05-17-2020 Sermon

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2020SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

Introduction

Jesus does not abandon his followers. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus comes to abide with his disciples of every generation. As Pentecost draws near, we are reminded that the risen Christ dwells in us as the Spirit of truth. We receive this Spirit in baptism and pray that in our gathering around the Lord’s table the Spirit will transform us to be the body of the risen Christ in the world.

Greeting

P: Alleluia! Christ is risen.

C:Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

P:The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God. and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

C:And also with you.

Confession And Forgiveness

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who gives us a new birth into a living hope, who raises us with Christ from death, who fills us with the Holy Spirit.

C:Amen.

P: Let us repent of our sin and claim the promise of God.

Silence is kept for reflection.

P: Living God,

C:we confess before you and one another our futile ways, our pursuit of perishable things, our own part in crucifying the Lord Jesus. Forgive us, O God; renew the face of the earth; and give us the assurance that you have rescued us from the power of sin and made us alive in the Spirit forever. Amen.

P: Christ suffered for sins once for all in order to bring you to God. Now you are God’s people; now you have received mercy. In the name of the risen + Lord Jesus, I declare to you that your sins are forgiven. Lay aside guilt, put away shame, for you are chosen and precious in God’s sight. Live in the marvelous light of Christ.

C:Amen.

Special Music “In Christ Alone”

Prayer of the Day

P: Almighty and ever-living God,

C:you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 17:22-31

In Athens, Paul faces the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing of either Jewish or Christian tradition. He proclaims that the “unknown god” whom they worship is the true Lord of heaven and earth who will judge the world with justice through Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead.

22Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For 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. 24The 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, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From 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, 27so 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. 28For ‘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.’
29Since 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. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because 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.”

Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17

8Bless our God, you peoples;
  let the sound of praise be heard.
9Our God has kept us among the livingand has not allowed our feet to slip.
  16Come and listen, all you who believe,
  and I will tell you what God has done for me.
17I called out to God with my mouth,and praised the Lord with my tongue.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

The author of 1 Peter encourages Christians to remain faithful even in the face of defamation and persecution. In baptism we are made clean to act in accordance with what is right.

13Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but 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; 16yet 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. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18For 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, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who 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. 21And 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, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel: John 14:15-21

In final words to his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus encourages obedience to his commandments and speaks of the Spirit, who will be with them forever.

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This 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.
  18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They 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.”

Special Music“The Bond of Love”

Sermon

Prayers of Intercession

P: Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

P: Abiding God, you have revealed yourself to us in the form of your Son, Jesus Christ. Embolden your church, as your followers, to reveal your love to everyone in our speaking and in our living. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: You are the creator of heaven and earth. Revitalize the health of oceans, rivers, lakes, springs, glaciers, and other bodies of water that give life to your creatures. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: You call all people of the world your children. Judge the nations justly, show mercy to the oppressed, and speak truth to power through your prophets. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: You come near to us when we are lost, and you hear our distress. We pray for those who suffer in any way (especially). Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: Your commands are good and merciful. Give us courage to take hold of our baptismal promises to work for justice, advocate for the voiceless, and free the oppressed and imprisoned in body, mind, or spirit. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

P: You remain with us always, O God, and your kingdom has no end. We remember the saints who have gone before us (especially). Unite us forever in your final victory over death. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.

C:Amen.

Blessing

  As you go on your way may Christ go with you.  May he go before you to show you the way; May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you; Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.  In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.  Amen.

Streams Theme Song

See the streams of living waters, 

springing from eternal love, 

well supply your sons and daughters, 

and all fear of want remove.  

Who can faint while such a river 

ever will their thirst assuage? 

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, 

never fails from age to age.

PASTOR’S SERMON

6 EASTER—5-17-2020—JOHN 14:15-21

Kathleen Chesto wrote to Catholic Digest to tell them about an incident that occurred in her family. Her five-year-old child approached her one day in the kitchen and asked, “Mom, is God a grown-up or a parent?”

Mom was a little puzzled by the question. “I’m not sure what you mean,” she said. “Is there a difference between a grown-up and a parent?” “Oh yes,” her five-year-old answered quickly. “Grown-ups love you when you are good and parents love you anyway.”

Jesus did not command the disciples to be eloquent preachers or skilled leaders or courageous witnesses to an unbelieving society. He commanded them to love one another just as he had loved them. A commandment, coming from God in the flesh, is non-negotiable. It’s not what Jesus wished for us or recommended for us. It’s what he commanded us to do.

Actually, every one of God’s commands is a challenge to us, but it’s also a gift to us. God’s commands protect us from harm and provide order and justice in human relationships. So we can hear the word “command” as a burden or a challenge, or we can hear it as a gift. And I think that’s what Jesus intended with his new commandment. Loving like Jesus loves is the central requirement for discipleship because it gives our life purpose, it requires a sacrifice, and it changes lives.

Loving like Jesusgives our life purpose.In this sense, Jesus’ command is a gift. How many of us know people who are never satisfied, who are always chasing after some accomplishment or milestone that will give them a sense of purpose? It’s exhausting to build your life around titles or accomplishments or image.

When you base your life’s purpose on external values or achievements, then you are always living with a divided mind. Nothing is ever good enough. You never know when you have fulfilled your purpose. Jesus gave us a gift when he took this conflict away from us.

