Psalm 116:2-3, 10: 2 The cords of death entangled me; the grip of the grave took hold of me; I came to grief and sorrow. Then I called upon the Name of God: “God, I pray you, save my life.” How shall I repay God for all the good things God has done for me?
There’s something about love that’s overwhelming. I think it’s overwhelming because love just loves without why or wherefor (sunder warumbe)—like being in the midst of spring springing and the flowers bursting forth, they give no reason for their showy, brilliant colors, they just bloom, they just are, they just exist. Love is similar: it just loves.
The inability of locating a why or wherefore to anchor another’s love for us makes love that other-worldly substance. We are rational, sense-making, riddle-solving, concrete, fleshy, material creatures. And, to be honest, we’re quite basic. To be told, “I love you” and for no other reason than “just because” solicits furrowed brows of “why…”, skeptical vocal lilts of “…me? …Really?”, even down right toddler-like resistance, “No!” Love that loves just because is not for us; we need the whys and the wherefores, the reasons and the data.
Somewhere along the way we’ve been taught love must be verified by a reason: you love me because I’m…. We all have the thing that fills in that blank, answering the “because.” I’m: funny, smart, pretty, rich, capable, athletic, a good provider; you have to, you’re my____ (another fill in the blank)….etc. Whatever it is, it sits there like a beacon of existential validity answering the “why” we’re worthy of love, while ignoring the reality love just loves.
The worst of this is we’re all quite able to imagine why we shouldn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t be loved. We know ourselves better than the one who gave us life, right? We know how “bad” we are, how ill-tempered, frustrating, irritating, debased, faulty, and failing… We don’t need another person to give us reasons why we’re unlovable. Sadly, our world amplifies this being unlovable unless… Our beloved status hangs in a dastardly imbalance, and we’re losing.
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Now after hearing [Peter] they were pierced in the heart, and they said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “What might we do, Brothers?” And Peter [said] to them, “You repent (!) and be baptized each on the basis of the name of Jesus Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins, and you will lay hold of the gift of the Holy Spirit: for it is the promise to you and to your children and to all who are distant, as many as God our Lord called to God’s self.Acts 2:37-39
Luke, the author of one of the gospels and Acts, tells us that Peter raised his voice and declared to his fellow Israelites (v.14) that God made Jesus—whom you [and others] crucified—lord and Christ (v.36). I will never stop loving Peter. As much as I love Paul I also love Peter. These two represent to us the totality of what it means to be creatures in relation with the Creator, humans before and with God among other human beings. Peter raised his voice and declared to his religious siblings that Jesus is the Christ, God is (still) for them; they are (still) God’s beloved. Peter who used his voice to deny Christ, now uses it to proclaim Christ crucified and raised as a measure of divine love for allof God’s people, even those, like the disciples, who were far off or hid for shame, those who carried no pedigree or status, those who had no power and found themselves immersed in the shadow of isolation and alienation.
Peter’s message emphasizes that this Jesus who was crucified and died and raised is now the divinely appointed Christ (Greek for “Messiah”) of God’s people. This man whom the house of Israel knew and crucified (they did not intervene), according to Peter, is now the Christ, the one who bears both the divine and human image (he carries Mary’s face in the world) and ushers in God’s reality. And God’s reality comes into conflict and confrontation with the reality of the kingdom of humanity. What used to be right-side up to us, after our encounter with God in the raised Jesus is now upside down; Jesus once flipped tables, now he’s flipping worlds, and the disciples—even those 2023 years later—are invited to see the upside-down world made right-side up.
Thus, when the hearts of those who heard were pierced, they asked, What might we do? (v. 37). This is the question of change; this is the question of divine encounter. It is not that God poses to us a question in this moment, but we pose a question to God: if this is the right way to see the world, from the perspective of the one whom we crucified, what do we do now? because everything else seems wrong…Not knowing what to do now because of one’s encounter with God is not a lack of faith, but evidence of it; it is also prayer, in humility there’s both a confession and a prayer for help in What might we do?
The best part of Luke’s story is Peter’s response: by means of changing their minds (repenting) and being baptized, the gifts of forgiveness of sins (missing the mark) and the receipt of the Holy Spirit are for them. And not only for them—as if it was a one-time event relegated to one generation—but also for their children and all those who are far off; for whomever God calls to God’s self. Thus anyone can be baptized, summoned unto God by God’s love made known in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter presents what it looks like to follow Christ out of the tomb, to be ushered through death into new life; this is not a formula it is formation. There are no prerequisites here, there is no demand to look this way or that, no need to be clean or made right prior to the encounter with God in the event of faith; God loves the beloved (full stop) and this love changes the beloved, sanctifies her, causes her to live and thrive, calling the beloved over and over again unto God’s self—unto life, love, and liberation. In being summoned unto God, in following Christ, it makes sense to live and live fully. Sunder warumbe.
With the resurrection of Christ, the world is turned upside down. Death is not the final word; life is. Captivity is not the final word; liberation is. Unlovable is not the final word; beloved is. Whether you know it or not, YOU ARE LOVED. Whether you want to hear it or not, YOU ARE LOVED. And the greatest part? It has nothing to do with what you do or look like or have done or will do, you are just fully loved by God right now, as is inside and out. God is love and love just loves, no ands, ifs, or buts about.
Luke exhorts us through the words of Peter to harken to this story of God’s radical and revolutionary love in the world for the benefit and wellbeing of the beloved (not only us but especially our neighbors). We need to see ourselves grafted into this story and not mere spectators watching on from a seat in the balcony. We are the object of God’s desire and yearning, we are the goal of the divine mission of love in the world, we are needed by God because God is love and love needs the beloved. You are cherished. You are prized. You are the apple of God’s eye. You are irreplaceable.
