Easter 6

May 5, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Acts 10.44-48 — Cornelius and his household receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized.

Psalm 98 — God has done a great thing. Make a joyful noise! Let all Creation praise God.

1 John 5. 1-6 — Love, that is born of God, conquers the world.

John 15.9-17 — “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…. So my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete…. To love is to lay down your life… I call you friends, not servants… You didn’t choose me; I chose you… Go and bear fruit.”

Preaching Thoughts

This is the “gentile Pentecost:” Cornelius was not a Jew. In Acts Luke shows us the community of followers of Jesus not just growing in numbers but expanding in inclusivity. As we saw last week, when the community of the baptized included the Ethiopian eunuch, a foreign, gender-nonconforming person of color, now it also includes people who aren’t even part of the faith community. As Mark Miller’s song says, “Draw the circle wide.”

1 John
John’s epistle here reflects the same sentiment we see in the gospel: “Take courage, I have conquered the world!” (Jn. 16.33). Take some care to unpack what it means for love to conquer the world. It doesn’t mean hate and fear and violence are ended. It doesn’t mean injustice has been stopped. But maybe it means love is stronger than evil. That love endures, despite evil’s violence against it. That what actually matters most in the world—what matters at all— is not power or conquest or ego, but love. That even when evil appears victorious, love actually prevails. That everything, even evil, is gathered up in love. That maybe after thousands of years of human struggle our story will turn out to be one of love. So we love, knowing it won’t look like victory. Of course the real victory is that in our struggle between love and fear, no matter how it turns out, we have struggled on the right side.
        Notice how John conflates obeying, believing, and loving. It’s all one thing. You don’t believe if you don’t love, and it isn’t love if you don’t actually obey the command to love.

Well, golly. There are at least half a dozen sermons in here.
       — Love. Christians don’t have Ten Commandments; that’s Jewish. We have one. Try posting that in your local courthouse! The commandment—or the Ten, for that matter—aren’t laws to be imposed on everybody. They’re the marriage vows of people who love God. They’re our feeble “I do” to God’s infinite, perfect, mind-blowing “I do” to us. We love as we have been loved. And to replicate that love we first have to receive it.
       —As I have loved you. Jesus goes above and beyond the Golden Rule. We don’t just do as we wish others would do to us: there’s no wishing here. We have been loved perfectly, and we return that love. It’s a love we couldn’t have wished for without having experienced it because it exceeds our imaginations. It’s love we didn’t even know we needed till we received it. That’s a pretty high bar. Of course we fail; and when we do, what does Jesus do? He loves us perfectly.
       — Joy. Jesus doesn’t give us commandments to make us subservient. He does so to deepen our joy. It’s all about joy. If you love of neighbor doesn’t give you deep joy you’ve got it wrong. You’re not loving as you have been loved, which is with great delight. Jesus doesn’t love us out of duty, like some bratty kid whose mom says ”Say you’re sorry” and he whines: “Sahrrry.’ No, Jesus loves us because it gives him delight. He loves to love us! Because he loves us. Julian of Norwich says Christ says to her “If I could have suffered more for you I would have.” Because he loves seeing to it that she receives love, even if it hurts him. To love our beloved gives us joy.
       — Lay down your life. You don’t have to die. But you do have to lay down your control, your agenda, your ego, your self-protection, even your success at loving. We have a lot to lay down. And when it feels like it’s just killing us… well, that’s where resurrection happens.
      — Friends. We’re familiar with language of Jesus as “Lord.” We’re a bit dubious of people who talk like Jesus is their pal, like he’s their drinking buddy. We imagine Jesus calling us, forgiving us, saving us… but do we imagine Jesus wanting to spend time with us? Jesus chooses, not just to be servants in his religious project, but to be his friends because he likes us and likes being with us— and in fact needs us. Jesus is a real friend, who knows you, sees you as you really are, and will be loyal to you without ever compromising who he is. He wants you to be OK. He’ll stand by you when the world is against you, and he’ll also disagree with you. He’ll remind you how beautiful you are and also let you know when you’re being a jerk. He’ll expect you to do better, because he sees glory in you. He “gets” you when nobody else does. He’ll listen to you when you just need to talk nonsense. He’ll be silent with you when words would wreck it. And he wants you for that kind of friend too. He wants you to stand by him, to listen to him, to care about him, to care about what he cares about. He’s a companion—that is, one who breaks bread with you, and asks you to be his companion, to be the Bread of Life with him.
      — I chose you. Take care not to become one of those people who are proud of their faith, like they’ve done this great thing in choosing Jesus. Look, he just saved your life, because he cares about you. He’s been pursuing you all your years. Don’t be taking credit for that. Be grateful. Be humble—but remember he chose you for a reason. You have something to offer. You’re worth it. You give him delight. Don’t take credit for that—it’s a gift of God—but neither forget it or cease to trust it.
  —   Go and bear fruit. This is the point, isn’t it? Not what we believe, but how that bears fruit in our lives. The whole point of an apple tree is apples. The whole point a a human life is love.

Call to Worship

Leader: Eternal God, you create us in beauty.
All: We sing your praise.
Loving Christ, you heal us and teach us and lead us with love and grace.
We sing your praise.
Holy Spirit, you live in us so we shine with your love.
We sing your praise. We worship in joy. Alleluia!

Leader: O God, Energy of Love, you call us into being.All: We abide in your love, and your joy is in us.
Heart of Love, you guide us in each moment, each breath.
We abide in your love, and your joy is in us.
The world does not understand love, but your love conquers the world.
We abide in your love, and your joy is in us. Alleluia!