When Jesus commanded us to love one another as he loved us, he was removing our own agenda and priorities and replacing them with his own. The moment you accept Jesus as your Lord, your life purpose becomes loving others like Jesus did. No title or accomplishment can provide the joy and satisfaction of putting love into action on behalf of others.

When Roger was in junior high his parents divorced and he moved to Ohio with his mother and siblings into a crowded house. He spent most nights sleeping on a cold floor or in a tiny closet. “It’s just the situation we were in,” Roger remembers.

Roger’s childhood struggles taught him to be sensitive to others in need, and to build his life around something more than his own happiness. Then one day Roger came across a statistic about how many children did not have beds in his home county of Lorain, Ohio. Stunned by this information, he decided to do something about it.

He found a nonprofit organization in Idaho called Sleep in Heavenly Peace that makes bunk beds for children in need. Roger flew to Idaho to learn how to make the bunk beds, then flew back to Ohio to start a chapter of this non-profit in his hometown. He recruited a team of volunteers and sponsors, and they began making bunk beds for children in need in Lorain, Ohio.

“It’s all worth it when you see the smiles on the faces of these kids,” Roger says. “There was this one little girl who asked: why are you doing this? I told her, because we love you.” Roger found his life’s purpose in building bunk beds for children who did not have a bed. In other words, he found his life purpose in loving others. And his commitment to this purpose brings him great joy and inspires and touches the lives of others. Jesus’ mission and message live on in his work.

Loving likeJesus also requires sacrifice. Sacrificing some part of yourself for something or someone you love only enlarges your love and grows you into the person God created you to be. In fact, I would argue that sacrifice is the greatest proof of love. Jesus told his disciples in our passage for today that if we love him, then he will show himself to us. What an astounding promise! Jesus will show himself to those who love him. And Jesus gave us the ultimate example of sacrificing himself for those he loved. So, when we sacrifice ourselves in an act of love, we are letting the spirit of Jesus come alive in us.  

Let me tell you about a Christian woman by the name of Maria Dyer. Maria was born in 1837 on the mission field in China. Her parents died when Maria was young, and she was sent to live with relatives in England. But Maria caught her parents’ missionary spirit even though they were no longer with her physically. At age sixteen, she and her sister returned to China to serve as missionaries themselves.

A few years later, Maria married a missionary named Hudson Taylor, a name that many of you will recognize. The two of them worked to disciple the Chinese people in Ningbao, and to care for many destitute Chinese children. Their ministry together was powerful, but tragically short. Maria died of cholera at the age of forty-three. But her tombstone bore these words: “For her to live was Christ, and to die was gain.”

Maria Dyer Taylor understood the sacrifices God was calling her to make. Her parents had died on the mission field. Four of her children died on the mission field. Other Christian organizations often criticized the Taylor’s ministry. None of these heartbreaks or frustrations affected her commitment. She always knew that she would give up her life to spread the message of Jesus to the Chinese people. Loving like Jesus requires sacrifice. 

And finally, loving like Jesus changes lives. Love is the most powerful force in the universe because it has the power of life in it. It has the power to create new things, to open minds, to heal hearts, to unite enemies, to make a difference. You cannot carry the power of love in your heart and mind and not be changed. This is how Jesus fulfilled his promise that he will show himself to those who love him. When we love like Jesus, he changes our identity and our priorities into his identity and his priorities. And that change does not just affect our lives. It affects all those around us too.  

Back in 2006, journalist Cathleen Falsani covered an awards ceremony in which a French man named Jean Vanier was receiving a humanitarian award for his work with people with disabilities.

In 1964, Vanier had witnessed how few social supports were available for people with disabilities in France. His faith in God motivated him to invite two men with intellectual disabilities to come live with him. Vanier discovered that this small sacrifice was a greater blessing to him than it was to his new friends.

He then began teaching others about the blessings of living in community with people who were different from them. Jean Vanier called his small home L’Arche, which is French for “The Ark.” Vanier’s example inspired people all over the world to follow his example and to also create communities in which people with intellectual and physical disabilities could live among others without those same disabilities as families. Today, there are more than 150 L’Arche homes in 37 countries, all built on the principles of love that Jean Vanier taught.

Cathleen Falsani did not expect that Vanier’s talk that day would bring her to tears. She did not know that this routine journalistic assignment would change her life. But when Jean Vanier said, “The quest is not just believing in God, but believing in other people. Believing in ourselves as children of God, and that we are called to see other people as God sees them, not as we would like them to be.” Vanier’s words changed Cathleen Falsani’s life. These words caused a shift in her priorities. They caused her to see the world differently. She began looking for new opportunities to love others.

A year later, Cathleen and her husband won a two-week trip to Africa. On their visit, their guide asked if he could introduce them to someone special. That someone special was a street orphan named Vasco. Vasco’s parents had died of AIDS, and Vasco lived as a beggar on the streets. He had a serious heart condition that was sapping his strength. Cathleen and her husband had made a commitment to love like Jesus. So, they just could not walk away when they met this needy child. They paid to bring Vasco to the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery.

A year later, they legally adopted him. And the Falsanis discovered, like Jean Vanier had once said, that they received the greater blessing from this act of love. Today, Vasco is a healthy young college student. He is a living testament to the truth that loving like Jesus can change lives.How did Jesus prepare his disciples to carry on his mission after he was gone? The same way he prepares us today. By giving us a singular purpose that requires sacrifice and that will change our lives. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” AMEN.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.

Spiritual Communion is excerpted from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.