6th Sunday of Easter

May 14, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Acts 17.22-31. Paul mentions an altar he has seen in Athens, dedicated to “an unknown God.” But God can in fact be known, if we “search for God, and perhaps grope for God and find God.”

Psalm 66.8-20 thanks God for being present even in the midst of our sufferings.

1 Peter 3.13-22. (I encourage you to include vv. 8-9 too) Do not be intimidated when you suffer for your faith. Be gentle, and be ready to explain your hope. This we do in the spirit of Christ, who suffers with us. Baptism unites us with the resurrection of Christ, so that we can indeed live in the spirit of Christ, to whom all powers are subject.

John 14.15-21. Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit, an “Advocate” (the word refers to a defense attorney), and promises his presence: “I will not leave you orphaned…. I am in God, and you in me, and I in you.”

Preaching Thoughts

Acts. Paul characterizes faith as “searching and groping for God.” People brought up on the notion of faith as certainty need to hear this. This doesn’t mean God is hiding from us, but that we are not well trained in finding God. God is not far off. After all, we are the very offspring of God; in fact we are within God, “in whom we live and move and have our being.” Faith is not superstition in some unknown heavenly manipulator, but a seeking, loving relationship with Love, a continual reaching out.

1 Peter. The writer cautions us against the arrogance of folks who whine about a “War on Christianity.” As Jesus reminded us, anybody who obeys God will be persecuted by society that wants us to obey the rules of capitalism, nationalism and individualism. Expect to “suffer for doing what is right.” And in responding, stay true to Christ’s spirit of nonviolence: “Do it with gentleness and reverence.” And, in verse 9, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.”

Gospel. The nickname Jesus uses for the Spirit is “Advocate,” basically a defense attorney. (Actually that’s John’s word; Jesus was unlikely to have used Roman legal language) This is in sharp contrast to the notion we have of God as Judge. God is not judging us; God is on our side, for us against the judgments of the world. (“The world does not know the Spirit…” “The stone the builders have rejected…”)

“I will not leave you orphaned.” What an evocative image, not only for disciples who probably did feel orphaned after Jesus’ death, but also for us who often feel distant from God, or out of touch with Jesus. Jesus expresses parental love for us, knowing how alone we may sometimes feel. The Spirit is subtle, and invisible to much of the world—but not far off or hard to “search and grope for.” Because the Spirit is Love. And love is God. To quote the ancient hymn, Ubi cáritas et amor, Deus ibi est: “Wherever there is love or compassion, there is God.” Whenever you love– a spouse or lover, a child or parent, a friend or stranger, a dog or a sunset, any and all love—that is God, right there. “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love.” It’s in love that Jesus reveals himself to us (v. 21). As long as we love, we are not orphaned.

“I am in my Mother/Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Here is the mystery of the Trinity, and the mystery of faith. We are all in God. God is infinite. Therefore everything—everything—is within God. We not only draw near to Christ, we are in Christ. Christ is not only beside us; Christ is in us. It is the risen Christ in us who gives us our life: “Because I live, you also will live.” And we will live with the same love he had. Even when we feel most orphaned, most alone and lost, we are still in God, in Christ, and loved by God (v. 21).

Call to Worship

Leader: God of grace, be with us.
All: Spirit of truth, be within us.
Spirit of love, we are searching for you, reaching for you.
Christ, who loves us, come to us, and do not leave us orphaned.
We are in you, as you are in God.
Be with us and within us. Even in the mystery, be with us.

Leader: God, in you we live and move and have our being.
All: We are your children, and we praise you.
You do not leave us orphaned, but Christ comes to us and dwells with us.
We are your Beloved, and we thank you.
You are in us, and we are in you, and your Spirit works through us.
We are your Body, and we worship you.

