6th Sunday of Easter

Collect

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
                   to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

 

Acts 10.44-48

While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

 

1 John 5.1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

 

John 15.9-17

Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”

 

Reflection by Rodney Fox

 

Today is the Sixth, and last, Sunday of Easter.  Thursday is Ascension Day, which is followed, ten days later by Pentecost and, finally, one week later we come to Trinity Sunday.  Three major festivals all in the space of one month.  You might perhaps be forgiven for wondering why they aren’t spaced out a bit more rather than all coming together, like buses.  I am hoping that our two readings this morning might provide some clues as to why these three festivals are linked so closely to one another.

 

We know, because the readings during the Easter season have told us, that following his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his followers.  The purpose of these appearances seems to have been both to reassure them that he really had risen from the dead and to continue preparing them for the missionary role that would be theirs once he left them.  For leave them at some point he would have to because, reassuring though his resurrection appearances were to those who were present, only a limited number of people, who were at a particular time and place, were able to experience them.  Great for them, but everyone else is dependent on their witness.  Jesus warned his disciples that before long he would leave them to return to his Father in heaven but, he also told them, that he would not leave them unsupported because he would ask his Father and he would send another to be with them, the Holy Spirit.

 

So it was that one day he walked down to Bethany with the disciples, where he blessed them before departing from them.  The disciples variously described his departure as being hidden in a cloud, as ascending into heaven and as leaving them gazing up to the sky looking for him.  They must have walked back to Jerusalem feeling somewhat subdued and slightly anxious about what the future would hold.  But, as we know, they didn’t have to wait long before that promise that they would not be left unsupported was fulfilled in a powerfully dramatic fashion.  The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was marked with roaring wind, with flames of fire and with huge excitement.  And rather than being scared by it all, the disciples were inspired and emboldened.

 

In our first reading from the Acts, we heard how, some considerable time later, when Peter was preaching the gospel, the Spirit came on all those who responded to his words, both Jew and Gentile.  The story illustrates how the Holy Spirit comes not just to the disciples on the day of Pentecost but to all who hear the word – including you and me – to inspire and encourage us to go forth and bear fruit, as Jesus commanded that his followers should.  Evidently the Ascension and Pentecost are part of the same change in circumstance, in which Jesus ceases to appear physically to his followers, because such appearances are limited in who can actually experience them, and returns to his Father, who then sends the Holy Spirit, who can inspire and enable all those who hear and respond to the gospel in every time and location.  The Ascension and Pentecost are really part of the same ‘handover’ of responsibility for supporting the Christian family.

 

In our second reading from John’s gospel, Jesus is explaining to the disciples about the importance of love – the glue that binds him to the Father, that binds the disciples to him, and that is to be the glue that will bind them to one another.  And you will recall that passage, a bit later in John’s gospel, in which Jesus talks to the disciples about God and himself, saying firstly that he who has seen him has seen the Father and that he is in the Father and the Father is in him, and then telling them that, at his request, the Father will send the Holy Spirit who will come and dwell in them.  Which brings us to the Trinity, because both the disciples and we have experienced all three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit and need to try to understand how they are related.  To answer that, we must go back to that second reading in which Jesus, as he constantly did, by both word and deed, emphasises the importance of love.  Jesus is talking about what the American mystic, Richard Rohr, calls the Divine Dance, in which the three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have participated throughout eternity, a relationship of love so strong that they literally dwell in one another, a single God, an extreme example of how a long-married couple may come to know one another so well that they know each other’s thoughts without any words being spoken.  Out of this divine relationship of love bubbles forth the creativity that caused the world and all of us to come into being, and the sacrifice that saves us from ourselves, and the inspiration that draws us into participating in the dance ourselves through our love for God and our fellow human beings.  It is why the Trinity is celebrated because it is about the love of God, the cause, the hope, and the inspiration of everyone and everything that exists. 

 

We are each of us made in the image of God in the sense that we are made to replicate the divine dance in our own lives and relationships, and we are invited to participate in God’s own dance.  That is why the events of the Ascension and Pentecost are inextricably linked to our understanding of God, the Three in One, the source of all love and life and hope and inspiration

With all this to think about and celebrate, this is quite a month.  Thanks be to God.  Amen

 

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.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 John 5.1-6 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Acts 10.44-48 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 15.9-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (6th of Easter) ©  1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services
Collect (6th of Easter, Short) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2005