So, too, those who exist beyond the four walls of this church. The resurrection story is not a story just for us who get our ducks in a row, it’s not just for us who believe x, y, and z in just the right way and right fashion, and it’s not just for those who produce in this or that way in the world. The story of the resurrection of Christ—life out of death—is for all, for our children and those who are far off (this is what the text tells us). We are confronted today with the story of divine love and life in the world, turning the world right-side-up, liberating the captives … all the captives in the spiritual and temporal world, liberating not only souls (the inner nature) but bodies (the outer nature), too. God’s love sets us free to do something new, to live new, to love new, to be in the world as new creations, participating in God’s turning the world right-side-up for God’s beloved. Sunder warumbe.
 From Dorothee Soelle The Silent Cry a reference to Meister Eckhart.
 “Repent” can also be “change the mind” and “change the inner nature”
 “Missing the mark”
 Translation mine unless otherwise noted
 Steve Walton, “The State They Were In: Luke’s View of the Roman Empire” Reading Acts in the Discourses of Masculinity and Politics. Eds. Eric D. Barreto, Matthew L. Skinner, and Steve Walton. Library of New Testament Studies. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017. 92. “A key passage for understanding Luke’s view is Acts 4:27-30, which asserts that opposition to Jesus is the factor which unites Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel. To assert, as some do, that the Jewish people alone are held responsible for the death of Jesus is to overstate the case. Luke’s presentation is more nuanced, for he locates responsibility on the Jewish side with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. This is clear, not least, since it is only in Jerusalem itself that the apostles speak of ‘you’ as responsible for killing Jesus (Acts 2.36; 3.13, 14, 17; 4.10; 5.30; 7.52; cf. 5.28).”
 Richard J. Cassidy Society and Politics in the Acts of the Apostles Eugen, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1987. 33. “Nevertheless, the speech clearly does indict his audience and Luke subsequently reports that, when those assemble asked Peter and the apostles what they should do, Peter replied that every one of them should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (2:38).”
 Willie James Jennings Acts Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible Eds Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher. Louisville, KY: WJK, 2017. 33. “This is Israel speaking to Israel, calling to their own with the good news of the intensification of their election and of the personification of the free grace that shaped their existence from its beginning.”
 Jennings, Acts, 33. “This is precisely where the scandal that was Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s baby with all the tensions he created and all the theological, social, and political contradictions that religious and civic leaders associated with his ministry, began to spread over many bodies.”
 Jennings, Acts, 33-34. “This is a strange image, an unappealing icon-twelve men, none with exceptional credentials, no fabulous educational pedigrees, none with reservoirs of immense cultural capital to draw from, all standing in front of Israelites with nothing more than a message. We live in times when images create and carry so much power. For us, image and word, body and text, are inseparable, merging together, mutually constituting. Yet in this primordial moment the image standing before these gathered does not carry gravitas. It can never match its message. Nor will it ever. This is the eternal imbalance that that will mark preaching, a message far more powerful than its messengers. Indeed, image emerges here fully encased in witness.”
 Jennings, Acts, 35. “The Jesus you knew—crucified, dead and buried, and now alive—is both Lord and Messiah, the bearer of the divine image and reality. This is the great contradiction.”
 Jennings, Acts, 35. “It is the contradiction inside of which all the disciples of Jesus will live forever. Life inside this contradiction means, as Samuel Proctor said, that we may now see the world for what it is: upside down. The world, seen from the site of the crucified One, moving quickly from life toward death, is the real contradiction. Only from within the declaration of a God who was crucified will any words about God in this world, the real world, make sense.”
 Jennings, Acts, 36. “A change is taking place among the people of God. Faith in Israel is taking a new direction. And it all begins with a simple but terrifying question: ‘What should we do?’”
 Jennings, Acts, 36. “The question itself is at the door of offense. Although the irenic is concealed within the question, nonetheless, it suggests a necessary change for those already of committed faith. We must hear in this question the astounding work of the living God who will not be relegated to Israel’s past but will reveal divine faithfulness to ancient promise in the present moment. And in so doing, we see the precise way Israel’s Lord alters theological frames of reference by demanding more of those who believe.”
 Jennings, Acts, 37. “His response reveals language internal to the culture and theology of Israel. Repentance, forgiveness, and gift are all themes that flow through the streams of Israel’s historical consciousness. Yet now a new point of entry and departure has emerged through a new stream that flows in a new direction. All must be baptized in the new stream, baptized into Jesus.”
 Jennings, Acts, 37. “The trajectory of the text is not toward formula but formation. From this moment forward, life with God will be through Jesus, and this moment of baptism will yield life in a body turned toward the renewal of creation. The story of Israel has opened up, and Gods body has been joined to Israel’s body and will be joined to all who will come to the water, Luke signifies a redeemer who would bring all of Israel from death to life through these them more deeply into divine desire.”
 Jennings, Acts, 37-38. “Now divine hunger will be revealed. God is calling to Israel and its children and other children and their children. This calling will be contra mundi, against the world’s calling, the world’s desire for the children. It will be against this corrupt generation (v. 40). This will be the difference bound to a decision, God’s calling or the world’s calling, and at this moment the new word reveals the old tension for God’s people between listening and thus obeying the voice of the world or hearing the dabarim of Adonai, the word of the Lord.”
 From Dorothee Sölle’s Thinking about God.
 Ref. Dorothee Sölle Christ the Representative.