Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4:1-8; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
"Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46b-47)
There is a tendency in organizations working towards social justice to highlight the teachings of Jesus (especially the Sermon on the Mount) while paying little attention to the narrative of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Conversely, organizations focused on evangelism of conversion often highlight the miraculous narratives in the Gospel while paying little attention to the social implications of Jesus’ teachings. The reasons for this are logical and obvious. We tend to focus on the aspects of the Jesus story that most strongly support the work that we do as Christians. Those of us working for peace and justice find that the teachings of Jesus sustain us and give us both a framework for justice as well as the hope and optimism we need to do the work to which we have been called. However, I think that a lot of spiritual and theological support and guidance is lost when this tendency overwhelms our thinking.
The Gospel lesson in Luke for today provides a profound insight into the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ. In the passage, Jesus appears resurrected to his disciples. Much of the passage involves Jesus proving the physical nature of his resurrection. However, the part of the passage I would like to focus comes at the end of this narrative. In verses 46 and 47 Jesus quotes Messianic prophecy to explain the purpose of his resurrection. He says, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” The resurrection provides the foundation for the work of the church. Because of the resurrection we are able to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.
What does this have to do with the work of MCC here at the UN and abroad? With a reworked understanding of what it means to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins, we find that Jesus’ words directly apply to the work of Justice. When we advocate for peace among the nations, we are proclaiming the forgiveness of the collective sin of violence. In a resurrection community, we recognize that as we are forgiven we no longer must live in the sin of violence. Working for peace is how we proclaim the name of Jesus to all nations. When we forget the serious implications of the Easter story in our pursuit of justice, we neglect an essential Christian framework for the work of peace. As we work for peace and justice, we realize the sustaining power of the resurrection. We see the power of peace and justice not only in the teachings of Jesus, but also in the victory over the authority and control of violence. In our work for peace and justice we proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to all the nations.
By Matthew Dean, Intern, MCC UN Office