Friday, May 11, 2012
Sunday 13th May, 2012 Sixth Sunday after Eater Sentence Jesus said, ‘You did not choose Me but I chose you; and I appointed you to go and bear fruit.’ John 15:16 Collect Eternal God, Whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; grant that we may walk in His way, rejoice in His truth, and share His risen life; Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen First Lesson Acts 10: 44 – 48 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. Psalm 98 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvellous things; His right hand and his holy arm: they have got Him the victory The Lord has made known His salvation: He has revealed His just deliverance in the sight of the nations He has remembered His mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel: and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth: break into singing and make melody. Make melody to the Lord upon the harp: upon the harp and with sounds of praise With trumpets and with horns: cry out in triumph before the Lord the King Let the sea roar, and all that fills it: the good earth and those who live upon it Let the rivers clap their hands: and let the mountains ring out together before the Lord For He comes to judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity. Epistle 1 John 5: 1 – 12 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. GOSPEL John 15: 9 – 17 Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. © New Revised Standard Version of the Bible Copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and used by permission. All rights reserved NOTES ON THE READINGS First Lesson This story of the baptism of Cornelius, Roman centurion, is of great interest when one realizes the situation in which Peter found himself. (It is far too easy, in reading and responding to Scripture, to imagine that the authors were writing to you. They were not! They were writing for anyone who would read, indicating their view of what was happening as the Infant Church reached out.) And that this is the point of this (and other) tales in Acts. One tends to respond and react to circumstances and people in the way that other Christians tend to see as orthodox and true. Sadly, that narrowing of vision may well produce the exact opposite result that otherwise may have been produced. Thank heavens that Peter responded to this situation as a result of the dream he had. Put it another way, Peter responded according to his intuition, a gift often down-graded by the more holy ones amongst us. Although this incident, in particular, raised the ire and then the debate of Christians concerning Gentiles, it resulted in something that, if avoided, would have seen the Way reduced to a sect of Judaism, that would die out in less than a generation. Psalm This psalm is another of those used in the Book of Common Prayer at Morning and Evening Prayer, one which we used to sing regularly in Church in my youth. Jubilate Deo it was called, and was sung in that spirit. Whilst as a young person, the impact of the words tended to go over our heads, the almost-excitement did not. Later years enabled a closer and more pensive look at the words, which actually provide the grounds to explore life and faith. Never forget that – the outcome is optimistic. Epistle This particular passage provides quite some angst for many commentators, and a lot of rather false expectation amongst believers. When John talks about ‘our faith’ overcoming the world, he is not talking about your faith, but the Christian Faith. Overcoming the world, of course, does not mean belting the opposition into submission, but providing the answer to the human dilemma that bothers all of humanity. Here is neither magic nor sleight of hand, but a way to live that offers reconciliation and hope. Love is that way, as Jesus portrayed, love and truth and integrity. GOSPEL And this Gospel simply fills in the gaps if there are any left in your mind. I find it interesting that St. Paul’s ‘take’ on loving one another is expressed in terms of ‘putting up with each other.’ Paul was ever the pragmatist! NOTES FOR A SERMON Many years ago, in the parish where I then worked, we had a retired clergyman of some repute, who had happened to be the parish priest for my paternal grandparents almost a generation or more before. He was a lovely man, a little fey perhaps, and his ancestry may have had a little to do with that. He was born in Sri Lanka, with some Singhalese blood, and Portuguese and a little Irish too, I suspect. Other Anglican clergy in the city tended to write him off because of his unusual approach to life, but that was their loss, not everyone else’s! What brings him to mind in this Sunday’s readings has something to do with Peter’s response to the problem facing him. Monty was retired and in his 80s when I knew him, and when he was well enough he would get into his similarly aged Toyota and head for the Base Hospital. It was not far away from his home and how he had time to respond to what follows still escapes me somewhat. AS he headed to the Hospital, a thought would cross his mind, and he would turn around and go and call on someone whose name or situation hit his air-space. Time and again, when he would call on those folk, he would be met with ‘I was going to ring you, Canon’ for some need or other has occurred and he was the answer to their prayers. Even at the Hospital he would change tack if someone there had come to his mind. When moderns talk of ‘random acts of kindness’ the old Canon was forever following that path. His ministry was so totally invaluable simply because he followed his instincts, or if you prefer to put it another way, he followed the leading of the Spirit. You will be certain to know, and perhaps to have experienced a sense of needing to do something in response to a person or a need, and not having done so because it all felt a little silly or over-dramatic. The passage of time left you feeling somewhat sillier because you did nothing. Mind you, there will be times when it was all a little silly, but that only makes the wonderful ‘coincidences’ rather better and more significant. It is a matter of being open to the Spirit, aware of the direction of the Faith, and responding simply as one human to another. When dear old St. John wrote about ‘this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith,’ this is what he was on about. It is not my faith of which he wrote, but the Faith.’ Far from being closed up and defensive against all comers, this Faith, like its Lord, is ever open to people as people, whether they are in need or not. It is self –giving and not self-demanding. Cost is not the issue; fellowship and caring is. And that is it all in a nutshell. For the inquisitive Dear old John produced some conundrums, of which one is embedded in today’s Epistle. If you are a little confused by the three witnesses he mentions, please be aware that in Jewish legal circles, anyone laying a charge or producing evidence against or for someone needed three witnesses. Although it may sound a little fanciful to us these days, John pointed to the three lines of witness to establish Jesus’ credentials.