These lessons continue the theme from last week: seeing larger, seeing God larger, seeing a larger God.
A well-known pastor/theologian in our tradition once remarked that the purpose of education is to enable us to live in a larger world.
We might suggest that the purpose of our Christian faith is to live in such a larger world, where we can see God present in so many places with so many people. After all, if we recall our Bible, we are all created in the image of God.
Denying such a God-presence in others can lead to ‘hindering’ behavior (as the first lesson images). That behavior is less than faithful witness. This may call us to reflect on how we hinder God’s will by our behaviors.
The first lesson breaks through some of this behavior by which we can divide people according to who conforms to our ways and who does not. Peter’s visionary experience creates a new, wider, inclusive community, as God has willed. This ‘vision’ is apparently important in the Book of Acts because it is related three times. [10:11; 10:28; 11:4-9].
This ‘vision’ moves the new faith community away from the purity model of being worthy by the things we do. Instead, this revelation declares that God has made all things clean. As New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson has noted: “All things God created are declared clean by him, and are not affected by human discriminations.”
We are painfully aware of the various ‘discriminations’ practiced in our culture and communities. We pray for the vision that will see all as equally clean before God.
Prayers and best wishes to the Class of 2019 as they graduate May 19 from Ithaca College.
O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing. Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
SERMON: “All Things New”
12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.
11"At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."
5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."
When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
One of the gifts we annually to my mother at Christmas was the “Fruit of the Month” club. It was not just a gift to be received and remembered once a year at Christmas. She was reminded 12 times a year that she was loved. She would share the fruit with the ladies in her apartment building. She would also call when that month’s fruit arrived to say ‘thank you’ and that would lead to a larger conversation and visit.
In this week’s texts we hear the theme of recent weeks repeating: the fruit of God’s Spirit is larger, not confined to one place, time, nor group.
Paul is led to cross a vast body of water to share such Good News. There in that ‘foreign’ place people receive and care for him.
In the Gospel we hear that while God’s presence is seen most profoundly in Jesus, God is not confined only to Jesus. Even after Jesus returns to the Father, God’s presence will remain in the world through the coming of the Holy Spirit. John refers to that Spirit as the Advocate, one who speaks and acts on behalf of another.
Not just at Christmas nor just at Easter, but every month, every day God gifts us with the present of God’s presence. God advocates for us to love one another as God has loved us. Enjoy such fruit!
Prayers and best wishes to the Class of 2019 as they graduate May 28 from Cornell University.
Our one worship service on May 28 is at 5:00 pm, a spoken order of Holy Communion.
Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
SERMON: “ Fruit of the Month ”
On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.
22:1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.