Leader: O Mystery of Love, we turn to you.
All: O beauty of Love, we worship you.
O Christ of Love, we thank you.
O Spirit of Love, we welcome you.
Dwell in our hearts.
Share with us your delight.
Make us channels of your love.
Make us radiant with your joy.
God of love, make us people of love. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you create us each moment in tender love. Speak your Word to us in scripture, in prayer and in song. Fill us with your love, so that we may be your love song for the world, in the name and spirit of Jesus, Amen.

Gracious God, your commandments are not burdensome. Help us to hear with joy, to be changed in trust, and to live in faith, bearing your love into this world in the name of Christ. Amen.

God of love, your Word is love. In the reading of your scripture and the proclaiming of your Word, may we hear your love in our hearts, and may it fill us, so that we are people of love, in your Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, in Jesus you have loved us deeply. You have shown us what love looks like, in his life and ministry, and in scripture,. Help us, as we hear the scripture read and your Word proclaimed, to know your love and receive your love, so that we might be more able to give your love to others in the name of Christ. Amen.

O Christ, like sunlight poured into an open meadow,
you pour your love into our hearts.
Like the earth laid out beneath us,
you have laid down your life for us.
Pour your Word into our hearts.
Fill us with you love,
so that we may love others as you have loved us. Amen.

God, in Christ you have loved us and laid down your life for us.
Live in our hearts, so that we will lay down our lives for others.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Christ our friend,
you have chosen us for your joy.
You have loved us.
You have laid down your life for us.
And you have commanded us so to love.
Friend, in the stillness
we sit with you.
Hold us in your presence,
that the warmth of your love
may radiate in us.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see all that is in us that is loving,
and all that is not loving.
By the grace that we know in Christ,
forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
Silent prayer … the word of grace


1. 1 John 5.1-6

Leader: Everyone who trusts that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.
All: Everyone who loves God loves the one who came from God.
To love God and follow God’s commandments is to love God’s children.
The love of God is this: that we follow God’s commandments.
God’s commandments are not burdensome,
for whatever is born of God conquers the world.
What is born of God conquers the world! Our trust in this is our victory.
Who is it who conquers the world? Those who trust in Jesus, the Only Begotten of God.
Thanks be to God.

                       To Love

Infinite Love,
you who love me into being each moment,
let me this day flow freely with that love,
for it is not my love I give but yours.
I seek in all and above all to love,
to appreciate, to forgive,
to encourage, to comfort,
to thank, to assist, to bless.
May I choose to be loving
rather than to be right,
to be gentle rather than tough,
to be curious rather than judging,
to meet all with reverence and humility and delight.
And with those whom I cannot love easily,
let me hold and protect with all my being
room for you to love them, even through me.
O Spirit of Love, you who love me infinitely and perfectly,
breathe your love in me.

Eucharistic Prayer

[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.

God of love, we thank you,
for you have embodied your love
and your delight in us.
Your Creation is a gift of love.
In Christ you have laid down your life for us.
Your grace is a gift of love.
In love you set us free from all that oppresses,
and choose us to join you in working for justice,
that all your Beloved may know fullness of life.
Your love has conquered the world.
You call us to this meal, to feast on your love
and to share in your joy.
Therefore withy all Creation we praise you.

            [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,
who embodied your love.
He fed the hungry, healed the broken, and gathered the outcast.
In Christ you befriended us, that his joy may be ours.
He laid down his life for us, a gift of love and delight;
but you raised him from the dead, for love conquers even death.

     (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]

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.

May the love that is born of you radiate in our hearts.
May we love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,
and love our neighbor as ourselves.
We did not choose you, but you have chosen us.
Send us to go and bear the fruit of compassion and justice,
for the healing of the world,
that your joy may be in us,
and our joy may be complete.

     [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.) Send us out, filled and changed by your love, to serve others for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit 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 have chosen us; you have loved us; you have laid down your life for us; you have empowered us to go and bear fruit. How can we but shine with gratitude, radiate joy, and bear love into this world, to your deep delight? Send us, Beloved, in te name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Communion Song (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)
        [Included in Easter Communion Songs,
        brief songs of invitation to communion set to familiar hymn tunes.]

Dear blessed Jesus, you laid down your life for us.
Risen from death, now you bid us dine.
Grateful, we bring our gifts, as we receive from you
your love poured out in bread and wine.

Come, risen Jesus, make your presence known to us;
come in flesh we can see and feel.
In bread and wine and prayer, in those with whom we share,
be present in this holy meal

Christ, as we share this meal, give to us your Spirit.
Make us your Body, your Word made clear.
In our forgiveness, in hearts of grace and peace,
the world may see you risen here.

Fill Me, Love        (Tune: Lead Me, Lord)

Fill me, Love, fill me with the oil of love,
may my lamp burn, burn long and bright.
For, Love, you fill me when my heart is empty,
so I may shine through the longest night.

Fulfill Your Love In Me      (Original song)

Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Verses:Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving. (Refrain)

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you. (Refrain)

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me. (Refrain)

O Sovereign Love     (Tune: Amazing Grace)

Beloved, you who guard and guide and give for every need,
reign in my heart, O Sovereign Christ; direct each thought and deed.

O Sovereign Love, my root, my sun, my purpose and my peace,
I spurn the world’s vain, anxious rule, and trust your Law of Grace.

The Empire of your justice, God, with mercy’s clear command
shall be my home; my loyalty is to no lesser land.

In humble and obedient thanks I pledge my life to you,
to join your work of justice, God, to make the world anew.

Reign in my heart, O Christ, my Rule. In faith I am compelled
to serve you, who by love alone have conquered all the world.

Set Me Free (To Love) (Original song)

From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free for love.

From what I fear, O Love set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….

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