Sunday 17th May – 6th Sunday of Easter


Collect

Risen Christ,
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.

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First Reading

Acts 17.22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”   What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.  From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us.  For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”   Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.  While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

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 Gospel

John 14.15-21

 Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.  I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

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Easter 6 – Reflection

Think of the plots of any number of different stories or films where the idea of love is being used as a bribe to get someone to do something they otherwise would not do. Dangerous stuff, as often the person who utters the ‘if you love me’ bribe does not really love the person with whom they are dealing… so that any bargain struck or deal dealt is carried out on unlevel ground.

So when we hear today’s Gospel, we have to sit back and think. We may be reminded of the times that people have told or asked us about whether we love them or not, or whether we are willing to make sacrifices in the name of some form of love. The big difference is that it is Jesus who is presenting us with this statement: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’

Love is about being in relationship with other people. There are, of course, different levels of love. We often say as Christians that we love our neighbours without really knowing who they are. There is also the kind of love we feel for friends, for children, for spouses, and even a type of love we reserve for things like chocolate or rugby or even both.

The love that God shows for humanity is a love without bounds. Our God is the God of Creation who brought order out of chaos, our God is the God of Israel who brought slaves into the promised land, our God is the one who when we have gone astray from God s principles has sent prophets to call us back to justice, and our God is the one who is also Jesus our teacher, prophet and saviour who tells us that love is not reserved for the powerful but is also for the least of these.

In this passage from John we find ourselves back in time before the death and resurrection. Jesus is telling the disciples that tragedy awaits him, that one of them will betray him, and that there will soon be a time where he is not with them in the same way he is now, but all of this is set, however, in the context of reassurance. Jesus tells the disciples that they will not be abandoned by God as events unfold. They are told that God will send a new advocate that will help the disciples and future generations discern the will of God as new issues and problems emerge. The advocate, the Holy Spirit will be the voice of God, of Jesus and we will never be alone.

Jesus asked no small thing of the disciples when he said: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. There can sometimes be a sense in so many of our churches regardless of denominational affiliation that following Jesus commandments is a relatively easy task to accomplish. Like Christians of all ages, we can confuse our cultural and social norms with Christian values.  Sadly, slavery, wars, and even environmental degradation have all been justified by people claiming that their actions are Christian. Being a Christian and following Jesus teachings is a struggle.

In one of his books on Jesus, the American theologian Marcus Borg writes that:

To be a disciple meant to follow after. Whoever would be my disciple, Jesus said, Let him follow me. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? It means to take seriously what he took seriously, to be like him in some sense. It is what St. Paul meant when he said, Be imitators of Christ. What Jesus was like as a figure of history becomes a model of discipleship, illuminating and making real the vision of life to which he called his followers.

 If we love Jesus, we have to constantly be taking stock of our lives and our church and asking how it is we are faithful to Jesus’ commandments. How do we let the Holy Spirit guide us on our spiritual journey?

If we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments.  If we’re not always sure what the best way to do that is – then we can pause and pray three words Come, Holy Spirit and be open to letting God transform our lives in unexpected, unsettling, and blessed ways.    Amen