Engaging the Word: Readings for 5/1/16 (The Sixth Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh

Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, the Christian church expands into Europe, John describes his vision of the New Jerusalem, and Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples.

Baptism of Lydia by Marie Ellenrieder, 1861. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Baptism of Lydia by Marie Ellenrieder, 1861. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 16:9-15: Acts tells the story of the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles to spread the gospel and expand the church. This week’s reading shows the church expanding into Europe.

Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him to come to Macedonia, which was a Roman colony, and help them. Paul understands the vision to be a call from God. Immediately Paul and Silas set sail on what turns out to be a three-year mission trip that covered about 2,000 miles. When they arrived in the Macedonian city of Philippi, they met Lydia, “a worshiper of God” and dealer in purple cloth. The phrase “a worshiper of God” indicates that she was a Gentile who worshiped the Jewish God and followed Jewish laws, but had not converted to Judaism. As she listened to Paul preach, “The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly.” Lydia and her household were baptized. She invited Paul and company to stay with her and they accepted her generous hospitality.

This story reminds me that conversions are God’s work. Paul preached, but the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. And so Lydia became the first Christian convert in Europe. It also reminds me that God’s grace transcends national and spiritual boundaries.

Psalm 67: This week’s psalm celebrates God’s gracious blessing to Israel and calls on all the nations of the earth to praise God’s abundant goodness to all creation. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth (vs.4).” Like the reading from Acts, our psalm echoes the idea that the life-giving power of God is available to all.

The River of Life, Nelson Cathedral, NZ. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The River of Life, Nelson Cathedral, NZ. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5: In the passage from Revelation, John has a wonderful vision of hope—as the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven. It’s a city of light where there is no more night—the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. He sees the river of the water of life, the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit. And if everything is bathed in light, the nations are healed and “Nothing accursed will be found there any more.” Maybe we can think of this time we are living in now as a prequel to the glorious end-time to come.

John 14:23-29: In our gospel reading, Jesus continues his parting words to his disciples at the Last Supper. He teaches the disciples how they are to carry on in his absence.

Tile from Peace Wall, Hamilton, NZ. Public domain via Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Tile from Peace Wall, Hamilton, NZ. Public domain via Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

This week’s reading begins in answer to a question in vs. 23 by Judas (not Iscariot), who asked, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus promises that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will “teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Spirit’s ongoing presence will help the disciples to remember and to understand the true significance of Jesus’ words and deeds.

Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” The Bible for Everyday Life comments, “The peace Jesus offers his disciples is not the peace of an easy life. It is the peace of the obedient servant who has the full confidence and support of his master, and carries out his [or her] commission effectively and joyfully.”

Jesus says if the disciples really knew him, they would rejoice that he is going to the Father. The Father has sent him into the world to do his will. Jesus is  telling them in advance so that when his death, resurrection, and ascension occurs, “you may believe.” In carrying out the Father’s plan, the risen Jesus will be present to them (and us) through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

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