Leader: Loving God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You, O God, are holy, and we worship you.
You love us, and though you are veiled in mystery, you reveal yourself to us.
You send your Spirit to be with us,
so that we know that we are in you, and you are in us.
You created all things, and from one Being you made all peoples.
You made us to reach out to you and to find you.
And we do find you, for in you we live and move and have our being.
Alleluia! Send your Spirit upon us now,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4. (Ps. 66.16, 20)
Leader: Come and hear, all you who worship God,
and I will tell what God has done for me.
Blessed be God, who has not rejected our prayer,
or failed in steadfast love to us.
Jesus, you promised your Spirit, who helps us to do your will.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Christ is Risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
Light of Christ, rising in glory,
chase away all darkness, illumine our way,
and lead us to the heart of God.
O Crucified and risen Christ,
reveal yourself to us now in our worship.
Open the eyes of our hearts to your love;
open the ears of our souls to your presence,
that we may find ourselves in you,
an find ourselves in love.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Spirit of truth, we search for you. Spirit of love, we long for you. Spirit of life, we hunger for your grace. You who dwell within us, speak to us. You in whom we live and move and have our being, speak to us. Beyond words, enfolded deep in the mystery in which we dwell, speak to us. Amen.

Loving God, you have created us to reach out to you.
So we reach out, in love and need.
Speak to us, stir in us, so we may find you and know you. Amen.3.
God of love, though you are infinite and unknowable, yet you make yourself known to us. You come to us in love, reveal yourself to us in love, and give us your Spirit of love. We open our hearts to you now. Speak to us, stir in us, so that we may know you, so that Christ may be in us and we in Christ, even as Christ is in you. Amen.

Gracious God, Jesus promised us his Spirit, and returned from death to give us his Spirit. Open our hearts now, so that as we listen to your scriptures read and your good news proclaimed, we might receive your Spirit, grow in our love of Christ, and be moved more deeply to obey his commandments of love. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Infinite God, Eternal Love,
Christ is in you and we are in Christ,
and Christ is in us.
By your Holy Spirit
we hold this space within us
for you to be,
and for us to behold.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

(Acts 17.24-27)
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Sovereign of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples built by hands. God is not dependent on human hands, as if God needed anything, because God alone gives all people life and breath and everything else. From one person God made every nation of people, that we should inhabit the whole earth; and gave us times and places where we should live. God did this so that we would seek God and perhaps reach out for God and find God, though God is not far from each one of us. For in God we live and move and have our being. Alleluia.

(1 Peter 3. 8-22)
Dearly Beloved, siblings in Christ, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
By the Spirit in us we will not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, repay with a blessing. It is for this that we were called—that we might inherit a blessing.
Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit.
By the Spirit in us we will turn away from evil and do good; we will seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of God are on you, and God’s ears are open to your prayer.
By the Spirit in us we will abide with God.
If you suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what others fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as your Chief, your Power, your Leader.
By the Spirit in us we are ready to account for the hope that we have; ready to do it with gentleness and reverence.
Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
We would rather suffer for doing good than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. 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.

Eternal God, you are the Love that breathes us into being.
We live in you, and your “Yes” lives in us.
You are in Christ, and Christ is in us, your Spirit flowing through us.
You create us; you set us free; you walk with us into new life.
So with all Creation we sing your praise.

            [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.
He taught us to love, and showed us love.
He gave us his commandment to love.
For his love he was crucified; but you raised him from the dead.
He dies not lave us orphaned, but comes to us
and reveals himself to us.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)

As long 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]

Jesus promised you would send the Advocate to be with us forever,
the spirit of truth, to abide with us and be in us.
Therefore 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.
Christ is in you and you are in Christ and Christ is in us,
in the bread, in the Spirit, in the love.
By your grace may we love Christ,
and keep Christ’s commandment to love,
for the sake of 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.) We have feasted on the Body of your love. You are in us, and we in you, one in Christ. Send us into the world to love, as the body, the healing hands of Christ. 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 promise to be with us in the bread of our daily lives. Send us now into the world to be mindful of your presence, and, by the power of your Spirit living in us, to keep Christ’s commandment to love, according to your grace, to your eternal glory. Amen.

Loving God, thankful for your grace, we love you and desire to keep your commandment of love. We are in you, and you in us; by your Spirit in us help us always to love, to bless and to serve in the name and the constant presence of Christ. Amen.

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