Engaging the Word: Readings for 5/8/16 (The Seventh Sunday of Easter)

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 By Barbara Klugh

                                               

Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. On the Seventh Sunday of Easter, we mark the transition between Ascension Day and Pentecost. Jesus has completed his earthly ministry and has been taken up into heaven. The disciples are waiting in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit.

Paul and Silas in prison, 1867. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul and Silas in prison, 1867. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 16:16-34: The experiences of Paul and Silas in Philippi are some of the most exciting stories in the early church. In this week’s reading, a slave girl with an unclean spirit follows Paul and Silas for many days. She had a spirit of divination and made her owners a lot of money. She kept crying out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” Paul got fed up and exorcised the unclean spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.

Since the owners lost their source of moneymaking, they dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates and accused them of disturbing the peace. The crowd joined in attacking them. Maybe to avoid a riot, the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped, beaten, flogged, and thrown into prison, putting their feet in stocks.

At midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly a violent earthquake—a manifestation of God’s presence and power— shook the foundations of the jail, opened the prison doors, and unfastened the chains.  They could have escaped, but instead they stayed.

When the jailer woke up and saw what happened, he thought the prisoners had escaped, and was going to kill himself. But Paul shouted, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The trembling jailer recognized that Paul was an agent of God, and Paul spoke the word of the Lord to him and his household. He came to believe in Jesus and he and his entire family were baptized.

Psalm 97: This week’s psalm is a hymn celebrating the Lord’s kingship over all the earth. As Christians, we celebrate the kingship of Jesus, the embodiment of God’s rule of righteousness and justice on earth. “The Lord is King; let the earth rejoice….Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy Name.”

Tree of Life by Pacino di Bonaguida, 1310-15. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tree of Life by Pacino di Bonaguida, 1310-15. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21: In the final words of the book of Revelation, we look to the glorious return of our exalted Redeemer. Jesus says, “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Jesus, “the root and the descendant of David” welcomes all his faithful witnesses:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

And the proper response from us is “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The book of Revelation is the last in the Bible and the last words offer a fitting conclusion to our scriptures: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”

Christ taking leave of the Apostles by Duccio, c.1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ taking leave of the Apostles by Duccio, c.1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 17:20-26: In the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17 comprise Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, in which Jesus gives his disciples final instructions and encouragement on the night before he was crucified. We read selections from the Farewell Discourse for the past two Sundays. On the Seventh Sunday of Easter we always read a portion of Chapter 17, commonly known as the High Priestly Prayer. In this prayer Jesus asks for glorification by the Father; he has completed the mission for which he was sent. If you can make the time, I recommend that you read the entire chapter, 17:1-26.

In this week’s reading, Jesus is praying not only for the protection and for unity of his current disciples, but for us, and for all his disciples throughout all generations. He prays that all his followers will reflect the complete unity he has with the Father, so that the whole world will know that Jesus is the One who was sent by the Father.

Always concerned for his friends and future disciples, Jesus wants us to experience the unity of love between the Father and Son as deeply as he did. When we are united in love for one another, we will reflect the love that exists between the Father and the Son.

 

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