Date: Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 9, 2021
Texts: Acts 10:34-38; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17
Context: We near the end of the Easter liturgical season. The readings become more and more pointed – what is the response of God’s Easter people, how do we live who wait the return of our Lord in glory in power? We live in obedience. Freed by our Lord’s victory over sin, Satan and death we throw ourselves into lives of obedience, no longer in terror of the Law’s convicting power – that power has been broken by Christ. Rather, obedient in the joy of forgiveness and in the acceptance that obeying the law is not simply a matter of personal moral piety but rather of loving our enemy and our God. Far from being free to determine what love should be or look like, we recognize that the essence of love has always been woven into the Law. We embrace the Law as the only certain means of loving our neighbor and God properly until we are safely restored to eternal perfection.
Acts 10:34-38 – Stunned at what God has revealed to him in his vision as well as the words and reception of Cornelious, Peter breaks forth in praise to God. What was once a curious intellectual string to toy with is now a reality – God truly does not show favoritism, but truly has meant what He has been saying since Genesis 3:15 and his call to Abraham in Genesis 12. God intends fully to extend his grace and mercy to any who will receive, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality or tribe. The Jews should have been the first to receive and give thanks, but it was never intended exclusively for them. Jesus is Lord of All! This has been clearly demonstrated over and over again as the Holy Spirit of God pours out power and healing and faith on any and all who will receive it, and Satan has been powerless to stop it. By orchestrating the sacrificial death of the Incarnate Son of God Satan has unknowingly made the Holy Spirit of God’s presence a new reality in creation.
Psalm 98 – The Lord deserves a new song. Not because He has done new things, but because the things He has done are marvelous. Specifically, his strength and power (as symbolized in his right arm and hand) have accomplished salvation for him. This does not mean He has saved himself – God has no need of salvation! But rather the salvation He purposed to work on our behalf is what He has accomplished. This salvation is now made known to all those it is intended for – to the nations, all peoples. His chosen people have by no means been forgotten or omitted in all of this – it is to their glory that He has brought his salvation – his Incarnate Son – into creation! So all creation is summoned to join in this song of praise of their king. All creation should react in praise to the creator and redeemer because God will restore justice to the earth. Evil will be dealt with once and for all, and heaven and earth will be reunited in peace because of the mighty work of God on our behalf!
1 John 5:1-8 – We’ve read through the majority of 1 John since Easter. It is a glorious hymn of praise to God for making us his children, showing us his love, and calling us to obedience as we await our Lord’s return. There were no shortage of strange ideas running around at the end of the first century. People reworking the Gospel of Jesus Christ, altering it to accommodate reason, common sense, even other religious and philosophical beliefs. And perhaps the most offensive of the Gospel details was the idea that God could be one and yet three, Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. That God should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Against this sprang up myriad alternative suggestions, primarily reducing the Son to the level of First-Created rather than co-God as John makes clear in the opening chapter of his Gospel. So here, John reminds his hearers and readers that they do not simply profess faith and love in a God, but specifically in a God the Father and God the Son. By extension, this means we love all those who make such confession. Those who confess Jesus as the Son of God, the promised and prophesied Messiah of God are bound together in our identity as children of God, and we are to love each other as John has repeated throughout his letter. This love, furthermore, is defined by obedience to the commands of God rather than coming up with our own definitions of love. Our faith and obedience has overcome the powers and evils of the world, grounded in the testimony of God the Holy Spirit himself concerning the bodily incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the means by which God’s mighty arm has accomplished salvation for you and I!
John 15:9-17 – Continuing from last week’s Gospel reading, again taking place during the Last Supper, Jesus comforts his disciples with his upcoming departure and emphasizes to them the important aspect of how they must be obedient in love. How many books have been written and seminars given trying to give Christians amazing ideas about what the Christian life consists of!? How many programs? How many calls to poverty or chastity or any other aspect of the Christian life. But Jesus himself emphasizes love and obedience. The two go together. You can’t disobey the Word of God and claim to love your brother or sister in Christ. Nor can you claim to love God if you refuse to obey his Word. These two are inextricably linked. His disciples need not seek lives of adventure in service of the Gospel – they won’t be able to avoid them! And if you and I want to seek out such adventure but leave behind the call to love and obedience, we are missing the mark entirely. We are to love and obey. For most people, this is more than enough to keep them fully occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week without ever needing to seek out greater challenge. How many husbands and wives struggle simply to love one another? Or to love their children? How many have abandoned true love for the glories of becoming a social media influencer, spouting hate in the name of love? We did not choose Christ, and we do not necessarily choose the life of obedience and love we are to live. But we are to remember in all things that Christ chose us, and therefore we can trust and follow his Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance in whatever manner that takes in our lives.