Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and Peace be with you in Christ.
Did you know that last Saturday was “Star Wars Day”. It was May 4th as in “May the 4th be with you.” Terrible pun!
Our readings for this coming Sunday are:
Acts 16:16-34 – “The Rest of the Story”, as Paul Harvey used to say, happens in verses 35 to 40, so you may want to read to the end. Paul and his troupe is still in Philippi. Paul casts out a demon in a woman slave who made her masters money by divination. Her owner had Paul and his companion Silas arrested. They were beaten and thrown in jail with shackles on their feet. In the middle of the night, while singing hymns, an earthquake opened the jail doors and shook off the shackles. The jailer, assuming all had escaped, started to commit suicide (before the Romans could execute him) but Paul reassured him that they were all there. With some sharing of the good news, the jailer and his entire family came to believe and were baptized. They stayed up all night. In the “Rest of the Story” Paul pulls his Roman Citizen trump card and the city leaders were beside themselves apologizing. In the midst of adversity, are we willing and able to share the good news with those around us?
Psalm 97 – God depicted as a Majestic, Thundering, and Consuming King in whom all the world and all the world’s righteous people worship. Adversaries are consumed and idolaters are put to shame. The righteous bow before God rejoicing and singing God’s praise.
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 – OK, once again the lectionary committee seems to have an aversion to some of the difficult verses, especially verse 15. We will come to the skipped verses in a moment. These are the closing words to the book of Revelation. Some of the verses are words of Jesus and some are words of John. In verse 12, Jesus says that we are repaid base on our works. Is that counter to Paul’s assertion that we are saved only by faith? Verse 13 – Jesus is all: A to Z, front to back. Verse 14 says that those who wash their robes (in the blood of the Lamb is inferred) may enter the city and eat from the tree of Life. Verse 15 says that there will be a lot of people left out of the city but in chapters 21 and 22 all peoples, nations, and kings come into the city since all are redeemed. So then who is left out? In verse 16 Jesus restates his connection to God’s chosen King David. Verse 17 seems to counter verse 15 by saying that all who thirst may drink of the water of Life. Again, who is left out. None. Verses 18 and 19 are standard warning about adulterating the book that was found in many ancient writings, especially apocalyptic writings. Verses 20 and 21 testify that Jesus will be coming soon and then closes with and AMEN.
John 17:20-26 – All of chapter 17 is Jesus’ prayer to God and is usually divided into three sections: 1-5 as Jesus prays that he may glorify God (in his crucifixion); 6-19 as Jesus prays for his immediate followers; and 20-26 are prayers for future disciples. His prayer is that we, the spiritual descendants of the first disciples, may be one like Jesus and his Father, God, are one. Jesus’ plea for oneness of his disciples is repeated through verse 23. He also prays that we may be with him to see his glory. His final pray is that the love given God to Jesus may be given to us also. I am looking at this picture on my wall which speaks volumes about how Christianity has not been “One”.
On the logo of the United Church of Christ is the quote “That They May All Be One”.
That was the hope of the UCC at a time when churches were joining together faster then they were splitting apart. Whatever happened to that dream, that prayer of Jesus?
May the Spirit of Christian Unity and Mission fill you will God’s blessings this week.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor