Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Reading:  Acts 17:16-34a Paul in Athens

‍ ‍16‍ While Paul was waiting for them in Athens,bible he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.  ‍17‍ So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.  ‍18‍ A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.  ‍19‍ Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  ‍20‍ You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”  ‍21‍ (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22‍ Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  ‍23‍ For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

‍24‍ “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  ‍25‍ And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  ‍26‍ From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  ‍27‍ God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  ‍28‍ ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

‍29‍ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill.  ‍30‍ In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  ‍

31‍ For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

‍32‍ When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”  ‍33‍ At that, Paul left the Council.  ‍34‍ A few men became followers of Paul and believed. [1]

Second Reading:  1 Peter 3:13-22 Suffering for doing right

‍13‍ Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  ‍14‍ But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.” ‍15‍ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  ‍16‍ keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  ‍17‍ It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  ‍18‍ For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  ‍19‍ through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison  ‍20‍ who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,  ‍21‍ and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  ‍22‍ who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

[2]

Gospel Reading:  John 14:15-21 The promise of the Holy Spirit

 ‍15‍ Jesus said to the Disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  ‍16‍ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  ‍17‍ the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  ‍18‍ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  ‍19‍ Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  ‍20‍ On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  ‍21‍ Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”  [3]

[1]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 17:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 3:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 14:15). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

Sermon  for 6th Sunday of Easter.

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Let’s join in a word of  prayer:
This morning, God our Father, may your grace lift us from the grip of our challenges and insecurities to be all that we have been called to be.  May your Holy Spirit inspire us to a renewed confidence, as we see the ending of this first round of Covid-19 isolation.  And may we here together recommit our lives and hearts to following your will, sharing your love for us, and living our lives of faith in your Son Jesus Christ.  Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord,  Amen.

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Christ Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.”  (John 14:15-17 NIV)

‘Martin Luther once wrote of a dream where he was in his house and saw Jesus coming up the walk toward his door. Luther examined his surrounding and realized that everything was an absolute mess. Clothes were thrown over the furniture, old food was sitting out, trash was everywhere. And he thought, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, come in to a mess like this.” He hurriedly tried to straighten up but the more he picked up the greater the mess became. Finally, Jesus was knocking at the door. Luther, resigned himself to the mess and as he opened the door, he said, “Jesus, come on in, if you think that you can come into a place like…” and as he turned he saw that everything had been put into order, everything in it’s proper place. The house was immaculate as Christ entered in. Oh, people, we make such a mess of our lives when we try to straighten them by ourselves. But if we will submit to Jesus, open our hearts to Him, He will make us immaculate, by cleansing us from sin and giving us the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and establish us as a new creature.’     

 (‘adapted from contribution by Timothy Smith on Jan 29, 2005)

I suspect there are many in the world today who say that they love God, but when Christ Jesus says, “If you love me, obey what I command,” they might say in their attitudes and actions, if not in their words, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, see the mess I made of things.”

Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives, as he asks us to keep his commandments.

When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in the believers the right words, coached them through the proper attitudes, taught them the joy of doing the right thing. But as the disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced they would have spent their time in that upper room re-living all that Jesus taught them.  Words like those we find in the Gospel reading for today, “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 forever. This is the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17 NLT)

Some of the work of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus Christ about all that he asks of us and all he will do to help us so that we can be the people who he has called us to be in love.

It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, active presence in our lives.  Often the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit that are active in the believing and worshipping community.   And indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does work in our lives and in our community in so many ways.

‘The Holy Spirit is the person and the power of God drawing people to Christ to see with new eyes of faith.  He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  Like our eyes through which we see the world around us,  we can only see our own eyes in the reflection of a mirror. The Holy Spirit is the one through whom all else is seen in the light of Christ, and we see Him clearly in the reflection of love of God and the grace of Christ Jesus.  Father and Son revealed in Scripture, and experienced in sacraments, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.’  ( Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

God knows everything about us.  He knows we are notoriously forgetful. Especially about Him.  And so, at just the right time, God poured out his Holy Spirit upon all believers, to remind us of all that Christ Jesus is and all that he has done for us.    Today’s reading and message is a foretaste of Pentecost.  It’s like  a preview of a movie that will peak our interest to experience that movie in a special way.  In two weeks, Pentecost will once again remind us to experience life with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in a special way.
 We know that we are created to love God, and to care for one another, but as the pressure builds of living in our broken world, we sometimes forget who we are and what we are supposed to do and to be in life.

The Holy Spirit led the Gospel writers to witness these precious words of Jesus and so much more.  So that whoever has “eyes to see and ears to hear” would be joined with our Lord in this life and in the life to come.  Jesus warned the Disciples that the world would not accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither knows Him nor sees Him.  Just as Paul encountered in Athens a world that recognised an unknown God, we encounter a world that rejects God in any form.  Especially the truth of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God eternally.

I have come to understand and to accept that God’s Spirit is always present, surrounding us. The challenge is that we can only recognise that we are covered over with God’s Spirit when we receive this truth in the Scriptures. By faith, we can know him. By faith, he lives within us and joins with our spirit to sing the praises of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we come to trust Scripture.  To gain comfort from it.  And to gain courage from it.   Scriptures reveal that God has determined to work salvation in this way.

Jesus wanted the Disciples to have a reality to share.  Their reality – and yet, also his reality.  By God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, their witness became our Saviour’s witness.  From the Scriptures, we discover that these two were inseparable.  Throughout the New Testament, we discover God working in the world through disciples.  He continues to work in the world today through each one of us.  We are Jesus’ disciples to our time and place.  We can make his reality our reality too.  Inseparable from our Creator, our Saviour, and our Counsellor. Even in times of separation and recovery from pandemic. 

By living our reality, with Christ Jesus at our centre, we can witness with our attitudes and actions, what our words often cannot say.  Peter offers us some helpful advice from his first letter,   ‘Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’  (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us to be living witnesses to the world.  Witnesses that God can be trusted.  Knowing that we have the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is with us forever.    

The grace and peace of our loving God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   AMEN.

 

Rev David Thompson.

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