Engaging the Word: Readings for 4/24/16 (The Fifth Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh 

Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Peter persuades his critics that God’s salvation is available to all, John sees a new heaven and a new earth, and Jesus gives the new commandment that we love one another.

Peter’s Vision, from “Treasures of the Bible,” 1894. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Peter’s Vision, from “Treasures of the Bible,” 1894. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 11:1-18: In last week’s reading we read of the raising of Tabitha. The lectionary skips Chapter 10, which tells two important stories: how Peter learned that the gospel message was to be shared with everyone—Jews and Gentiles alike, and the conversion of Cornelius and his household. Cornelius and his household heard Peter tell about Jesus and “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

This week’s reading begins when Peter returned to Jerusalem and faced the criticism of the legalistic Jewish believers who wanted to know why he ate and hung around with Gentiles.  Peter described his repeated visions—one where a large sheet filled with all sorts of unclean animals came down from heaven and a voice said, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Peter also told them about the voice of the Spirit who told him not to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The crowd is stunned into silence when Peter ended by saying, “If 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?” Then they realized that God was working in a new way, and they exclaimed “Then God has given even to Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” This marked a major shift in the expansion of the early church.

Psalm 148: This week’s psalm is bursting with praise, calling on all creation to praise the Lord. I always think of this as a great psalm for Earth Day, which is on Friday, April 22 this year.

Revelation 21:1-6: Our reading from Revelation may be familiar, as it is one of the selections for the New Testament readings used at funerals.  John sees a new heaven and a new earth—in a way it sounds like a restoration of Eden—when God himself will dwell with mortals, and even death and mourning and crying and pain will be no more.

Christ’s farewell to the disciples by Alexander Ivanov (1806-58). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ’s farewell to the disciples by Alexander Ivanov (1806-58). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 13:31-35: This week’s reading is an excerpt from Jesus’ farewell discourse. It takes place at the Last Supper. Judas had gone out, and Jesus knows that his time has drawn near. Jesus gives advice for how the disciples will be able to continue after he is gone. He gives them—and us—“a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is an amazing scene. Jesus is facing his own imminent death, but is still focused on his disciples, and how they—and we–are to live in community in such a way that all the world will know God’s love.

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