Our readings for this coming Sunday, which is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, are:
Acts 17:22-31 – Paul stops in Athens while on his second missionary journey. This stop is recorded in Acts 17:16-34. As usual, Paul goes to the local synagogue and market places to speak about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What distressed him most about Athens is the number of idols and temples in the city. He was invited to speak to interested listeners at Areopagus (perhaps “Ares Rock” which became, in Latin, “Mars Hill”). Our reading is Paul’s short sermon, or at least a very condensed version of it. Paul employs a wonderful hook at the beginning in which he complements the Athenians on how religious they must be due to all the idols and temples they have. He quickly mentions a temple to “an unknown god” and suggests that this god is in fact God. Paul doesn’t mention Jesus by name (here) but some listeners are intrigued by “resurrection from the dead”. How do we tell others about God and Jesus? Do we start with something our listeners are interested in and guide their curiosity? Or do we “hit them over the head” with the Gospel? (Is it really the Gospel if we use it as a bludgeon?)
Psalm 66:8-20 – The entire Psalm is titled in my Bible as “Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel”. In our reading the Psalmist sees the hand of God in Israel’s trials and tribulations (vs. 8-12a) but he also sees that God guided them through to the other side (12b). Because of this the psalmist will offer up burnt offerings of bulls and goats (13-15). Then the psalmists invites all who hear him to to listen to his story because God has listened and not rejected (16-20). Do we blame God for the trials in life or do we praise God for being present with us through those trials?
1 Peter 3:13-22 – Why do we suffer? (See Psalm 66 above.) That is humanity’s eternal question. Why do our good deeds and acts often result in our suffering? If we start with verses 8-9 we see that Peter is encouraging his readers, us, to continue doing the good things even if we suffer for it. He also suggests that we be ready with a defense that is presented gently and reverently. He asks if it is better to suffer for doing good or doing evil. The last 5 verses may seem a bit strange. It start well by reminding us that Christ also suffered. It then become strange when Peter says that Christ made proclamation to the spirits in prison, that is, those who did not listen to God in the days of Noah. As Noah and seven others were saved through the waters so too are we saved through baptism. Are you scratching your head yet? And what is baptism? It is an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, what is the point of this passage? Suffering is okay if we are suffering for doing good? What about baptism that saves us? And what about the spirits in prison? Were they set free, redeemed, by the proclamation of Christ?
John 14:15-21 – I think you should read the rest of the chapter (22-31) along with this passage for more information about the activity of the Holy Spirit. As it was last week, Jesus is discussing with his disciples the things that will happen when he is arrested, tried, crucified, and buried. He is trying to help them through the events with the promise of another Advocate. If the Holy Spirit is another Advocate, who was the first? Jesus. What is another phrase for Advocate in our legal system? Lawyer for the defense. What is this Advocate defending against? This would which is enslaved by sin and death represented by Satan, which means “Accuser” or “Prosecutor” This Advocate will:
1) be with them forever (14:15)
2) teach everything (14:26)
3) remind them of Jesus’ words (14:26)
4) testify on their behalf (15:26)
5) prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8)
6) guide them into all truth (16:13)
7) speak whatever the Spirit hears (16:13)
8) declare what is to come (16:13) and
9) glorify Jesus (16:14)
With the Holy Spirit as our defense, we need not fear the world nor the sufferings we may have to endure.
Have a great week serving God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (one God now and forever) by loving your neighbors.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor