5th Sunday of Easter

May 7, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Acts 7.55-60. Stephen, one of the early followers of Jesus, is stoned to death for his faith.

Psalm 31.1-8. A song of trust in God. We pray, “You have taken heed of my adversities,” and so we trust God: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Like Jesus, Stephen quotes these words as he dies.)

1 Peter 2 .2-10. We are “living stones, built as a spiritual house” for God. We are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, so that we might proclaim the mighty acts of God, who called us out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”

John 14.1-14. Jesus says there’s room for everybody in God’s house. Thomas asks Jesus the way to God and Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Preaching Thoughts

1 Peter
     The claim that we’re a royal priesthood is not unique to us Christians. It reflects Exodus 19.6, spoken to the Jews: “You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” Our mission is to be priests: not to convert people but to be their connection with God: to pray for them, and to mediate God’s presence to them. The text describes our transformation—receiving mercy, becoming God’s people—but it’s not for our sake: it’s so that we will proclaim (live out) the good news. It’s not a favor; it’s an assignment.

John 14
     The funeral chapter. Everybody wants “in my Father’s house there are many mansions” at their funeral. But, as usual, Jesus is talking about being alive, not being dead. Yes, the afterlife is sweet. But not yet. Is “God’s house” just the afterlife? I think not. Psalm 23 promises I’ll live in God’s house all my life. This life. I think God’s house is God’s presence. Where God is. The present moment.

Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” To the disciple’s question about how to get close to God, Jesus says “There is no method. I am the method. You don’t need certain practices, or certain beliefs about me. Just receive my love.” It’s about a living relationship in which we listen, trust and follow. It’s daily attentiveness. Like being married, it’s not just about having the ring; it’s about the little daily actions in which we live in love with Jesus.

Among Jesus’ ”I am” statements, this both says something about Jesus and who he is, and also, because it quotes God saying “I AM” in the burning bush, it implies that who he is is of God… or maybe even that he is God. John the gospel writer thinks so. John the evangelist emphasizes more than for the other three gospel writers that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love. (“The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but God who dwells in me does God’s works. Believe me that I am in God and God is in me” -[Jn. 14.10-11]). Jesus is speaking on behalf of God. So God is saying “I am the way.” God says, “My house is wherever I am. It’s my presence. And I am infinite. So everywhere you are, you are in a room of my house. You are with me. You are in me. So you want to get close to me? You’re already there. You want to find the way to God? I AM the way Let me love you—and you’re home.” God is not a lawgiver who demands our obedience, but a life-giver who invites our intimate relationship, a God who is our truth, who is our way, who is our life.

Jesus says “No one comes to God but through me.” Again, Jesus, as the embodied love of God, is speaking on behalf of God. In other words, “No one comes to God except through God’s gracious love and mercy, which I offer you.” There’s no technique, no requirements, no religion. Just grace. Just love. Jesus represents that love, and offers it to us. We come to God “through” Jesus, that is, by participating in his life. Jesus says that we who follow him will do the same things he does. (v. 12). “No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that no one can come to God except by being a Christian. It means the way we know God is to receive God’s love, and live lives of love.

Jesus says, “I am in God, and God is in me.” This is not only the raw materials of our image of the Holy Trinity, it’s also the raw materials of the spiritual life. Sharing in the love of Jesus, we come to know ourselves to be not just close to God but in God. The secret is that we’re in God whether or not we know it or feel it.

Call to Worship

Leader: God, in your house there are many dwelling places—
room for for all your Beloved.
All: We belong to you.
Christ, you prepare a place for us and come for us and take us into yourself.
We come to you.
We are in you, and you are in us, and we are in Christ.
We worship you. Alleluia!

Leader: Loving God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Christ, our way, lead us in the path of love.
Christ, our truth, open our eyes to what is.
Christ, our life, come and renew us.
Make us a part of you, so that we may share in your life.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

(1 Peter 2. 4-10)
Leader: Come to God! For God has called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. Once you were not a people but now you are God’s people. Once you did not know mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy.
All: We worship you, O God.
God has chosen what is rejected by mortals: you are chosen and precious in God’s sight. You are living stones being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, through Christ.
We thank you, O Christ.
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of God.
We serve you, O God. In the grace of your Spirit we offer ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice, a gift to you, which you accept through Jesus Christ. Alleluia.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you have called us out of darkness into your divine light. You have chosen us. You have done mighty acts in our lives. We remember with gratitude. We thank you. We listen for you life-giving Word, that we might proclaim your good news in all we do. Amen.

