Meet, reflect, and pray with the women of Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, inspiring women of faith, disciples who follow Jesus from the first, whose tables become house churches. Sister Joan and Sister Ansgar collaborate to bring you the women’s stories in word and art. This book is ideal for sharing in small groups and families. Read sample chapters at goodgroundpress.com. Call Lacy at 800-232-5533 to order your copy or you can order online.
Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7,12-13; John 20.19-23
It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” After this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20.19-23).
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the birth day. The risen Jesus brings peace to his disciples all locked up together in fear and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them for the purpose of their becoming an actively reconciling community. Jesus breathes peace on them and sends them to spread peace and forgiveness.
In the story of Pentecost from Acts 2, the Spirit comes upon the waiting community, 120 strong. Who receives the Spirit that transforms followers into fiery-tongued preachers of the good news. The community includes eleven of the original disciples, Matthias, who takes Judas’s place, Jesus’ mother Mary, and the women disciples who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem and go to Jesus’ tomb and find it empty, for sure Mary Magdalene; Salome, the other of James and John; Mary the mother of James the younger; Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward; Suzanna; Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and many others whom Jesus touched in his teaching and healing. The Spirit transforms the community into fiery witnesses of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. So fiery is Peter’s tongue that his preaching adds 3,000 believers to the community that day.
The Spirit comes upon the tongues of the witnesses and ears of the many Jews from surrounding areas on every side of Israel. Each hears Peter’s message in his or her own tongue. The message is that Jesus, who was crucified, is both Lord and Messiah.
When has the Holy Spirit inflamed you to speak and act? To listen and learn?
Scripture Readings: Acts 1.111; Ephesians 1.17-23; Luke 24.46-53
Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. As he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. They did him homage, worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God (Luke 24.46-53).
The simple words that begin Sunday’s gospel summarize Luke’s theology of fulfillment. “It is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” At first Jesus’ crucifixion discombobulates his followers. How can the true messiah be so powerless that he suffers death by crucifixion like a criminal? Then Jesus’ resurrection puts his death in a whole new light. As Jesus’ followers continue to read and pray the scriptures of Israel, they find words and images that anticipate a messiah who suffers.
As a prophet bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, freedom for the oppressed, Jesus runs headlong into conflict with authorities, other Jewish teachers and priests, and ultimately the Roman Empire. Prophets make waves. In the last seven verses, Luke ties up loose ends of his gospel narrative. Jesus commissions his disciples to preach the good news of his resurrection and repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. Then he blesses them, withdraws, “and was carried into heaven.
Why do Jesus’ disciples react with such joy at his withdrawing? In withdrawing from them, Jesus is entering his glory. His disciples bless God for all that has happened. They express their joy and thanksgiving as Jews by praying in the temple. Jesus’ disciples have a second reason for joy—his message of forgiveness. In Luke’s gospel they now see Jesus’ suffering and death as necessary. The disciples have passed from confusion to Easter faith.
Thirdly, Jesus’ disciples await what the Father promised—a clothing in power from on high. Luke’s story is only half over. The Acts of the Apostles is the sequel to his gospel. The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit.
Luke ends his gospel with Jesus’ departure and begins the Acts of the Apostles with the same moment. In the ascension Jesus passes over into communion with God, bridging the human and divine. He blesses this company of followers about to become a Spirit-filled community.
Who do you see among the joyful disciples blessing God in the temple and awaiting the Holy Spirit? Read Acts 1.12-14.
Sunday Readings: Acts 15.1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23; John 14.23-29
These things I have told you while I am still with you. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and help you remember all that I told you. Peace I leave to you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or fearful (John 14.25-27).
Israel’s wisdom writings insist God is knowable in creation. Wisdom begins in awe and wonder. Wisdom is always looking for a home, a dwelling place among the human race. Wisdom finds a home in Israel and wherever people recognize that creation comes from the hand of God. The Wisdom of Solomon says human knowledge or wisdom is “a spotless mirror of the workings of God “ (7.26).
In Jesus God comes among us as one of us. Jesus mirrors in his words and deeds who God is, just as wisdom mirrors the creator. In his farewell, Jesus promises his community of followers that his Spirit will stay with them, help them live his teachings, and love and serve one another as he has done. Jesus’ love for his friends unites them with him and his Father, brings peace, eases fear.
