1. Acts 8, 5-8 and
- The deacon Philip escapes from Jerusalem where the atmosphere is poisoned
against him, and went down to the city of Samaria to preach the word to a new country. They
receive that word eagerly, with one accord.
- He goes to Samaria, that half-breed place
that no self-respecting Jew would have much to do with. But listen to the reception that they give him.
If we remember that Luke took the progress of the early church as a benchmark against which the churches of his time
must measure their own progress in following the Lord, how would they stack up? And, more importantly for
us, how would we measure up against that benchmark?
- There was great joy in that city.
I recall the enthusiasm that I have seen so often in the church during retreats and special meetings. I
know what it sounds like, and I will reflect this in my voice.
- Later on they sent them Peter and John
who give to the Samaritans the gift of the Holy Spirit. I see the process of growth in the faith, and I
treat it as a natural event. I could treat the gift of the Spirit as an anticlimax after the success of
Philip’s mission, but that would be wrong. I will read this visit of the apostles as the climax that
it was, the confirmation of their initial faith and acceptance.
- Central theme: Sometimes it is our turn to preach
the word to others and increase their faith, as it was for the Samaritans. But other times we should expect
to be on the receiving end. The former mission churches in this country and in the world are maturing in
their witness of faith, and will have much to teach us in years to come. Ask the world Anglican communion.
As I read I am sometimes the preacher, and other times I am the new believers filling the city with joy.
- Message for
our assembly: Listen to what happened in Samaria. Let us be happy for them, just as we are for any new
beginning. And then let us ask ourselves: Is our church like this on confirmation days and on every day?
If not, why not?
- I will challenge myself: to hum this spiritual as I rehearse, and to let it echo
in my head as I read. “Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.”
I Peter 3, 15-18
- The apostle has some difficult things to say to the churches.
Their witness will not be comfortable, casual, or free of personal risk.
- And it is a witness. We do not live our
faith in isolation, though many try, even now in the assembly. We live it as church. Here
is a call to evangelize with gentleness and respect. Remember the mustard seed: we do
not antagonize or infuriate others with broadsides, but we persist in telling our hope to the world.
- Then the Christians
were subject to defamation or worse. Today, people are more likely to ridicule us. Or
they may compete with us for followers. Even Catholics compete with each other! Deep
down, will I admit to myself that I am one with those movement people, and will they admit the same to me? What
is the reason for your hope (note the singular) today?
- The recent literal rendering of the text has
left a more convoluted message than I used to read from the version in effect through 1998. It
is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God. This is the half sentence that
counts, and it will be lost to my listeners if I do not bring out the point. The churches were surprised
that the world was harassing them (or worse). And do we expect the world to lie down before us and leave
us free to spread the Good News?
- Our norm is Christ. People defame your good conduct in Christ. And
what happened to Christ? Put to death in the flesh. And we still expect
to be exempted from that outcome? Shall we escape the Master’s end scot-free?
- The message for our assembly: The apostle says
that it may be God’s will. It is not our fate, then, but it may be our calling. They
may wonder why I look on them so seriously today, but that’s because I have Jesus and so many martyrs on my mind.
- Climax: We do this to
follow Christ, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous. This is what makes our example
genuine and selfless.
will challenge myself: To say boldly with my eyes and expressions that, if Jesus were among us today, he would do all the
things that we are already doing!
Gospel. John 14, 15-21
these Gospels during Easter are full of assurance. Jesus of Nazareth is about to leave his disciples.
The world will no longer see me. But he will not leave them alone.
I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. And again: The Father
will give you another Advocate to be with you always.
- Like other passages from John’s Gospel,
the evangelist deals in impressions, not in logical progressions. Don’t we repeat ourselves in the
family when we have something very important we want others to remember? If I am not aware of this and
just read one sentence after another, my listeners probably will not remember very much. So it is up to
me to dwell with understanding on the key points of love, presence, companionship.
- The more we live together as church, open to who Jesus
is, the better we will appreciate what Jesus is saying because we have seen it happen so often before. That
is what I want to get across with the sweep of my eyes across the assembly.
- It is a Spirit that not everyone
can see or want to see. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him.
We deal all day long with facts. But the Spirit is on another level: a Spirit of truth.
As John has already said, we worship God in Spirit and in truth. So we are not on the realm of facts,
but in a moment of life dedication, of fidelity to God.
- Here is a presence that is more real than the presence of the man Jesus.
And it comes alive when you keep my commandments. And what is the greatest commandment:
- The central theme: It begins in the first sentence. Keeping the commandment
of Jesus means to remain in his love. The Spirit is among us to the extent that we remain in this love.
- Message for our
assembly: How do we measure up to these promises? Do we know the Spirit who remains with us and
is in us?
- I will challenge myself: To witness to the Spirit that is being given so abundantly in our
church in this season. To help breathe a community between God and us. To show that
we are never alone as long as we have love for each other.
to Eucharist: Where is the Spirit recognized in our procession today? Isn't it the Spirit who sanctifies our gifts
and makes them Christ's Body? Are we ready?