1st Reading: Acts 16:9-15
In our first reading, the Gospel is brought for the first time to Europe, and we have the story of the first convert there, Lydia. This has all been in response to a vision. Notice Paul begins his efforts by looking for devout Jews. Despite the Gospel having been opened to Gentiles, this is still Paul’s preferred mode of operation. This is one of those sections in Acts where the storyteller’s pronouns change to “we” and “us.” Apparently Luke, the writer of Acts, is a traveling companion of Paul at this point. The Philippians will come to be one of Paul’s favorite communities.
16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
Psalm 67 is a song of thanksgiving for a good harvest (this purpose is revealed in vv. 6-7). As a response to the first reading, it emphasizes the spread of God’s ways and the praise of God to all nations.
1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
7 May God give us his blessing, *
2nd Reading: Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5
Our reading from the Revelation to John is a detail of the new Jerusalem. (The skipped over portion of the text describes the physical makeup of the city in great detail). Throughout there is a sense of extravagance. This language and imagery would not have been startling or strange to the first audience of these words. The author is drawing on everything from Genesis 2 to Zechariah 14:11 to Tobit 14:4-7 and various passages from 1 and 2 Enoch. Notice the emphasis that this will be a place of security and healing. The greatest gift, however, will be the constant worship of God, and the ability, finally, to see God’s face.
21:10 In the spirit [the angel] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Gospel Reading: John 5:1-9
Today we have a miracle story from near the beginning of John’s Gospel. What particular festival is referenced is unknown. Jesus has come to Jerusalem from Cana in Galilee. The place of the pool of Bethesda is well-known at the northern corner of Jerusalem. It held healing properties both for Jews and pagans. Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath was a great bone of contention and probably reflects a different understanding of Sabbath that had grown between the Johannine Christians and the neighbor Jews of the synagogue. The remainder of chapter five will continue this controversy.
5:1 After [Jesus healed the son of the royal official.] there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.
Gospel Reading: John 14:23-29
Today we hear one of Jesus’ promises to give his followers the Advocate (Paraclete/Helper/Counselor), the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit we will be taught “everything.” Jesus then also promises his peace, his own peace, which will keep our hearts from being troubled. Throughout chapters 14-17, Jesus tries to give his disciples comfort and courage for the trial that is to follow. “And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” Jesus makes good on his promise at Easter, when he delivers his peace, and the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23).
23 Jesus [said to Judas (not Iscariot)], “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 EpiphanyESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.