Jesus comes as a friend, an equal who does not exempt himself from the conditions of human life but lives them to the end, facing death on the cross at the hands of empire. By the time Jesus takes his leave, where he lives is clear. Wherever his friends lay down their lives for one another as he is about to on the cross. Wherever they serve one another humbly as he has done rather than lord or lady it over one another like earthly leaders. Where his friends love one another, they reveal God as Jesus does. They continue his work in the world.
Friendship is a joyful, free attraction, a delight in each others’ company. Common vision brings friends together. The love of friends always has room for more; it is an inclusive love, mutual, reciprocal. Friends are not dependent on each other but are responsible to each other. Friends trust each other. Betrayal is the way we sin against a friend. Sharing a meal and conversation are common activities of friends. To invite people to eat is to invite them to share something of one’s own with them. The Spirit befriends us from within and lives within us, breath by breath, as companion and advocate.
What best describes your relationship with Jesus—friend, disciple, follower, servant?
Sunday Readings: Acts 14.21-27; Revelation 21.1-5; John 13.31-35
After Judas went out, Jesus began to speak
“Now is the Son of Man glorified,
and God is glorified in him.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will, in turn, glorify him soon.
Children, I am with you only a little longer.
A new commandment I give you: love one another.
As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.
In this way, all will know that you are my disciples:
if you have love for one another (John 13.31-35).
Love is a feeling, a warm embrace when spouses get home from work, the joy of getting flowers or holding a grandchild, the pleasure of someone making your favorite dessert. Love is sometimes passionate, sexual, sensual, intimate. But also the excitement of meeting someone who reads as much or as widely, who cares about sustaining Earth, who values hope over cynicism, someone with whom one can be oneself.
Love is a verb. Cook, clean, wash clothes, plan, shop, pay bills, fix what is broken. As in Jesus’ life, our lives sometimes ask more, even everything we can give. A sick child, a sick parent, mental illness, trips to the doctor, worry, fatigue. Our lives ask in the end all we have to give.
At his last supper with his disciples, Jesus reveals his great commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. Our capacity to love one another is our capacity to be like God. In each loving act we transcend our individual selves and gift energy that heals and gives life, that holds families and friends together, that inspires service of country and church, that draws neighbors into communities.
At the last supper in John’s gospel, Jesus models an act of service; he washes and dries his disciples’ feet. “As I have done, so you must do.” He makes footwashing rather than blessing and sharing bread and wine the symbolic action that anticipates and interprets the meaning of his death on the cross. The way to imitate Jesus’ ultimate service and love—his humiliating death on the cross—is to serve one another.
To love one another as Jesus does is to love to the end, all the way, with one’s whole life unto death. Discipleship in John’s community is not about status but about footwashing and service.
What is a personal commandment you keep? How is it like Jesus’ new commandment?
Sunday Readings: Acts 13.14,43-52; Revelation 7.9, 14-17; John 10.27-30
JESUS: My sheep hear my voice.
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish.
No one shall snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all. No one can snatch them
from the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.
Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and survive by following where the shepherd leads — to fresh pasture, to water, into a pen for the night. The sheep have faith in the shepherd who comes to give them abundant life. Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for this sheep. He contrasts himself with hired hands who run when wolves threaten the flock. Jesus’ relationship with believers is intimate. “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (14-15). Belonging of this kind happens in families.
Jesus’ words are plain but theologically loaded. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says. Hearing is believing. Those who believe recognize that Jesus reveals God. They accept his teaching. “I know them, and they follow me,” Jesus adds. To know refers to deeply personal belonging. To follow expresses wholehearted allegiance.
Jesus promises believers eternal life and his Father guarantees his promise, which leads Jesus make the inflammatory claim: The Father and I are one. Jesus’ hearers reach for rocks to stone him for blasphemy, for making himself one with and equal to God.
The community out of which John’s gospel emerges has a high Christology; Jesus is from above. He pre-exists with the Father. All things come into being through him (John 1.3). No one has seen God but the only Son reveals God (John 1.18). Faith in Jesus and his works is faith in God. The high Christology of John’s community creates hostility with other Jews. In fact, Jesus’ claims in Sunday’s gospel are fighting words to many listeners — blasphemous, stoning words.
