Acts 1, 15-17 and 20-26
- Peter addresses an assembly of one hundred twenty persons.
It sounds like one of our own routine club meetings, during which a new board member must be chosen. Let me listen for the spiritual message.
- First he nearly gives a eulogy for Judas, who was the guide
for those who arrested Jesus, who was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. Now Peter didn’t have to tell them who Judas was!
- He says it because the Scripture had to be fulfilled
and another had to be chosen. We gain an insight into the self-concept of the
twelve. They are not just the people who were present the whole time the Lord
Jesus came and went among us. It is a new era. Jesus has appointed them as witnesses to his resurrection.
We are hearing the beginning of offices in this movement, and that makes ‘witness’ the word I have to emphasize.
- I note the differences between two decision processes. When Jesus chose the twelve he first observed the people around him and then called
them to him decisively: Follow me. Here the assembly proposed two
candidates, and did not make the choice themselves by democratic vote! But neither
did Peter issue an edict! They prayed to the Lord Jesus: Show which
one you have chosen. And then they gave lots to them, a standard selection
process in many ancient cultures that allowed human beings to align their actions with those of the God of heaven.
- It is nearly the only decision taken by the disciples, as reported in Acts, between the Ascension and
- Central point: The assembly continued to look for guidance from
the Lord, not relying primarily on their own powers of judgment. Acts emphasizes
- Message for our assembly: Maybe the church is not a democracy,
but we should beware in turn of identifying this mystery we live with monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy – even theocracy
– or any other manifestation of human agency.
- I will challenge myself: To tease out the deeper meaning of the church’s
calling from these apparently mundane group minutes.
I John 4, 11-16
- I hear a continuation of the reading from last week, in which the apostle described God as pure love for us. What does he add in this passage?
- This is not just praise of great love. I hear the invitation to imitate
that love, to return it, to re-affirm it. If we love one another, God remains
in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. What kind of God is this,
who cares at all whether we also love? Can I begin to appreciate how magnetic
this message must have been for the people of the near east? What about our own
State, so outwardly Christian but so coldly indifferent to the fate of men and women?
- This is how we know that we remain in him. John
wrote about signs, and he gives us some now. He has given us of his Spirit. It is present among us; do we acknowledge it?
We testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Do
we bow before Jesus and pay attention to him?
- The word ‘love’ is repeated seven times. It is not an empty
word for the apostle, and it will not be in my mouth. He gives it a mooring in
our life in community, in relation to ourselves and to God. The original Greek
word is agape, self-giving rather than self-seeking. I only have to vary
the way I say it each time, to help my listeners keep these connections in mind.
- Climax: The final restatement, reminding me for all time of Clarence Rivers’ communion song. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
- The message for our assembly: Are we generous enough, open enough to God’s invitation, so that we can imitate
the divine love?
- I will challenge myself: To make God’s invitation irresistible to all who hear me.
John 17, 11-19
- Jesus prays for his disciples before he suffers. It is
an outstanding example of God’s self-giving love. Keep them in your
name … so that they may be one just as we are one.
- Jesus does not talk about an end but about a new beginning, a new stage. As
you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And he promises
that they will not go alone: I consecrate myself for them.
- I hear three words that integrate the entire passage: name, word, truth. They describe God’s communication to us just as love
did in the previous reading.
- Another key word that I hear over and over is world. It
describes the disciples’ mission, now that I am coming to you. They
do not belong to the world.
- It will not be easy for the disciples. When I was with them I protected
them. The world hated them.
- More petitions from Jesus. Let them share my joy completely. We will never be separated from him. Keep
them from the evil one. We pray this ourselves in the Lord’s Prayer. Consecrate them in the truth. I
remember that the evangelist has very little concern for dogmatic formulas, insisting rather on living the truth in our love
for each other.
- Climax: Consecrate them in the truth. Your word
- Message for our assembly: The four gospels do not play down the real danger that surrounded Jesus and his disciples. This reading does not back away from it. How
can we in our assemblies disregard it? Do we identify with the disciples, called
to witness to the world that God loves?
- I will challenge myself: To make the words of Jesus
memorable for the congregation.