lay at the gate of the temple begging for alms. Healed, he enters the temple praising God. Beyond what might come to mind when we think of judgment, the judgment of God as evident in the crucified and resurrected Christ, and proclaimed by Christ’s Church, is one in which the oppressed, the poor, the forgotten, and the crucified become the source of reconciliation and atonement for all of Jerusaem and the world. 

In Acts 4:32-35, the ministry of the Church in Jerusalem, the process of reconciliation and atonement, has taken the form of shared property and mutual aid. Testifying to the Resurrected Christ, the church in Jerusalem is described as being in one heart and mind while redistributing the wealth of their community to meet the needs of everyone. Christians with property sell it, give that money to the apostles, and the apostles distribute this according to need. The following verses (4:36-37) give us the example of Barnabas, who we are told sold his land and gave the money to the apostles. This process seems to not have been formally mandated but rather was an essential religious practice observed by early Christians. Roman Montero, scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity, writes in All Things Held in Common: The Economic Practices of Early Christians:

“This communism was not based on any social contract, nor was it based on mutual interest. This was communism based on the necessity to be righteous before God if one was to be fully a part of the Christian community. It was the religious and spiritual obligation of both the individual and the community as a whole” (86).

And, yet, as Montero also notes, “this was obviously not insignificant, and it was obviously not just a one-time event.” Rather, the collection resulted in a large daily distribution of food given to the poor and widows (87). Beyond the patron-client relationships and hierarchical philanthropy of the Roman Empire, the collection of the Church in Jerusalem, challenged “the dedication of the wealthier members of the community; they were expected to, in a sense, humble themselves before the poor by entering relationships of communism with them and sharing with them  – despite the fact that no special honor would be given in return” (88).

That is to say, infused with the faith of having experienced Christ’s resurrection, the labor of the early Church set about transforming the earthly social relations into a kind of prefigurative politics of the Kingdom of God; the Church and its ministry set out to convey the grace revealed by Christ’s victory over death, and this victory transforms absolutely everything in regard to how we relate to another – spiritually, socially, politically, and economically.

Commentary by Ryan Felder


Ryan Felder (they/them) is a graduate from Union Theological Seminary (MDiv), Yale Divinity School (STM), and will be pursuing a PhD at Union Theological Seminary in Theology. They have worked as a worker-cooperative organizer, community worker, and are currently pursuing ordination in the Episcopal Church.
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Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Economic Justice

The practice of solidarity with the poor and oppressed toward their liberation, by means of the sacrificial redistribution of wealth and power, is sacramental action, or the communication of God’s grace. By sacrament, I mean a material and worldly presence of God’s grace, accessible to us believers by faith. Departing from what we traditionally understand as the Sacraments (the Eucharist, Baptism, Marriage, etc), this understanding of sacrament grows from the work and ministry of Christ in history and understands the world to be transformed into a gift that cannot be possessed or owned by humans. 

In the New Testament, the collection as a practice upheld by the Church in Jerusalem is described as grace. In 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul, writing to the Corinthian church imploring them to participate in the collection as wholeheartedly as the Macedonians, describes the collection as “grace.” He writes: “We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part (2 Cor 8:1-2 NRSV). Crucial here is that amidst their affliction and oppression, the Church in Macedonia was abundantly joyful and generous in sharing what they had with the broader Church. Put differently, in their affliction and oppression, the Church in Macedonia communicates God’s grace to each other and the broader world through their solidarity in the resurrected life of Christ. The collection and resurrection communality of the Church in Jerusalem, grounded in history just as much as Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, is one such fruit of the transformation of human life in Christ and the grace found therein. 

The materiality and relational aspect of faith in the Resurrected Christ is not lost on theologian Rowan Williams. He writes: “to be close to Jesus, in material relation with Jesus during his ministry was to be close to the embodied love of God, God’s final and total forgiveness made concrete in the flesh of man, his words and his acts.” Thus, for Williams, “resurrection faith is inseparable from the existence of a historical human community characterized by certain styles of relation” (93). These certain styles of relation, what I’ve referred to as resurrection communality, originate from a transformed relationship to our material world made possible by the resurrection. This is not just a change in perspective or a paradigm shift, but rather a re-orientation to the materiality of the world in which one understands creation to be a gift given from God that cannot be possessed or hoarded through violence and greed. Creation is, has, and always will be a means of our salvation and liberation. 

Narratives espoused by racial colonial modernity and its capitalist logics intrinsically manifest realties of scarcity, oppression, and death. These are realities fundamentally revealed to be sinful and false in the Resurrection. What is revealed to us by the resurrection is an early Christian community which took the mandate of the Eucharist beyond the Lord’s Table and into the broken and forgotten communities as a literal bread of life given to the oppressed in which the real, resurrected body of Christ was and is present.

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A Witness

Doubting Thomas

Faith in the resurrection and the practice of resurrection communality begin with encountering the broken body of Christ. In our Gospel reading, this is expressed in the familiar story of St. Thomas’s doubt in the resurrected Christ. In order for St. Thomas to believe, he must first see and touch the wounds of Christ’s body – the marks on his hands and feet, the spear wound on his side. 

We often give St. Thomas a little trouble for being skeptical, but what is apparent in the text is that contact with the reality of crucifixion, the wounds of Christ’s body, are just as important for resurrection faith as being witness to Christ’s resurrected life sans affliction or prior suffering. 

In realizing a resurrection communality, our resurrection faith begins with an honest and sober contact with the realities of suffering and oppression in our own time. Beyond mere Christian charity, we are called to a sacrificial and critical solidarity that undermines the powers that hold false authority and governance in our time, which deny the possibilities of liberation, abundant joy, and God’s grace. In order to have this grace, we have to need it. In order to have a more social justice order, we have to need it. In order to be the Body of Christ, we have to be where Christ is – inextricably with the poor and oppressed in their actual conditions. In the words of minister and organizer Claude Williams: 

“It isn’t the will of God that five million children should starve nor that women should marry for a meal-ticket. I’m telling you what God has told me to tell you. And I’m not asking any man’s permission to say it… Preachers have been trained to tell you the soul is the most important. If you starve to death, your soul will go flying to the pearly gates a hundred million lightyears away. But Jesus didn’t put in that order. “Give us this day our daily bread” – the body first. A body without a spirit is a corpse, and a spirit without a body is a spook, and I’ve no use for either of them. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor?” – why? Because they are the ones that need the Kingdom – they are the ones that will bring it, because they need it” (The Gospel of the Working Class, 71-2).


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