What insights into your relationship with God do you find in the imagery of the good shepherd?
We hear from our customers that our Holy Women books make a wonderful gift. If you need a thoughtful gift for your mother or wife or other important women in your life, we make you this special offer.
If we receive your order by next Monday, May 2, we will send you, via first class mail, a copy of Holy Women in Luke’s Gospel and a copy of Holy Women, Full of Grace. Each of these small paperbacks features women who were part of Jesus’ story. Each woman invites the reader into reflection and prayer.
The two books and first class shipping is only $20.00. We can add more books (up to four) for only $5.00 each. There is no extra shipping charge.
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Go to our website, goodgroundpress.com, to read some of the pages from the Holy Women books. May they be a blessing to you, too.
Take a look at our beautiful and inexpensive cards for all occasions. Order online or call Lacy at 800-232-5533 if you have any questions. We look forward to getting these cards to you so their beauty can heal and inspire others.
Sunday Readings: Acts 5.27-32, 40-41; Revelations 5.11-14; John 21.1-19
After the disciples had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs” (John 21.15).
After the big catch and the subsequent breakfast, the risen Jesus takes Peter aside to untangle their relationship. Three times Jesus asks Peter the same question; times Peter professes that he loves Jesus. The repetitions echo the three times Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. In that scene Peter, afraid for his life, rejected any connection with Jesus. Here by the lake, Jesus asks him to affirm that they still stand together in love and mission. Peter insists, “Lord, you know that I love you.”
Three times Jesus calls Peter to show his love: Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. In “Fiddler on the Roof” Tevye is so taken with his daughter wanting to marry for love, that he decides to ask his wife, Golde, if she loves him. “Do you love me?” he sings. Golde answers, “Do I love you? For 26 years I’ve washed your clothes, made your meals, borne your children. If that isn’t love, what is?” In its final verses the fourth gospel holds up the story of Peter’s conversion and reconciliation with Jesus as a testimony to what a faithful shepherd is.
The middle word in each command is my. My lambs. My sheep. The flock does not belong to Peter; the community of followers belongs to Jesus. He is the master shepherd. Peter receives a responsibility but not a superior role. His duty is to keep the sheep in the love that Jesus taught them, the love Jesus demonstrated in laying down his life for the flock. Peter is to feed, tend, and love the community, not lord it over the flock.
What needs does a community of believers have today? Who do you shepherd? What three verbs describe you main shepherding actions.
Treat yourself and those you love to all seven weeks of Easter. Share these prayers so everyone can print these two colorful pages for their home or office. Carry the prayer mantra in your pocket or purse to keep your heart happy and at peace.
Or, put our website address — goodgroundpress.com — on your parish website or in your church bulletin. Invite people to find Celebrate Easter for themselves.
We pray for each of you this Easter. May you be blessed with hope in God’s promise of new life.
Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34, 37-43, Colossians 3.1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5.6-8, John 20.1-9, (10-18)
Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken Jesus away, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was he. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing Jesus to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my friends and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20.10-18).
Easter Sunday celebrates the core of Christian faith: that God raised Jesus, who was crucified, from the dead. His resurrection promises all who believe in him will be raised up to new life with God as he has been. Whether people of Jesus’ time imagined the messiah as a great king like David or a prophet like Moses or a great priest and holy man, no one imagined a messiah without power, dying by crucifixion. The gospel notes the disciples who go to Jesus’ tomb “did not understand the scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”
After Easter, Jesus’ followers draw on Israel’s scriptures to reflect on who Jesus is, for example, the servant songs in Isaiah that describe the exiled people of Israel as God’s suffering servant. In Jesus God becomes one of us to reveal love, compassion, sharing, forgiving are the real power and life-giving energy in the universe.
The Easter gospel we hear in church ends before Jesus appears to a sorrowing Mary Magdalene. He speaks her name and she recognizes her teacher. Jesus sends Mary Magdalene to announce the good news of his resurrection to the other men and women disciples and to assure them their abiding relationship with him — his Father is our father, his God is our God.” Mary becomes the first preacher of this good news, the apostle to the apostles.
What affirms your faith in Jesus’ self-giving way of life?