MAY 17, 2020 The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Dear Church Family,
First, I apologize. I have been writing my comments since about 5:30 am. It is now 7am. When I went to save, copy and send to Clea, I did something — lost it all, and cannot find it. Rather than re-writing I am making a few brief comments. Please study the words of the Collect and readings. Read them again. Pause and listen. Let the Spirit guide you this week.
In the reading from Acts, note how Paul identifies with the religious inclinations of the Athenians. He does not attack, but spots what is unknown to them, then fills in the blanks. As I once read — a response to someone who does not believe in God — “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in.” When they did, then the person knew what that god looked like. They could then offer the God they believe in.
Note in the Psalm, again, as in Acts, an outward direction for the proclamation of God, God’s acts and goodness, never letting us go — even in hard times. We all have times in our lives that test us. May we be faithful and trust in the Lord.
1 Peter and the Gospel are more inwardly focused upon those in communities of Christ. Peter’s writes to people persecuted for their faith, reminding them their hope in Christ, and their response to those who persecute them — gentleness and reverence. Even our enemies and those who wish us harm or death, are God’s children. Our mission is to be witnesses of God’s love for all as Christ loves and gives himself for us. Leave the sorting out in God’s hands. Be, speak, and do Love.
John’s Jesus continues to prepare his followers for his departure. His physical and bodily presence will be gone. The Spirit will come, the Advocate, who draws them, and you and me — into unity with the Trinity. Charles Williams, a 19th Century Anglican theologian coined a term co-inherence to describe this trinitarian model. The early Christian mystics also note a non-dual existence of abiding, the Father and Son, the Spirit with and in us, drawing us into the dance of Father, Son and Spirit. That is now a life we see through our spiritual eyes, a reality and presence we experience, but is not evident to those who only see the physical side, goals and desires they have for this world. Jesus draws us into the abiding he and the Father share, by the gift of the Spirit who awakens and invites us.
Again, I apologize — just a summary.
I anticipate we shall know more shortly about a careful, guided move toward returning into the church. I wait with other clergy to hear more clarity after a meeting today to gather feedback to a task force report. I don’t know when a final statement will be ready. As I know more, I shall advise the vestry, and we shall begin taking the steps we are able and can, within the parameters set, to be safe and protect the most vulnerable among us. Continue your prayers for our leaders — in the church and nation, for decisions and their wisdom for what is best for all. For those on the frontlines and their families, for those who are suffering, due to illness, or the grieving and their pain of losing a loved one, for those yet to experience loss, for those who are separated from loved ones, and cannot be present to visit or in their dying, for the lonely and isolated friends in our lives, for each other, for children, for the hungry and homeless, and those unemployed now and unable to pay bills. I also give thanks for ways I see people creating ways to celebrate with others — safely — virtual graduations, weddings where a couple was surprised and overjoyed — friends in 30+ cars drove by, waved, and honked horns. Look for such signs of life and love that even in days like these are also around us.
Blessings, love and peace, Fr. Steve
The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020 – Year A
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Lesson — Acts 17:22-31
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.”
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams; *
I will give you oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *
and I will tell you what he has done for me.
15 I called out to him with my mouth, *
and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had found evil in my heart, *
the Lord would not have heard me;
17 But in truth God has heard me; *
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *
nor withheld his love from me.
The Epistle — 1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
Jesus said, ”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, 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.”