At the Vigil
A selection from the following list …
- Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
- Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46
- Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16
- Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18
- Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6
- Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 and Psalm 19
- Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalm 42 and 43
- Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143
- Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98
Romans 6:3-11 and Psalm 114
In the morning of Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
I Cor. 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12
In the evening of Easter Day
I Corinthians 5:6b-8
The readings shown here are from the RCL list, and some passages may slightly in other listings.
The traditions associated with Holy Week and Easter lie at the heart of the Christian faith dealing, as they do, with the character of Jesus, the circumstances of his death and the affirmation that not even death could prevent the successful outcome of the divine program (the good news of God’s alternative empire) which Christians believe to have been expressed (indeed, embodied) in and through his words and actions.
There are doubtless historical elements in all this, however inaccessible to us after two thousand years, and no matter how variously weighted by those studying them.
There is also a powerful mythology at work here, as the imagination of faith sees through and beyond the historical details to catch a glimpse of a transforming reality; a faith to live by.
Our primary access to both the history of Jesus and the myth of Jesus is through story, and it is that story which Christian communities around the world will recount all over this week.
Like the Native American storyteller quoted in Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (page 50) we may find ourselves saying:
“Now I don’t know if it happened this way or not,
but I know this story is true.”
For many people, their personal and communal preparations for Easter are deeply impacted by the publication of some new discovery, or a controversial new theory, relating to Christian origins. It is, I suppose, a perverse kind of compliment to the enduring influence of Christianity even in our largely secular societies that the media sees an opportunity to make an impact (increase viewers, and multiply advertising revenues) by such tactics. In 2006 it was the Gospel of Judas story, in 2007 the so-called Jesus Tomb story, and in 2011 the anticipated Paschal media beat up was a claim to have two of the nails used to crucify Jesus. Up to the time of reviewing these notes, we seem to have been spared such a media event in 2013. Maybe the election of a new pope has exhausted the media interest in religion for now?
These regular media events timed for release around Easter reinforce the wisdom of the native story tellers who know the truth power of a story lies in its capacity to speak the truth to the present, not the accuracy of its description of the past or its projection of the future.
At the very least, we know that the earliest Christians found story telling a powerful way to develop and test their theology. The different stories created by those ancient Christian faith communities both encapsulated what they were thinking and also extended their thoughts in new directions. The contest of sacred stories reflects a contest of theologies.
Our modern question (But did it happen that way?) is ultimately not as urgent, nor its answer so satisfying, as the ancient question: What truth is in this story?
There are several items from the Jesus Database inventory of historical Jesus traditions that are relevant to the Easter celebrations, and a convenient single gateway to those items has been provided at the following page:
For items that are more closely related to the Passion Narrative, see:
Jesus Seminar Voting Data
A convenient summary of the Jesus Seminar’s work on the resurrection traditions is available at:
The Once and Future Bible: Easter essay
One important topic not able to be considered in chapter 9 of The Once and Future Bible was the death and resurrection of Jesus. This would include what we know about the circumstances of Jesus’ death, the date of his death, who was directly responsible for it, how Jesus may have viewed the prospect of his own death, and how the earliest resurrection traditions may have developed.
This online essay offers supplementary materials around some of these questions.Some of these pages will continue to be edited and modified, but you are welcome to use the material that has already been prepared and published.
The original form of the material is also available as a PDF download from that site for those wishing to print and read as a traditional text. Naturally, this means a loss of access to the hyperlinked materials embedded at various points.
Sermons and Liturgies for Easter
Please add links at this point for liturgies, prayers and sermons relevant to this weekend’s services, whether they are part of this wiki site or located on an external site.