Collect and Readings for Fifth Sunday of Easter – Acts 11:1-18, Baruch 3.9=15, 32-4.4 Genesis 22.1-18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35
The Prayer for today Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This week's readings continue to help us see events from several viewpoints at once. Rather like those remarkable holograms which burst into three dimensions from a flat surface, we are seeing the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ from beforehand, afterwards and in eternity, and these viewpoints, clustered together like this, throw into relief for us the powerful and cosmic significance of those events.
In the Gospel reading, just after Judas has gone out into the night, Jesus looks ahead to the imminent suffering, degradation and failure, and paradoxically claims that the Son of Man is about to be glorified. This is followed by the command given to his disciples to love one another. It is in their self-giving love that people will recognise their allegiance to the God who is glorified by this total expending of self about to be displayed on the cross. God will be glorified by the living-out of forgiving love without limit.
The reading from Revelation enables us to see from heaven's point of view, standing aside from the confines of time, and looking with the eyes of the visionary. The images of accomplishment and victory over all evil for all time. There is the beginning of what is new, as if we are watching with the shepherds the self-emptying of God in the baby on manger straw, and the sense of that full completion at the end of time when all tears will be wiped away forever. And stretched across time and space is the God of life, focused in the stretching-out of Jesus' arms for us on the cross.
Barriers crumble in the face of such love, and we see an example of this ongoing process in the reading from Acts, as Peter proclaims and celebrates his realisation that God's saving love is not confined to Jewish people but is freely available to us all, however distant in years or miles we may be. As Christ breaks through the barrier of death, all new things become possible. If we are resurrection people, our lives will act this out and gather others into the kingdom through the way we refuse to live by the old order of sin, the old prejudices, the old values. Love, though expensive, is the new way to live, and we are to spread it liberally and lavishly without boundaries or exceptions.
Some things to reflect on: How many examples of barriers being broken down can you find in today's readings? What areas in our church and in society need transforming when looked at in the light of Acts 11?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson