Readings and Themes for Worship - May 2021
2 May – 1 John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-8
Our passage today paints a picture of a perfect ecosystem of love: God who is love, loves us, and because of this primary and preceding love we are subsequently able to love, and when we love we abide in God and God in us, and by this abiding and love we to keep the commandment to love one another. This is the ecosystem we Christians live within, the love of God which makes all other love possible and necessary. It is an ecosystem perfectly balanced to generate the fruit of the Spirit in order that our lives, those of our neighbours, and indeed the life of whole of the created world may flourish. When things feel out of whack, consider if we have somehow isolated ourselves from this ecosystem, and allow the pursuing and attracting love of God to draw us lovingly back in.
9 May – John 15:9-17
It is easy to conceive of commandments as onerous, exacting, and dry; a burdensome curtailing of what should be a freeing relationship with God. In this passage, however, Jesus remarks that his commandments are given so that the disciples may love one another; indeed this commandment is given to the disciples not within the framework of servitude, but of friendship. This commandment, like those throughout the breadth of Scripture, sprout from the same seed: God’s loving desire that we would order our collective lives in a way the precipitates love of God and neighbour.
This doesn’t mean that every commandment across Scripture needs to be followed in its literal sense; but I do think it asks us to approach commandments with a generous heart to ask how they might have appeared as an outworking of God’s desire in that community at that time, and to also use this lens to look at the commandments (written and unwritten) in our churches and society to test whether they too fit the brief of a gift given to help us love one another.
16 May – John 17:6-19
The book of Hebrews describes Jesus as our great high priest, and in this passage from John that priesthood is on full display. Jesus is praying intercession over his friends, praying that though he is about to depart from them physically they will be held eternally in the loving arms of the Father. Jesus also prays as one who knows the trials and testing of this world, as one who fully understands what his disciples will face (which is again in keeping with the teaching of Hebrews). The good news for us, is that Jesus, the great high priest, is also the Lord of Time, the eternal Son of glory, seated at the right hand of the Father to whom all authority over heaven and earth has been given, and this very same Jesus prays this prayer over all who follow after him – unbound by time and location. Jesus prays this prayer over you and me at every moment. This means that Jesus’ breathtakingly beautiful words: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine” are as true for us as they have been for any and all of God’s dearly beloved children.
23rd May — ‘The Feast of Pentecost’
It is a lay lector’s nightmare lesson and even those who wear the collar tread lightly in the linguistic territory of “Phrygia and Pamphylia.” But then the confusion of language has spawned more trouble than mispronunciations and the divisions that begin with the inability to understand what the other is saying are too often translated into the universal language of bigotry and violence. In whatever way we understand the historical Day of Pentecost the meaning could not be clearer. The lines of language that divide were erased by the “Spirit poured out on all flesh.” Of course the language that was understood on that day was discounted as tongue tied drunkenness but there was a moment when the confusion of the Tower of Babel was reversed and suddenly every tongue was translated into the powerful deed of God that is the cross of Jesus Christ. It didn’t take long for the universal language of mercy to be confused and confined and the ability to speak in tongues became more important than understanding what was said. But the Day of Pentecost was not about speaking in tongues. It was about declaring the powerful deeds of God in ways that people could understand no matter where they came from or what language they spoke.
30th May - 'The Feast of the Holy Trinity'
The truth of “God so loved the world…” is diminished if we add conditional clauses that limit the ability of the wind of the Spirit to blow wherever it chooses. In the same way we demean the sacrifice of “he gave his only Son” by insisting that the Spirit wind of God’s love must blow everywhere for everyone. We do not know the magnitude or the limitations of God’s mercy although to insist on a verbal confession of a personal relationship and a particular way of being baptized would seem to usurp God’s prerogative to do whatever God pleases. And if the life of Jesus gives us any clue it would seem that the only people who should be concerned are the very religious people – in Jesus’ day Pharisees and Sadducees and teachers of the law. The good news for those of us who are blessed to believe and those who do not is that the wind of the Spirit blows where it will and if the cross is any indication of God’s intent it will be a mighty merciful wind indeed.
This is the Word of the Lord:
Thanks be to God.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Praise be to You, Lord Jesus Christ.