Gracious God, you have given us your Word in Creation, and in Scripture. You speak your living Word to us in our hearts, and in the presence of the risen Christ with us. Help us to listen, to hear, and to be made anew. Amen.

Loving God, Jesus said we come to you through him. By your grace we enter into his love, receiving his mercy, open to his healing, being built into his house, made into his royal priesthood. We are in Christ, who is in you. Bless us, and make us your people, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(Suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Christ, our way,
lead us.
Christ, our truth,
illumine us.
Christ, our life,
bring us to life.
Make us your people.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

(John 14.1-14)
      We believe in God, creator of all that is and all that is to come, in whose house are many rooms; and who prepares a place for us, so that where God is, we may be also.
      We trust in Jesus, who is our way, and our truth, and our life. Through him we have seen God, who lived and worked in him.
      We live by the Holy Spirit, who lives and works in us; so that we may do the works that Jesus does, and even greater works; so that God may be glorified. Alleluia.

(1 Peter 2. 4-10)
      We worship you, O God. We come to you in gratitude, humility and praise. For you have called us out of darkness into your marvelous light. Once we were not a people but now we are your people. Once we did not know mercy, but now we have received your mercy.
       We thank you, for you choose what is rejected by mortals; and by your grace we are chosen and precious in your sight. As if we are living stones you build us into a spiritual house through Christ.
       We serve you, O God, For you have made us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, your own people, in order that we may proclaim your mighty acts. By your Spirit in us, we offer ourselves as a gift you. Alleluia.

Eucharistic Prayer

Click here for eight settings of the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen to familiar tunes suitable for the Easter season.

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Loving God, at your table Christ prepares a place for us.
We come to your table, grateful for our belonging.
In your house there are many rooms.
In your house we have many roommates,
siblings who are also God’s beloved people.

We come as one.
You set free your people and invite us all
to your table of justice and mercy, your feast of grace.
You covenant to be with us in love always,
and so we gratefully sing your praise,
together with all who are in the many rooms of your house:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
Christ, you are the way, the truth, the life.

We come to feast on the truth, to follow the way, to embody the life.
You draw us to yourself, so that where you are, we may be.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)

As we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

God, you are in Christ, and Christ is in you,
and by your Spirit we are in Christ.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
doing the works of Christ, with our hearts unafraid,
for the healing of the world

     [Spoken or sung]
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have made a place for us in your heart. Give us your grace to make a place for others, that they may know their belonging and your love. We pray through Jesus Christ, your Beloved and ours. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You are our way, our truth, our life. By these gifts, we pray that you will live in us, for the sake of the healing of the world. Send us out in the name of Christ, to do his works, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

At Home In You (Tune: Finlandia)
(John 14.2,6)

We give you thanks, O loving God, Creator,
for in your house are many rooms to dwell.
Your Christ prepares a place for all your people,
where we belong, are made one, and made well.
Give us your life; make us your holy people,
to shine with light, and your good news to tell.

The place you make, O Jesus, for your people
is not far off, but near—too near to see.
It is the home of love within God’s loving,
the place of peace where we are called to be.
Bring us to you, that love may be our dwelling,
at home in you, in love eternally.

We give you thanks, O Loving Christ, companion;
you are the truth, you are the life, the way.
For when we share in love’s divine communion,
we are by grace alive in every way.
Grant us to love, with you in blessed union,
love be our faith, our truth, our life, our way.

O Christ, My Way      (Tune: The River Is Wide)

O Christ, my truth, my life, my way,
I give my heart to you this day.
I give myself, yes all of me,
that where you are I too may be.

O Christ, my way, the path I take
is love alone, for your love’s sake.
O be my heart, my strength and nerve,
that I may love and bless and serve.

O Christ, my truth, in you I see
the God who dwells in you and me.
But God remains yet far above
until I live in humble love.

O Christ, my life, I give my heart,
for when in you I take my part
and share your love, your work and strife,
I share in full your risen life.

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