• There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.

    John 4:18
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6th Sunday of Easter 16th May 2020

Collect for the 6th Sunday of Easter

God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: Grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us
he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Gospel Reading

John 14: 15—21

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

First Reading
Acts 17: 22-31

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

28For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

Psalm 66: 7-18

7 Bless our God, O you peoples; ♦make the voice of his praise to be heard,
8 Who holds our souls in life ♦and suffers not our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; ♦you have tried us as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; ♦you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;we went through fire and water; ♦
but you brought us out into a place of liberty. [R]
12 I will come into your house with burnt offerings and will pay you my vows, ♦which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you fat burnt sacrifices with the smoke of rams; ♦I will sacrifice oxen and goats. [R]
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, ♦and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.
15 I called out to him with my mouth ♦and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had nursed evil in my heart, ♦the Lord would not have heard me,
17 But in truth God has heard me; ♦he has heeded the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, ♦ nor withheld his loving mercy from me.

1 Peter 3 : 13—22
13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Commentary on John 14 15-21

Our Reading today comes at the end of the six week season between the Resurrection of Our Saviour from the tomb On Easter Day and next Thursday when we celebrate Ascension Day.
Coming to the end of his Ministry Jesus (like any good teacher) reinforced the message of Who exactly he was and this has been the focus of our readings for the second three weeks after Easter. In the last such reading today Jesus is emphasising to his disciples that they will not be alone and not without support after his Ascension into Heaven
Knowing that, as people who had depended on him during the three years of his Ministry, the disciples would be afraid when he left them he told them in simple language
“I will not leave you orphaned”.
He told them that the Father would give them another Advocate –the Spirit of Truth. He was talking here about the Descent of the Holy Spirit which we will mark on Pentecost Sunday in 2 weeks’ time.
At the current time of crisis, it is interesting to look at all the Powerful Forces that have collapsed in the past 2,000 years. From the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus to the collapse of Soviet Communism at the end of the 20th Century we can see that all human institutions will eventually collapse. How, we might ask, in the midst of this did the Church of God –which shamefully has also experienced corruption, veniality and war, how did it continue to survive and thrive.
Could I suggest two points, which are as relevant to us today, as in the early days of the Church.
Jesus left clear and simple instructions for those who truly wished to be true to his mission. Reminding ourselves that Jesus reduced the Commandments to two fundamental principles Love of God and Love of Neighbour he told his followers to stay true to his precepts.
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me”
In addition Jesus guaranteed them that they would have a Guide in the form of the Holy Spirit. Reading the Acts of the Apostles in recent weeks we can see the impact of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, an impact that allowed them to immediately and fearlessly go out and proclaim the Word.

Over the centuries as society has changed Churches have had to continually ask themselves how they should respond top remain faithful to Jesus teaching. The sad reality is that while Jesus reached out to the poor, the marginalized and the stranger many of our Churches absorbed the values of the powerful and the establishment. I am convinced that –as churches faced issues such as the immorality of slavery, Christians supporting apartheid, divisions within Christianity, gender based clergy etc – the Holy Spirit,the Advocate, was with them.

At key moments of our life such as Baptism and Confirmation (and Ordination) we ask specifically for the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us. Let us therefore remember that we are not orphaned and pray that the Spirit will continue to be with us in our day and –as we seek to follow the precepts of Jesus in the words of the Collect for Pentecost —the Spirit will allow us “ to have right judgements in all things

God Bless