Sunday, April 25, 2021

Easter 5B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40

The Philip in this story was one of the first seven deacons ordained by the apostles (6:1-6).  Today’s story shows that their ministry involved more than “waiting on tables,” as described in chapter 6.  It was also evangelism.  One of the significances about the story is that it involves not only someone who was a Gentile (albeit probably a “god-fearer”—someone interested in and friendly toward Judaism), but also a eunuch, cut off from the Law because of his deformity (Deuteronomy 23:1).  It is the first fulfillment in the Book of Acts of Jesus’ command that the Gospel be preached to “all nations.”  It also follows a prophecy of Isaiah (56:3).  The quote from Isaiah (53:7-8) is from the well-known Fourth Servant Song. 

8:26 An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

 Psalm 22:24-30

As a whole, Psalm 22 is a prayer of one who has felt abandoned by God.  It is a psalm used much during Holy Week, and Jesus’ cry from the cross in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew comes from its beginning, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Today we are reading the end of the psalm, in which the author experiences a reconciliation with God and a re-integration into the community of faith.

24 My praise is of God in the great assembly; *
        I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
    and those who seek the Lord shall praise him; *
        “May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
        and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
        he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
        all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;
    my descendants will serve him; *
        they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
        the saving deeds that he has done.

 2nd Reading:  1 John 4:7-21

God’s love, and the command that we emulate that love, is central to John’s writings.  John goes so far as to say simply, “God is love.”  This is primarily revealed in the sending of the Son.  God’s love enables all other love, so that if we do not love one another we cannot love God. God’s love is so strong it trumps the fear of God (the fear of judgment). We can have confidence to stand before God at the end of our earthly days. God loved and still loves us first, but our response is required:  the love of our sisters and brothers.

4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this:  those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Gospel Reading:  John 15:1-8

John’s Gospel contains several “I am” statements in which Jesus uses clear imagery to describe himself and his purpose.  They are John’s version of the parables found in the other Gospels.  These “I am” statements often use imagery from the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel as God’s chosen vine is a frequent image (see Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 19:10-14).  “Abide” is an important word for John as well; it occurs eleven times in his Gospel.  It describes the mutuality of the love between Jesus and his followers.

15:1 Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843,

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